The new Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, on Friday told the House of Representatives that Nigeria is currently embroiled with a lot of crises.
He stated this when the Commandant, Army War College Nigeria, Maj.-Gen. Charles Ofoche appeared on his behalf to honour an invitation by the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary and Other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria.
The meeting on Friday in Abuja was the committee’s first investigative hearing.
Unhappy that the new COAS failed to appear before the panel in person, the lawmakers criticised him and demanded to know the reason for his action.
Ofoche responding, told the committee that the army chief and other service chiefs were in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and Enugu earlier on Thursday.
Explain further he said, “The country is embroiled in a lot of crisis, so they are moving around. And he thought he could make it down here this morning for this meeting, so the notice was quite short for me to come and represent him because he would have loved to do it personally and that is why there is no written note.
“We are at your service, we are here to serve you as a people, to serve all Nigerians. And we cannot pretend that we do not know there is a crisis all over the country.
“The Chief of Army Staff cannot be at every location at every time. He is on the way trying to get to know his men. He took over barely a week ago. He is going around trying to get first-hand information as to the capability of the fighting force he is leading.”
One of the lawmakers, Aliyu Al-Mustapha speaking said, “You can bear witness to the fact that Nigeria is embroiled in serious security issues and year in year out, appropriations were made and huge sums expended on procurement of arms and ammunition.
“Yet, in the whole of the arrests made, you find these arms and ammunition with some of these bandits and miscreants. Some of them can be traced back to the very military or police. It is a serious issue and the National Assembly is well-positioned to dig deep into the root of this issue and find a solution.”
Noting that they are witch-hunting the COAS or the army, Mustapha said, “This is a very serious and sensitive security matter; at least, let us see the man, being that this is the first meeting with the Nigerian Army. The accounting officer of the Army should have appeared to give us his account and position as far as the communications made to him.
“For the chairman and secretariat, there is no communication before that the COAS is having another schedule that may not allow him to be physically present here. That is a contravention to Section 88, Section 89 (1) (of the Constitution), and of course Section o1 of the Armed Forces Act 1994.
“There is a need for a motion to allow the COAS to come and make his submissions personally to this committee.”
Another lawmaker, Ifeanyi Momah criticised the Chief of Army Staff for not informing the panel that Ofoche would be representing him.
He said that Ofoche could not be held culpable or liable for the remarks made before the committee “because it is assumed that any remarks made here are made by the Chief of Army Staff.”
He added, “So, if he is not the one making the remarks, it makes it very easy for him to actually engage in culpable deniability since he is not the one making the remarks.”
Speaking too, Bede Eke said that Attahiru’s action was “a very serious matter.”
He said, “It is so serious we would not entertain any representatives from anybody because we must hold you liable for anything you say here. We don’t want a situation where the COAS would say this is not the position of the Army. So, I want to use this opportunity to move a motion that we insist that the COAS must appear before this committee.”
Afterwards, Ofoche rendered apologies for the Chief of Army Staff for not appearing in person.
He then told the committee that his entourage came prepared and had all the information the lawmakers might need for the Army.
He equally said that the government is a continuum, stressing that Attahiru was not the Chief of Army Staff from 2010, where the scope of panel’s probe begins. “So, it is the records we have here present that he will still refer to.” .
The House auditing the arms and ammunition procured and deployed by Nigerian Armed Forces. It is especially investigating the quality and quantity of arms in the last 10 years.
Those to be affected include the Nigeria Army, Navy and Air Force; Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Correctional Services, according to a motion unanimously adopted by the lawmakers, titled ‘Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition, and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary and Other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria.’
The committee had held its inaugural meeting with security and safety agencies in Abuja on February 11, 2021.
At the meeting were representatives of the National Security Adviser, security and service chiefs, Nigeria Police Force, Federal Fire Service, Independent Corrupt Practices (and Other Related Offences) Commission, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria, among others.