ANTI- TERROR ARMS PROBE BROUHAHA BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO

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I woke up after a fantastic night rest but my morning wasn’t so romantic. Not with the cacophony of stories of blood, pains and agony that steer me right back in the face as soon as I started my second morning ritual of browsing through Nigerian major newspaper stories of the previous day and those that broke whilst the papers went to bed.

From Geidam in Yobe state to Southern Kaduna and from Awo-Omama in Imo State to PortHarcourt in Rivers State, all that I read was about violence, death and bloodshed.

And then I saw a commentary about the federal House of Representatives conducting investigations on the procurement of arms for the prosecution of the war on terror.

This part of the story was disconcerting.  I asked, why now? Why go chasing rats when your house is on fire? I was about rounding up this second early morning ritual of reading the Nigerian press(the first morning ritual being my regular morning prayers), when I looked towards my bedside and behold I saw a book I bought that I have yet to digest conclusively titled: ‘What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School’ authored by Mark H. Mc Cormack. It’s a very beautiful book.

So I picked it up. Low and behold I saw his reflection on TIMING. This made a World of difference and deeply provided me with the rational explanation for the futility of the National Assembly going into such a media gambit of investigation of the arms bought for a war that we are at the middle of it and to make matters worst, the parliamentary members betrayed a sense of ignorance of the national law on public procurement made by the same National Assembly which specifies that the Minister is the man at the helm of affairs when public procurement for institutions under the ministry is concerned.  So I ask, why are the members of the National Assembly crying wolf when there’s none and then seeking by every means to implicate the past service chiefs who gave their all in the service of their fatherland and in the case of the immediate past Army Chief Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai(rtd), he almost lost his precious life twice whilst he visited the theatre of war in the North East just before he bowed out.

Lieutenant General Azubike Ihejerika, the first Igbo man to have held the position of Nigeria’s Army Chief in the last 60 years also gave the terrorists a bloodied nose just before he handed over to his successor, General Buratai who has also handed over to his successor Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru.

He too has visited the war fronts and commanded his troops on many occasions in keeping with the best global practices.

So, why this wrong timing for any sort of noisy and nosy probe into how weapons were bought when the war is very much being fought at a frenetic level or is someone working for the terrorists within the National Assembly?

Below is the philosophy of timing that I spoke about earlier.

The author stated as follows: “Many ideas fail not because they are bad ideas, nor because they are poorly executed, but because the timing is not correct.
Some years ago we were involved in trying to establish a pro golf circuit in South America. We encountered all sorts of unforeseen problems, ranging from sudden currency devaluation, which undercut our cash-flow, to spiraling inflation which made the costs of continuing the tour prohibitive.
Our timing couldn’t have been worse, and it cost us a lot of money to find this out. But we also found out that South Americans love golf. And so we are convinced that one day, given the right circumstances, this particular concept will work and, when it does, I’m sure we will be the ones who will make it work.
A lot of salespeople are far too quick to write off a good idea simply because their timing was bad. If someone says ‘no’ to a project or an idea, it is not always because he doesn’t like the idea or the project. It may be simply that for economic reasons or for other internal reasons you don’t know about, it simply doesn’t work for that particular person at that particular moment.
Yet Weeks, months, even years later, you will hear So-and-so doesn’t like that project’ or Such-and-such company has already said no to that, or “They don’t have the money for it. (What They Don’t Teach You AT Harvard Business School by Mark H. Mc Cormack)”

On March 26th 2020, Dwight Furrow wrote thus: “As state and local governments order people to stay home to limit the spread of the virus, toilet paper and canned goods are not the only items people are snapping up. Wine sales at wine shops are soaring and large, highly-distributed wine brands are struggling to keep wines on the shelf.”
“Meanwhile, small wineries that depend on restaurants and on-site sales are trying to figure out how to survive. The question on the mind of  everyone  in the wine business is what will things look like on the other side when we get the virus under control.”
“While I know this virus is different compared to the common flu (See Johns Hopkins comparison of the two), there are many similarities. The CDC also reports that flu season normally peaks between December and February, with activity at times lasting as late as May.”
“Finally, we are seeing South Korea and China having success flattening their curves and they are now restarting their economies. Both went through a period of about 4 months to work through this, and if that holds true for the US, that would put us in May when we do the same. So for scenario planning, I am coming up with the end of May as the expected case date we open tasting rooms and restaurants again.
Hmmm. I’m not so sure about this. According to most epidemiologists, even if we succeed in reducing the transmission rate of the virus, we are likely to see waves of resurgence until we get a vaccine or reach herd immunity.”  This commentator spoke to the essence of timing and what appropriate timing holds in stock for those who plan well.

Still on the issue of inappropriate timing vis-à-vis the Federal House of Representatives’ probe of the anti-terror arms purchases, there is this graphic depiction of exodus from Geidam, a city near Niger Republic and one of the strategic cities of Yobe State.

It is indeed the home town of the Inspector General of Police Alhaji Alkali Baba, that tells the whole story that this is not just the time to ask the military to render account of procurement of arms for a war that they are in the thick of it. By the way, the service chiefs are not the procurement officers of ministries. The military is subsumed in a democracy under the federal ministry of defence and so the minister of defence is the right person to provide information on what weapons have been bought and this must be done out of the media glitz given the sensitivity of the time and in other not to expose the methodology of Nigeria’s counter terror strategy to the terrorists who are media savvy.
This photo i spoke earlier about is that of hundreds of residents of Geidam in Yobe state North East of Nigeria caught up in the cross fire between Boko haram terrorists that reportedly made incursions into their town and the Nigerian military that put up brave fight to repel the terrorists. As I write, these terrorists have hoisted their flags in that town and yet what attracts the house of Representatives is to make noise in the media and to try to craft a non existing scandal out of their rich imagination of mischief.
From the faces of those distressed Nigerians, the legislators need not be told to put on their thinking cap and articulate ways and means of making sure that the Ministry of Defence which has the statutory duty of procurements of arms are up and doing.

This pathetic security situation not just in Geidam, Yobe State, but from all across Nigeria, should dictate to the consciences of Federal legislators that rather than seek undue media dramatic score by dragging the names of past Service Chiefs to their, legislators’ own self-created political mud, this is the time for soul searching and if need be to clear their doubts regarding procurements of arms for counter terror war, then they should look towards the Federal Ministry of Defence for clarification since by law, the ministry buys every equipment for the military.

Olukorede Yishau, a columnist with the Nation wrote thus: “Contrary to the view that the pieces of equipment the NSA spoke about were purchased by the ex-Service Chiefs, they were ordered by the Ministry of Defence. In 2017, the then Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali, got approval of about $490m for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircrafts for the Nigerian Air Force from the United States government. Though the fund was approved early 2017, it was only released to the U.S. government in 2019.  Funds were paid directly without any agent or middle businessman. The process for the procurement was concluded by Minister of Defence Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi.  The role of the Army, Navy and the Air Force was to receive the equipment.”

After the deal with the United States, the Ministry of Defence started dealing with arms contractors. On September 17, 2018, the Ministry of Defence issued a letter of contract award for the procurement surveillance equipment, weapons and ammunitions for the Nigerian Army. The cost was $99,538,467.23. Another contract letter was issued on February 5, 2020 for equipment for the Navy, Army and the Defence Intelligence Agency at the cost of $43,680,000. The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) issued certificates of no objection for these contracts. On May 29 and November 29, 2019, the Army acknowledged receipt of some arms and ammunitions. And on January 31 and September 3, 2020, the Army acknowledged receipt of some Ground Surveillance Radar System (GSRS), Phantom 11 APCs and Legion MRAPS and confirmed that they were new and suitable for operational use.  Also on January 5, January 6 and March 23, this year, the Army acknowledged the receipt of Phantom APCs, arms and ammunitions ordered by the Ministry of Defence on September 18, 2020.

The Navy, Army and Air Force have received some of the equipment and others are being awaited. Some of the anti-terror equipment either already received or being awaited are  T90 Tank Second Generation, Armoured Repair Recovery BREM-4, Ground Radar System (Reutech) surveillance equipment, 81mm Mortar, MG-127-DSHK-M, AKMS, 81mm mortar bombs, Cart 12.7x108mm and 122mm GRAD. Other items include Legion MRAP, 12.7mm DSHK AA gun, CODAN radio, armoured Turret, Phantom and 12.7mm DSHK AA gun.

As the House of Representatives is probing arms purchase from 2011 till date, the current Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru told the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary and Other Law Enforcement Agencies that he was less than two months in office, while the period being reviewed by the lawmakers exceeds the duration.

The Army chief also submitted documents about the Army’s role— which was to receive and certify equipment ordered and paid for by the Ministry of Defence.

Lt.-Gen. Attahiru called on the House of Representatives to invite specific individuals and agencies responsible for the purchase of arms for the Nigerian army.

The COAS argued that the documents presented to the committee explained what the committee wants as specified in their correspondence with the office.

“The submission before you speaks to the report before. It is an executive summary. Issues of procurement that you demand to get to know were run by specific individuals. I would rather prefer you call these individuals what I explained to you very specific issues.

“The general issues have been contained in the report and the executive summary is so contained. It goes to speak about the entire report and explains it,” he added.

Also, the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) has advised National Assembly to be very circumspect and not sabotage the war on terror by what it described as “unwarranted distraction of investigating the procurement of arms in such a way as to show that they may be doing the bidding of terrorists.”

The group specifically urged the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and the House of Representatives Speaker Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, to provide patriotic leadership to guide the relevant defence related committees so their members are not recruited as undercover sympathizers of Boko Haram terrorists who will continue to spread sensational media stories regarding the propriety or otherwise of the procurement process observed in the public procurement of defence related weapons.

“We think that, at a time of grave emergency and threats to the territorial integrity of Nigeria, what we expect from lawmakers is to support the hierarchy of the military with all that they need to effectively combat the threats of terrorism. After that, forensic investigations of expenses and procurements can happen in an atmosphere devoid of media sensationalism.

“We expect the legislators not to constitute unwelcomed nuisance and orchestrated distractions by organising unnecessary public show and media drama of seeking to make a devil out of the heads of the armed forces of Nigeria and, by so doing, create disaffection and demotivate the combatants by feeding them with half-baked and unsubstantiated innuendos that certain members of the military hierarchy may have diverted funds meant for procurement of arms,” the group said.

To HURIWA, “This is the most inappropriate time to do that and by the methodology they adopted, they are indirectly creating the impression that some members of the National Assembly may actually be doing the bidding of the masterminds of the terror campaigns against Nigeria.

“If we may ask: are the legislators unaware of the very characters and political functionaries within the Ministry of Defence that are directly in charge of all procurements, and don’t they know the custodian of such procurement records? Why have they not invited the minister? Why not read up the relevant laws if the members are bereft of the relevant information on the extant laws relating to procurement and that the Minister of Defence is the right person to provide all the information they seek or are they procured by the terrorists to cause disaffection by spreading false information about some missing funds?.” The federal House of Representatives should be patriotic and stop dancing around the circus. The past service chiefs did their best and took personal risks to galvanise forces to fight the terrorists. The least they deserve is praise rather than attempting to create a scandal where none exists.

On November 28th 2020, for instance, the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. General Yusuf Tukur Buratai said no part of the country will be occupied by terrorists.
He gave the assurance at the 62nd Passing out Parade of the Nigerian Military School, where 294 boys of the year 2020 graduated as soldiers.

The then COAS, who pledged adequate security for Nigerians as they go about their businesses, also assured them of the Army’s commitment towards ensuring that the country is more united.

Represented by the Army’s Chief of Administration, Major General U.S. Yakubu, Buratai then said: “I assure all Nigerians that the Nigerian Army is committed to the unity and indivisibility of this country, and would do everything humanly possible to ensure that no part of this country is occupied by criminal elements. We will continue to support the civil authority at ensuring that citizens of this country enjoy adequate protection to perform their legitimate businesses throughout the country.”

The then COAS, who was the reviewing officer at the event, congratulated the boys, urging them to maintain a high level of discipline.

He said: “The NA will continue to support you, as long as you remain disciplined and dedicated to all assigned duties. For the remaining Boys, you must maintain the high level of discipline NMS has always been known for…”

Also, on 01 January 2021 the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, says the Nigerian army will shame and disgrace the Boko Haram and the Islamic States for West African Province (ISWAP) terrorists in 2021.
Buratai gave the assurance at a sit-out night to usher in the 2021 New Year at the TY Buratai Institute for War and Peace, Buratai in Biu Local Government Area of Borno.
He said the troops of Nigerian army had done a lot in the fight against insurgency in the North East in 2020, adding that they were committed to decisively deal with all forms of insecurity in the country.

Buratai urged the troops to dedicate themselves to the task of eradicating terrorism by maintaining the tempo in 2021 with more determination and action to end the insurgency in the country.

He also urged the troops to work with more discipline and courage, adding that the military had the responsibility to solve the nation’s problem of security.

According to him, they must work hard to win the confidence of Nigerians. He said that the people trusted and believed in the Nigerian army to address the issues of insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of insecurity.

“I am very optimistic that 2021 will be different, totally different with the remarkable difference from 2020.

“I want you to see it as a challenge and a task that must be done because we are the one that can do it because Nigerians believe in us and believe that we can do it.

“You should go into the year with full conviction that we can do better to address the insecurity in our country,” he said.
Buratai also promised that officers and men of the Nigerian army would enjoy a lot of welfare packages in 2021.

He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his support for and confidence in the Nigerian army during the preceding year.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Buratai has been on operational visit to the troops in the North East theatre of operations.

He led principal officers and commanders to the New Year sit-out. Around February 8th 2021, the current Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, again visited Nigerian troops on the frontline in Borno State.

The Army chief had previously joined other service chiefs in accompanying the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj Gen Lucky Irabor on their maiden visit to Theatre of Operation.
Attahiru who visited troops at Special Army Super Camp in Ngamdu, commended them for their loyalty and doggedness in the ongoing fight against Insurgency in the North-east.

“I have met Commanders, I have received briefs and they told me what their critical requirements are with emphasis to the Military effectiveness.

“This we are working in tandem with the troops of the Multinational Joint Taskforce towards the defeat of terrorists.
“On issues equipment and other logistics items, I have been briefed on it and we are making tremendous effort on it.

“As your Chief of Army Staff, I have reliably been told on the challenge of kitting. In the next couple of weeks, you will have your uniforms and protective gears.

“Furthermore, I know the issue of over stay in mission area has been a major problem. Be rest assured that in the next couple of weeks and months we shall have a standard rotation plans for replacements of troops who have overstayed with fresh hands.
“The President and Commander in Chief is interested on what is going on in this Theatre and other operations across the country.

“So first-hand information gets to him and he will strive and ensure that those problems are resolved for the overall successes of the Nigerian military for the progress of the nation,” he said.
In his remarks, Major General Faruk Yahaya, the Theatre Commander commended the Army Chief for visiting the Theatre twice within a week after his appointment.

The National Assembly members need not constitute a cog in the wheel of progress as all hands must be on the deck to defeat terrorists and restore Nigeria to a path of peace, Harmony and tranquility.

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.