The controversy surrounding the alleged spending of $2 billion on arms procurement for the Nigerian Armed Forces on Thursday took a new dimension with former President Goodluck Jonathan denying his administration spent such a huge amount of money on military hardware alone.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday ordered the arrest of the embattled former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) following the interim report of the investigate committee on the procurement of hardware and munitions in the Armed Forces from 2007 to date, which uncovered extra-budgetary spending by the Jonathan administration to the tune of N643.8 billion and an additional $2.2 billion in the foreign currency component, all managed and supervised by Dasuki.
But in a swift reaction, the ex-NSA in a statement he personally signed on Wednesday, insisted that all contracts and accruing payments were made based on the approval of ex-President Jonathan, adding that due process and military procurement regulations were followed in all the transactions.
Reacting to the unfolding events, Jonathan, who is currently in the U.S, said categorically that “I did not award any $2 billion contract for procurement of weapons”.
Speaking in Washington DC, on “Presidential elections and democratic consolidation in Africa: Case studies on Nigeria and Tanzania,” a conversational forum, co-hosted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jonathan queried, “Where did the money come from? I did not award a contract of $2billion for procurement of weapons”.
The ex-president insinuated that the mind-boggling figures churned out by the Buhari administration as being spent on military hardware and munitions during his tenure were false and unsubstantiated.
Acknowledging that he was aware of allegations of huge sums of money that were said to be missing from the Nigerian treasury under his watch, but which he seriously doubted the figures being mentioned, said “Sometimes, I feel sad when people mention these figures”.
He also suggested that “People play politics with very serious issues” in apparent reference to the unsubstantiated claims by a prominent member of President Buhari’s entourage during his first official visit to the U.S some few months ago that they were informed by their hosts of the discovery of $150 billion, said to have been looted in previous Nigerian administrations.
The former president was equally dismissive of people who alleged that the sum of $59.8 million was misappropriated within the last 12-months of his stay in office.
“In Nigeria, if you lose $59.8 million in a year, federal and state governments will not pay salaries”, he said, adding that there is no way the Nigerian budget can accommodate the shock of such a loss without the country grounding to a halt.
These allegations and others he noted, were never proven. “Of course we brought international audit teams, forensic auditors and they didn’t see that”.
Mr. Jonathan, who appears to be enjoying his retirement, said he does not want to join issues with the new government especially as he had “wanted to keep away from the public for at least twelve months”.