By Fortune Eromosele
The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye has disclosed that an ex-military chief embezzled N4 billion from military budget and deposited it into the accounts of two companies where he is the beneficial owner and sole signatory.
Owasanoye made the disclosure during a national policy dialogue on corruption and insecurity in Nigeria, organised by the ICPC in Abuja on Friday.
According to him, the stolen funds were used to purchase properties in Abuja in the names of cronies and proxies of the military chief, adding that some of the properties paid for by his service were also fraudulently converted to his use.
He said, “Some former military and security personnel are being investigated by the ICPC and our sister agency (EFCC) for embezzlement of funds allocated to security. For example, a former head of one of the arms of the military, in the twilight of his tenure, deposited the sum of N4 billion from military budget into the accounts of two companies where he is the beneficial owner and sole signatory.
“The proceeds were used to purchase properties in Abuja in the names of cronies and proxies. Some of the properties paid for by his service were also fraudulently converted to his use. ICPC’s prosecution of this high ranking officer to recover all the implicated assets was strangely and perversely frustrated by a recently retired High Court judge who decided to forfeit some of the assets to FGN and the rest left to the suspect. While the Commission has filed notice of appeal, this strange development aggravates an already bad situation and escalates insecurity and impunity.”
The ICPC boss highlighted another fraud case being handled by the Commission, stating that some civil servants in line ministry transferred about N1 billion to four shell companies.
Owasanoye noted that about N220 million cash has been recovered and that investigations are still ongoing.
He said, “Another case under investigation is theft of part of special intervention fund approved for security operations by some civil servants in the line ministry who transferred about N1 billion to four shell companies. A special investigative team under the leadership of NSA and ICPC recovered some of the diverted assets including state of the art building located in Abuja and over N220 million cash. Investigation on this matter is still on going.
“In fact, a clinical diagnosis of the insecurity menace in the country reveals that to effectively combat insecurity we require the collaborative efforts of Security Agencies (the military, intelligence, Police, Customs, Prisons, others), as well as Law Enforcement and Anti-Corruption Agencies.
“There are also ongoing investigations into military contracts spending. Recently, ICPC arrested a military contractor that received over a period of less than 10 years cumulative sum of about N6 billion from the Nigerian Army in suspicious circumstances and in violation of extant legislation.
“The Commission’s recovery of huge cash sums in local and foreign currencies, luxury cars, customized mobile phones, designer watches including three Rolexes as well as property documents from the premises of the contractor underscore the corruption that often attend military procurement.”
He noted that the President Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd) regime and the National Assembly have significantly increased the funding of the security sector, adding that security challenges can be partly traced to the revelation by the Centre for Democracy and Development which revealed that about $15 billion has been squandered through fraudulent arms procurement deals in the last 20 years in the country.
Owasanoye said, “In the past seven years, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the 9th National Assembly have ensured significantly increased funding for the security sector. Part of our interrogation today is why has this proactive effort not translated into commensurate effectiveness in the war against insurgency and insecurity and despite the gallant and sacrificial effort of our soldiers, policemen and other security operatives working daily to secure Nigerians?.”