Buhari Orders Probe of 38 People, Firms Over Arms Deals

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the investigation of 38 former military chiefs, officers and companies for an alleged arms procurement fraud, a presidency statement said on Friday.

Reuters reports that among those listed are former chiefs of defence and air staff that served under previous president Goodluck Jonathan. The statement added that the order was based on a recommendation by a committee established to carry out an audit of arms and equipment procurement from 2007 to 2015.

The committee established that $2.1 billion had been allocated to defence for the 2007-2015 period.

Out of those funds, $2 billion alone was used for the Nigerian Air Force, which the committee described as "operationally appalling" despite the expenditure.

It alleges that these funds were ill-used at a time when Nigeria was struggling to fight Islamist jihadi group Boko Haram that took over a chunk of the country's northeast in 2014 in its six-year bid to set up an Islamist state.

Nearly half of the funds spent by the air force, $930.5 million, went into 10 contracts with one firm called Societe D'Equipment Internationaux Nigeria Ltd between Jan. 2014 and Feb. 2015. The firm could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the committee's audit, one contract worth $136.9 million for two used helicopters was grossly overpriced and when delivered, the machines were not air worthy.

"A brand new unit of such helicopters goes for about $30 million. Furthermore, the helicopters were delivered without rotor blades and upgrade accessories," the statement said.

"It was further established that...only one of the helicopters is in service while the other crashed and claimed the lives of two Nigeria Air Force (NAF) personnel."

In another instance, the committee alleges that the former Chief of Air Staff Adesola Nunayon Amosu confirmed the receipt of four used jets while in reality only two arrived after the Office of the National Security Advisor spent funds for four. Amosu could not immediately be reached for comment.

Other questionable contracts led to the provision of sub-par maintenance and 40-year old ammunition.

The order sees the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigation widened to a much longer list of people and entities. The former National Security Advisor, Sambo Dasuki, was arrested and charged at the end of last year for $68 million in fraud allegations relating to arms procurement. He is listed again in Friday's statement.

A spokesman for the People's Democratic Party, now in opposition after dominating politics from 1999-2015, was also charged on Friday with money laundering involving 400 million naira ($2 million) intended for defence spending that the EFCC said was instead used for election campaigning.