Friday, May 19, 2017

Transparency International: Politicians Loot Billions Through Military Budget.

Transparency International Defence and Security, on Thursday released a report that detailed how Nigeria’s corrupt political leaders have over the years clothed themselves under the secrecy of the country’s defence budget to loot public treasury.

The report entitled, Weaponising Transparency: Defence Procurement Reform as a Counterterrorism Strategy in Nigeria, was prepared in partnership with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC.

According to the report released in Abuja, stealing, which is done with the active connivance of Nigeria’s military leaders, is usually perpetuated through inflating the value of procurement contracts and creation of phantom defence contracts.

The report reads in part: “Such contracts are used as a vehicle for money laundering: facilitated via weak or corrupted Nigerian banks, illicit financial flows are often hidden in property in the UK, United States, South Africa and Dubai.

“With oil prices at a record low, defence has provided new and lucrative opportunities for the country’s corrupt kleptocrats.

“Former military chiefs have stolen as much as US $15 billion – a sum equivalent to half of Nigeria’s foreign currency reserves – through fraudulent arms procurement deals.”

The report stated further that corruption in the defence sector is a major threat to Nigeria’s internal security and political stability.

It said: “Largely unaddressed, it has weakened Nigerian counterterrorism capacity whilst strengthening Boko Haram.”

On President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s effort to rid corruption in the country’s defence sector, the report called for a more holistic approach as it commended efforts so far taken.

It said: “Only a holistic reform agenda can deliver the deep, systemic changes and improvements in transparency and accountability needed to prevent the next US $15 billion quietly leaving Nigeria through the back door.

“Since coming to power in May 2015, President Buhari has taken some bold action in tackling defence sector corruption. Central to his approach have been two ad hoc, temporary audit committees: one investigating spending by the Office of the National Security Adviser and one investigating defence arms and equipment procurement.

“Taking on the defence establishment was a significant move: the evidence uncovered by these probes revealed that several of the country’s former military chiefs, using dozens of companies, together stole as much as US $15 billion.

“President Buhari’s anti-corruption drive is a rare example of senior Nigerian defence and security officials being exposed to criminal investigation. By signalling that military impunity is not without limit, it is undoubtedly a positive step forward.”

The report went to state that state governors in Nigeria are also known to have used the secretive “security votes” as an avenue to steal public funds.

It added: “Declassifying how the security vote funds have been spent, after a two-year information embargo, could also enable citizen oversight.”

Speaking after releasing the report, the Director Transparency International Defence and Security, Katherine Dixon advocated an urgent reform against corruption in the Nigeria’s defence sector.

Dixon said: “Corruption in Nigeria is not just a problem for Nigerians, but a concern for all of those looking to tackle violent extremism around the world.

“Entering into blind defence deals that ignore the rampant corruption in Nigeria’s defence sector means international partners could inadvertently be giving rise to Boko Haram. Likewise, the doors to allow corrupt officials to launder their ill-gotten gains out of Nigeria should be slammed shut, through the active denial of visas and other domestic legislation that targets corrupt money.

“With Buhari’s first term soon to end, the international community may soon find itself without a Presidential ally in this fight – now is the time to act.”


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