The military officers indicted in the arms scam report released by the Federal Government may be dismissed from service, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
This is as indications emerged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will this week begin the interrogation of no fewer than 10 individuals indicted in the third arms scam report released on Thursday.
The 10 individuals, it was gathered on Saturday, include two former army chiefs, Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika and his successor, Lt-Gen. Kenneth Minimah.
Indication that the eight serving officers may be dismissed from service was given by the Defence Headquarters on Saturday, while maintaining that the military supported the Federal Government’s actions to cleanse the nation of corruption.
The Director of Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Rabe Abubakar, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, said the military officers indicted for involvement in the arms fraud scandal would face both civil and military laws.
He hinted that the personnel might be dismissed from service, saying that the armed forces would not harbour officers that lacked integrity.
Abubakar stated that the armed forces would support and implement whatever directives of the government in respect of serving personnel indicted for corruption by the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Armed Forces led by AVM Jon Ode (retd.).
He explained that the military was subservient to civil authority and would fully adopt whatever measures the government rolled out against offenders.
He said, “You are aware that security officers are wearing two caps – they are under two laws, civil laws and military laws and each of these laws are aimed at taking certain actions that correct anomalies which had been on for some time.
“The officers who have been indicted, whatever the government decides to adopt, is what the military would equally subject themselves to because we are subservient to the government. Whatever government’s moves are, we have to quickly fall in with whatever instructions it issues.”
Asked if the officers would face a court-martial for allegedly defrauding the military, the spokesman said the issue was beyond that, emphasising that the armed forces had stated several times that they would not harbour personnel who lacked integrity.
On the issue of the arms scam, there is a separate committee that deals with that kind of thing. However, the most important thing is, some of them (military officers) were indicted for this scam and you are aware that the Nigerian armed forces had made a clear statement that it would never harbour personnel who have no integrity,” Rabe stressed.
He added, “We are completely behind the ongoing anti-corruption drive in the country, so, the issue now is not even whether they are going to be court-martialled or not.
“The relevant government agency would ensure the furtherance of the directive of government, however, the armed forces of Nigeria are committed to ensuring that corrupt practices are stemmed out of the system and we support every policy of the government in that direction.”
The Defence Headquarters spokesman cited the ongoing prosecution of some Nigeria Air Force officers for corruption, which he said indicated that the services were in support of all efforts to rid the system of corrupt elements.
The joint decision of the services on indicted officers, he said, would be made public in due course.
“Whatever is the plan of the services or the military will be made known to the public. The most important is, we have said it times without number that we are in support of anything that would cleanse the system,” Rabe said.
The Nigerian Army spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, could not be reached for comment as calls to his phone indicated that it was unavailable.
A top officer of the EFCC had also confided in Sunday PUNCH that invitation letters would be sent to those concerned on Monday, and on Wednesday, their interrogation would start.
It was learnt that besides the two former army chiefs, others that would be interrogated this week include Maj.-Gen. JAH Ewansiha (retd.); Maj.-Gen. U. Buzugbe (retd.) and Maj.-Gen E R. Chioba (retd ).
Others are a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed; three ex-Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Defence, Mr Bukar Goni Aji, Mr Haruna Sanusi and E Oyemomi, as well as Mr John Bamidele.
The EFCC source, who confided in Sunday PUNCH, said, “On Monday, we will dispatch invitations to 10 of those mentioned in the report and by Wednesday their interrogation will start.
“We already have the report as from this week we will be sending invitations to them to hear their own side of the story.”
The Federal Government had on Thursday ordered the EFCC to probe 54 individuals.
The government had in a statement by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, ordered investigation into the arms scandal.