He was in reticent hibernation, enjoying the quietude of retirement from active military service when some three odd years ago, he emerged on the scene as National Security Adviser. The upsurge in insurgency in the North-east, the rising outcry of xenophobia by a critical section of the North against the regime of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, and the near implacable desire to steady the course of security machinery in the country defined his appointment.
Col Sambo Dasuki (retd), scion of the Sokoto caliphate assumed duties at a most critical juncture in the life of the nation, when the fighting spirit of the Nigerian Armed forces was flabby, and they were embarrassingly and constantly put on the run by a better equipped and organized insurgents’ forces. Apparently buoyed with gusto and overpowering enthusiasm to deliver on the confidence reposed in him, Dasuki set out with a twin-mission of re-building the sagging morale and combat readiness of the officers and men. In simple terms, his programmes revolved around boosting the welfare of soldiers, deepening their training and fighting effectiveness, and procuring more sophisticated modern military hardware. This task required precision and a princely sum. He had the listening ears of ex-president Jonathan who was buffeted from all corners by criticisms of “cluelessness and lethargy”. In a spate of nine months, (March 27, 2014 – January 12, 2015) he reportedly got Jonathan to approve the sum of $2.1b from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC domiciled at the Central Bank. The amount, however, keeps altering depending on who is quoting it. The 13-man committee set up by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to audit the procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces and Defence sector put the figure at N271.8 billion. “Further findings revealed that between March 2012 and March 2015, the erstwhile NSA, Lt Col MS Dasuki (retd) awarded fictitious and phantom contracts to the tune of N2,219,188,609.50, $1,671,742,613.58 and €9,905,477.00.
“The contracts which were said to be for the purchase of four Alpha jets, 12 helicopters, bombs and ammunitions were not executed and the equipment were never supplied to the Nigerian Air Force, neither are they in its inventory.
“Even more disturbing was the discovery that out of these figures, two companies were awarded contracts to the tune of N350, 000,000.00, $1,661,670,469.71 and €9,905,477.00 alone. This was without prejudice to the consistent non-performance of the companies in the previous contracts awarded,” the report, which took the nation by storm screamed.
The panel further revealed that the ex-NSA directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to transfer the sum of $132,050,486.97 and €9,905,473 to the accounts of Societe D’equipment Internationaux in West Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America for unascertained purposes, without any contract documents to explain the transactions.
Dasuki, who served the present administration briefly after inauguration has denied the allegations in its totality. He, in a swift rebuttal, described himself as a “clearing house” for contracts approved by former President Jonathan on the request of the Armed Forces and the defence sector.
The former NSA squealed more: “I have a lot to tell Nigerians, but in the interim they should not believe some of the allegations as the gospel truth. The good thing is that some of the key actors in the present administration were part of the past process being vigorously challenged.” Picking more holes in the probe panel report, which peremptorily backdated his assumption of office to March 2012, he said he was appointed into office on June 22, 2012, and would not account for things that were done before that date. Curiously, the terms of reference of the panel covered the period, 2007 to 2015, but the centrepiece of their report ranged from 2012 to 2015, the period Dasuki was in office; with nothing to show during the era of his predecessor, the late General Owoeye Aziza (retd). He has consistently maintained his innocence through the harrowing days of the siege to his house, until he was eventually picked up in the morning of Tuesday, December 1, 2015 by officers of the Department of State Services, DSS. To compound matters for Dasuki, his boss Jonathan recently in Washington DC washed his hands off the contract mess, denying approvals for the “amounts being bandied about.”
Can of worms
Independent investigations from various sources actually point to the fact that indeed contracts were approved and awarded. The nature and style of the execution of the contracts have indeed remained contentious. Sunday Sun learnt from a highly placed source that the security czar’s case has been complicated by bare-faced betrayals by some of those who were privy to the contracts, but turned coat as soon as Jonathan lost the March 28 elections. Scared to their bones, and to curry President Muhammadu Buhari’s favour, some of them had scurried to him before his inauguration to spill the beans.
In what the Sunday Sun source dubbed ‘tales by moonlight’, they had recklessly implicated virtually all the visibly powerful elements in the Jonathan presidency and a furious Buhari was set to bare his fangs, even before the committee was set up. Their tales ranged from the ludicrous to the serious as the figures mentioned and the circumstances in the deal were hardly uniform. The arrest and detention of Jonathan’s Chief Security Officer, Mr Gordon Obuah put a lie to some of the monstrous stories which would have seen a blanket clampdown of Jonathan’s key officers in a fell swoop. “Gordon’s detention and grilling proved helpful. He told of what he knew from the insider’s point of view, and the two versions had to be reviewed and evaluated, before action was taken,” the source said.
Despite the streamlining of the details, Sunday Sun can indeed confirm that the period witnessed an unprecedented contracts bazaar. Not only was the NNPC account in the central bank depleted, the government dipped its hands into extra budgetary expenses in the melee for counter terrorism operations. A chilling state of the disbursements shows that Dasuki allegedly applied and obtained $1billion on March 27, 2014, $200million on April 9, 2014, $600million on May 5, 2014 and another $200million same day, up from $250m which he requested for. It was also revealed that on January 12, 2015 he received $100million. The monies were sourced from outside the budgetary provisions for security and the $1billion loan the administration secured to fight the Boko Haram insurgency. The searchlight is beamed on the quantum value of the contracts, and whether they were indeed awarded. At the height of the counter terrorism operations, many Nigerian soldiers loudly complained about inadequate equipment and poor welfare. They were joined by leading Northern politicians including the Borno State Governor, Kassim Shettima, who consistently tongue-lashed the federal authorities over these inadequacies.
Dasuki has so far maintained that if the allegations of “fictitious contracts” or the purchase of substandard equipment were true, then the feat of routing the insurgents out of 22 local governments at the time would not have been attained. It was further learnt that Jonathan’s Senior Special Assistant (Admin) Matt Aikhionbere wrote the covering letters conveying presidential approvals, after the then president had minuted on the ex- NSA’s request.
More can of worms
More grisly details of the contract mess showed that it took a dive for the worse after the suspension of the then governor of the central bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from office. Dasuki was said to have written to the acting governor, Sarah Alade requesting for $60billion without presidential seal and approval. She sat on the request. As soon as Godwin Emefiele assumed duties in June 2014 as substantive CBN governor, Dasuki reportedly represented the request, but still drew blank. Unconfirmed reports said that Jonathan eventually brought the two men together after he was notified, and directed that N40billion should be given to his NSA, and another N20billion drawn in favour of the DSS. Adversaries of the government did make a mountain out of the disbursements, with some claiming that the latter sum was meant for the 2015 general elecblank. Unconfirmed reports said tions. The deal went awry after the polls when some politicians including a serving principal officer of the Senate got wind of the disbursements. The principal officer was said to have asked for a cut in order not to squeal, but was spurned. The attempted blackmail is said to be one of the reasons the president who was allegedly briefed of the development sometime in May this year is opposed to the senator’s ambition.
Dasuki is yet to have a breath of fresh air since Buhari assumed power on May 29, 2015. He has been roundly hounded to a point that he and his supporters are alleging witch-hunt. Speculations are flying around, alleging claims that the raw deal he is having is a direct consequence of his involvement in the 1985 coup that toppled Buhari from power. He has since denied it, while still reaffirming his innocence of the allegations against him. He is currently standing trial on a two-count charge of money laundering and illegal possession of firearms before a Federal High Court in Abuja. The court granted the former NSA, who had been on bail permission to go on a medical trip abroad. His travel plans had been thwarted by the security cordon thrown around his residence by operatives of the DSS. Several legal efforts including a reaffirmation of the court order to allow him travel have not yielded fruits. A foreign newspaper report on his ordeal in the hands of Buhari has this to say: “He placed Mr. Dasuki under house arrest. He confiscated his passport. He charged him with firearms and money laundering violations. He sought a secret trial to prevent independent scrutiny.
“He opposed Mr. Dasuki’s pre-trial application to the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for permission to receive urgent medical treatment for cancer in London, but it was nonetheless granted.
“Justice Adeniyi Ademola explained that an accused is presumed innocent before trial, and that a citizen’s health is paramount before the law. Mr. Buhari was ordered to release Mr Dasuki’s international passport.
“Mr. Buhari defied the order. He put Mr. Dasuki’s house under siege, a microcosm of the Bosnian siege of Sarajevo. Mr Dasuki returned to court. Justice Ademola reaffirmed his order, asserting, “My own orders will not be flouted.” Calling Dasuki’s situation an “on-going persecution”, the report noted disparagingly, “Members of the National Assembly and Senate have been reduced to playing the roles of extras in cinematic extravaganzas.”
The report also urged the international community to insist on independent human rights observers to monitor Dasuki’s prosecution and trial, and a demand that President Buhari honours his vow to follow due process and the rule of law. The din over his ordeal is rising by the day. It has ascended several octaves higher since Tuesday when he was taken into detention. A group, Leadership and Accountability Initiative has joined issues with the government over Dasuki. In a petition dated November 27, 2015 through the office of the US Ambassador to Nigeria and signed by Nwazuru Aliu, Henry Shield and five others, the group called for his immediate release. Also a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome described his ordeal as “one of the lows of wanton human rights abuses of the Buhari regime.”Awed and visibly shaken by the sheer size and number of people involved in the scam, many Nigerians appear numbed to speak, preferring to see to the end of the investigations before commenting. But not for the irrepressible Ekiti State governor, who sees the whole episode as a “charade.”
The stench of the bazaar
On the heels of the arrest and detention of Dasuki, came the revelation that the arms contracts were indeed a well-organized and orchestrated plot, involving prominent leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and functionaries of the Jonathan government. In the cooler over the deal are a former minister of state for finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda; the director of finance and admin in the office of the NSA, Mr Shuaibu Salisu; sons of the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa and former acting national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Haliru Bello and the former chairman of Daar Communications, Dr Raymond Dokpesi, among other alleged accomplices.
The EFCC said this on the finance director’s arrest: “we just discovered a huge sum of money in foreign currencies in a joint account being operated by the former NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki and a director in his office, one Shuaibu Salisu.”
Expensive properties in Abuja and Dubai were allegedly traced to the director. According to some reports, Bafarawa’s son Sagir, acting as front for his father got N4. 64billion from the NSA’s office.
The ex-PDP chairman’s son, Abbah received N600million in the name of Bam Properties Limited.
Several military chiefs also took part in the deal and a massive manhunt for them has been launched. Several aides of Dasuki including a foreign military trainer have also been arrested and the yarn is expanding by the day.
As more evidence pour in and denials and explanations hit the roof, will Dasuki scale the gate? Will the putrid from the stench consume more people? Will Dasuki, the star at the heart of the mess sing more of what he knows?
BY CHIDI OBINECHE