EFCC special task force quiz 25 over N5b military vehicle purchase scam

How did the Army spend a N5billion vehicles purchase grant from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA)?

This is the knot an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) special task force is battling to untie. The vehicles were onstensibly  for the monitoring of the 2015 general elections.

The Department of Army Logistics became aware of the quantity and types of vehicles on October 29, last year — about seven months after they were bought.

The transaction was allegedly carried out by the Department of Training and Operations.

There were no award letters, contract agreements, technical assessment reports, delivery notes and receipt vouchers, The Nation learnt.

Besides, the EFCC team is looking into alleged spending of $5,938,897.18(N2, 369,619,903) between  September 3 and 13, 2014 on the procurement of Counter Improvised Explosive Device Equipment (CIED) for the Defence and Security Services without a needs assessment.

The $5,938,897.18 (N2, 369,619,903) contracts were awarded and paid for within 10 days.

The panel has shortlisted 25 of the 54 suspects for interrogation.

The suspects, who are to be interrogated “any time from now”, include some serving and retired officers, ex-permanent secretaries and directors of Finance.

EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu last night mandated the task force “not to spare any suspect implicated in the deals”.

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The Nation learnt that issues surrounding the N5billion and the $5,938,897.18 formed the major aspects of the preliminary investigation concluded by the EFCC team.

It was learnt that the preliminary investigation corroborated the report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment, which was headed by Air Vice Marshal JON Ode.

After Ode panel submitted its third interim report to President Muhammadu Buhari, the 54 people for probe were shortlisted.

The EFCC raised the Special Task Force when the report was sent to Magu.

A source, who spoke in confidence last night, said: “The Task Force has virtually completed its preliminary investigation. Very soon, we will start inviting about 25 suspects in the first batch for interrogation.

“On Wednesday, the EFCC chairman mandated the Task Force ‘not to spare anybody implicated in the procurement scandal in the Nigerian Army. Magu said there should be ‘no sacred cows’ and we are sticking to that.”

The source, who pleaded not to be named because of the “sensitivity” of the matter, said: the task force had gone far in probing the curious N5billion grant.

It was gathered that the panel discovered irregularities in the purchase of the vehicles in line with the initial findings of Ode’s committee.

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A document made available to our correspondent reads in part: “In the wake of preparations for the 2015 general elections, the ONSA released N5,000,000,000.00 to Nigerian Army on 16 March 2015 to meet its requirements for the exercise.

“The Committee established that out of the amount, Nigerian Army procured 155 units of Toyota Hilux and 50 units of Isuzu trucks, a procurement that was carried out in total disregard of the Public Procurement Act 2007.

“ There were no procurement documents, such as award letters, contract agreements, technical assessment reports, delivery notes and receipt vouchers to support the acquisition. “Consequently, the unit cost of the vehicles and tax payable could not be ascertained.

“Moreover, the procurement was carried out by Department of Training and Operations instead of the Department of Army Logistics.

“The distribution of the vehicles showed that 15 were allocated to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) without specifying the purpose.

“ Sadly, the Department of Army Logistics became aware of the quantity and types of vehicles on 29 October 2015, about seven months after they were procured, thereby jeopardising accountability. The Committee is of the view that the procurement process was fraudulent.”

A source in the Task Force said:  “ Those to be quizzed on the purchase of the N5billion vehicles are a  Lt.-Gen, a Major-General, a Brig.-General and an auto firm .

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“We will release their names whenever we are ready to interrogate them. We do not want to jeopardise investigation.”

The EFCC source also claimed that the task force was looking into alleged purchase of CIED for the Defence and Security Services by ONSA without due process.

The two contracts, which  were said to be worth $5,938,897.18  (N2, 369,619,903), were awarded and paid for within 10 days.

The document added: “ ONSA  awarded and funded  two  other contracts  totalling $5,938,897.18 between3 and 13 September 2014 for the procurement of CIED for the defence and security services. “There were no need assessments from the beneficiary Services and security agencies prior to the procurement and ‘donation’ of the items by ONSA.

“Furthermore, there were no traces of award letters, contract agreements and proof of payment of WHT amounting to $296,944.86.”

Three suspects out of the 25 short-listed  have been recommended for quizzing on the $5,938,897.18  for the CIED.

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