President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign has been bedevilled by scandals and rumours of scandals in recent times.
The list has just been lengthened by a contract scandal in the ministry of defence which has landed a brigadier-general in military court.
At the centre of the latest development are Mansur Dan-Ali, a retired brigadier-general and minister of defence, Danjuma Nanfo, the immediate past permanent secretary in the ministry, and LYM Hassan, a brigadier-general and coordinator of peacekeeping.
Hassan is now in detention and facing court-martial, TheCable understands.
At the court martial, which began on October 30, 2017, Dan-Ali, Nanfo, and Hassan have disclosed how money was shared from a $1.4 million contract without the job being executed, TheCable has learnt.
The contract was for the relocation and refurbishment of Level 2 Ministry Hospital under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) following a directive from the UN.
A UN Level 2 hospital is a second line or “brigade/sector” level surgical facility for limited specialist expertise and limited surgical capabilities, including life, limb and organ-saving surgeries.
Under the UN system, 18 Level 2 hospitals are being operated by troop-/police-contributing countries.
Countries get paid by the UN for the use of their facilities.
Nigeria’s Level 2 hospital was established to support the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in 2008.
The hospital was later relocated to its temporary site in Timbuktu in 2013 to support MINUSMA.
For failing to meet the August 2017 UN deadline for a new location, Nigeria has been asked by the global body to withdraw its remaining contingent to the United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNIMID) because of poor holdings of the contingent-owned equipment (COE).
The problem started for Nigeria’s full-fledged Level 2 hospital when the UN asked Nigeria to move it from the present temporary camp at the Timbuktu airport, Mali, to the more secure new UN Super Camp, also in Timbuktu.
With the completion of the permanent camp of MINUSMA in Timbuktu, the UN requested all its establishments to relocate to the new Super Camp.
Trouble started when, in February 2017, the ministry of defence awarded a contract for the refurbishing and relocation of the hospital to a contractor who had zero experience in installation of Level 2 hospital.
The procurement was done without the initial due process of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP).
According to documents seen by TheCable, the controversial contract was awarded after the MOD had received a presidential approval in the name of another contractor.
The initial approval followed a memo from the minister of defence on July 21, 2016 to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting fund for the relocation of the Nigerian Medical Level 2 Hospital “deployed to African Union MINUSMA in Mali”.
The approval was contained in a memo, dated November 9, 2016, from the president’s chief of staff to the minister of defence.
ILLEGAL CHANGE OF CONTRACTORS
Nothing was heard of the president’s approval until three months later when an award letter dated February 2, 2017 emanated from the procurement department of the MOD to a new firm not initially involved in the initial contract process.
The new contract had a completion period of two months.
The contract till date has not been executed, as only part of the hospital under MINUSMA was dismantled and left at the current location.
The initial cost of the contract for the refurbishing and relocation of the hospital as approved by Buhari was $1,464,750.
The contract for execution of the same was awarded by the MOD procurement department for $1 million, short by $464,750.
But the favoured contractor reportedly ran back to tell the ministry officials that the contract could not be executed unless there was a variation sum to the tune of over $500,000.
However, the refurbishment and relocation contract was awarded by MOD with express specification that “the contract price is fixed and no request for variation will be entertained. It is expected that you will relocate the items in good conditions and perform to the highest standard all the obligations under the contract and to remind you also that it is not transferable”.
According to a source in the ministry, the second approval is suspect because “there is no way the president will give approval to the same contract twice”.
AND NIGERIA LOSES TO RWANDA
The second approval was possibly made up to cover up the tracks of those involved in the shady deals which has cost Nigeria — the UN has asked Rwanda to get ready to deploy another Level 2 hospital at the Super Camp.
The UN, through the United Nations Security Council, had at its meeting with troop/police contributing countries 28 January 2017 in New York, expressed an urgent need to relocate the hospital to the Super Camp.
All the establishments had a deadline of second week of August 2017 to complete the relocation as the UN took full responsibility of preparing the platforms on which the Level 2 hospital is to be erected.
But with the platforms ready by the first week of August, Nigeria’s hospital was nowhere near the Super Camp.
Despite the implications of their actions on the fortune of the nation in peacekeeping and the image of the country, the actors allegedly chose to share the money.
The top officials had reportedly excluded the contractor in the sharing after signing the contract formula.
COURT-MARTIALLED FOR TALKING TOO MUCH
To save the image of the ministry and possibly cover the alleged fraud, Dan-Ali reportedly sent servicing officers to execute the contract.
The relocation was to be supervised by the Hassan and BA Isandu, also a brigadier-general.
Hassan, however, made some uncomplimentary comments which were recorded, unknown to him.
This has landed him in army headquarters garrison for jurisdiction under court martial.
While the actors bicker over who gets what, with the minister said to be nursing gubernatorial ambition in his home state, Zamfara, the country has lost the UN contract.
Ministry officials are asking Buhari to call for a probe and bring all those involved arrested and prosecuted.
TheCable could not reach Dan-Ali for comments as his telephone line was unavailable, and he also did not respond to SMS.
Tukur Gusau, a colonel and his spokesman, refused to respond to TheCable’s questions.
“The matter is already in court. How do you expect us to comment? You can go to the court-martial and talk to them if they are willing to talk to you. We cannot talk to you since the issue is already before them,” he said.
When told that the court-martial might be unwilling to divulge any information, he said, “Then you go to the army headquarters. The panel was set up by the army, not the ministry of defence.”
Sani Usman, a brigadier-general and spokesman for the army, did not return his calls or respond to SMS.
NIGERIA ON A FALL
Meanwhile, countries such as Bangladesh, Ghana and Senegal are earning foreign exchange from COE as all equipment are paid for.
Nigeria, which was the fifth largest troop contributing country (TCC) in the world in 2013, is down to 9th position.
It is now ranked 9th in global peacekeeping and 5th in Africa and in African Union.
Nigeria’s neigbhour, Ghana, is now ranked 8th in global peacekeeping and 4th largest African and African Union contributor, with 3,247 uniformed peacekeepers.
“Liberia and Sierra Leone in particular owe its peace it is enjoying today to the sacrifice of Nigerian troops but sadly, ugly and selfish behaviour like that has cost the nation dearly and continued to paint her in bad light,” an official of the ministry told TheCable.
WHAT WILL BUHARI DO?
Buhari’s administration’s biggest soundbite since its inception in 2015 is “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us”.
However, there has been a series of corruption scandals rocking the government in recent times.
The former secretary to the government of the federation, Babachir Lawal, was implicated in a grass-cutting contract scam, the most senior of his administration to be so indicted so far.
After a long pause, Buhari finally fired him on October 30.
Ayo Oke, former director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), was fired same day, months after a probe panel recommended his sack after the discovery of $43 million, £27,000 and NN23 million of the agency’s cash at a private residence registered to his wife.
Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of a presidential task force who fled the country when he was being investigated, secretly returned to the country and was reabsorbed into the civil service and promoted director.
Buhari ordered his sack after it became public knowledge, although Winifred Oyo-Ita, the head of service, allegedly said the president knew about Maina’s recall.
The latest case from the ministry of defence is yet another test of how far the president is willing to go to clean up his government.