Soldiers deployed in the special force unit do not have barracks, they sleep in classrooms
Many soldiers in Maimalari barracks construct zinc houses for themselves
Poor feeding of soldiers across the barracks in Maiduguri and the units in the bushes
Soldiers on the frontline are owed operational allowance and do not get hazard/danger allowance
One of the campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari was that he was going to address the problem of insurgency in the northeast when elected into office. As such when he assumed office he embarked on a diplomatic shuttle to neighboring countries of Niger Republic, Cameroun and Chad. President Buhari also deployed military commanders in the theatre of insurgency in the northeast with instructions to dislodge the insurgents belonging to the dreaded Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād commonly known as Boko Haram. In December 2015 he announced to the whole nation that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” and declared in December 2016 that the group had been entirely ousted from its last stronghold of Sambisa Forest. However it is surprising that members of Boko Haram attacked a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe state and abducted some girls from the school. Months later and until date some of the girls remain unrescued while the insurgents continue to unleash mayhem.
PowerSteering went to town to get a better understanding of the situation in the northeast and reports…
“Since we have been on this assignment, we have not been eating well. No food for us to eat and we have no money to get food. We were supposed to be paid N1, 000 daily but we were never given. The last time we got money was May, after the two weeks training we had before coming to Gubio. We were living like refugees.” This was the confession of one of the soldiers in the theatre of insurgency in the northeast.
This statement might sound strange however there is some element of truth to it since a visit to Maiduguri and Damaturu in 2016, 2017 and early 2018 would lend credence to the statement. A large cross section of Nigerians have the feeling that the insurgents in the northeast have been dislodged and most likely are on the run but realities on the ground in the northeast prove the contrary. It has been reported that security personnel manning road blocks all the way from Bauchi to Benishek collect bribes from drivers. These bribes are usually collect by force because any erring driver is usually punished by being forced to park his vehicle for all the passengers to disembark and trek long distances. Some of the security personnel would ask passengers to identify themselves and any passenger that fails to do so would be made to part with some money before continuing his journey. The question that readily comes to mind is why security personnel on duty in the northeast should be demanding for bribes if they are well remunerated.
Recently, troops of the Nigerian Military deployed to Gubio local government in Borno state had accused the government and Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai of abandoning them in the state. According to the troops, the Chief of Army Staff sent them to Borno with inadequate ammunition despite the refusal of many soldiers to embark on the trip. The troops were deployed to Gubio 7th of June because of the Army Day celebration that held later in July.
One of the soldiers disclosed that, “When they were asked to go, many of the soldiers declined but they were forced to go. They were given little combative weapons and ammunitions to protect themselves. Many of them were afraid that Boko Haram would attack and overpower them with their superior weapons.
As was predicted, the troops were attacked by Boko Haram. While describing the incidence one of the survivors said, “The boko haram came with nine gun trucks and military vehicles. We were surprised because the trucks were painted in the same color of the army, they opened fire and when we could not face them because of our weapon, we all ran away. They followed us with big torchlights and killed many of us.”
Another survivor said, “Out of 700 soldiers that were in Gubio only 150 survived the attack’. He criticized the Federal Government for not sending any aid since the attack and that they were living like refugees.
In another incident in Jakana one of the residents Modu Ba’ masa said, “We are not safe at all because three days ago there were rumours everywhere that they were planning to attack Jakana town, and we went to inform the police and the military but nothing was done about it until they allowed them to come and attack. Thirteen persons were killed and many others sustained gunshot wounds when Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military formation in Borno.
According to the report, the militants stormed Jakana in military fatigues and attacked the Army base and a police station resulting in the death of four soldiers and two mobile policemen. The eyewitness frowned at the security agencies for not being proactive about the attack saying if they had acted earlier, it wouldn’t have happened.
In another incident, some troops of the Nigerian Army, who went missing in action, following Boko Haram terrorist attack on a military base in Jilli, Yobe state, and Bama Borno state, are yet to be found. Also missing were three military gun trucks.
In another incident, At least 27 persons were killed and several others injured when Boko Haram insurgents ambushed motorists on a highway in Borno. The attack took place along Logumani and Musune villages, about 30 kilometers to Ngala town, in Ngala Local Government Area of Borno state.
In the month of July, 2018 alone three officer and 28 soldiers were killed, and unknown number unaccounted for. One officer, 24 soldiers and two members of the CJTF were severly injured and taken to hospitals in Damaturu, Geidam and Maiduguri.
And then, just on Thursday the 30th August reports say the Nigerian Army suffered another attack from the Boko Haram insurgents allegedly leading to the death of 31 soldiers. The report confirmed that the soldiers did all within their powers to repel the insurgents before they were over powered as usual. At the time of filing this report, it was claimed that details of the situation were still being gathered by the authorities. The report says that at least 31 soldiers were reported dead, 19 injured and some others yet to be accounted for as Boko Haram insurgents allegedly invaded a base of the Nigerian Army in Borno State on Thursday, August 30.
The detail of the report alleged that Scores of Boko Haram fighters carried out the attack on the base located at Zari, a small community north of Maiduguri and near the border with Niger. The report said the insurgents stormed the base in 12 gun trucks, while some other came on foot in the early evening of that day. The report quoted sources who revealed that the soldiers earlier showed gallantry by initially repelling the terrorists. However, they failed at a point due to the superior fire power of the insurgents and “the insurgents broke into the camp about an hour of exchange of gunfire. An unknown number of troops were still not accounted for as at (September 1st) morning,” our source said, while the terrorists allegedly made away with armored Personnel carrier (APC), anti- aircraft guns, water tankers, utility trucks, ambulances and other equipment, they also burnt satellite communication equipment and destroyed make-shift tents inside the camp. The report quoted the source as saying that, “the authorities were still trying to ascertain Boko Haram casualties”.
Commenting on the situation in the northeast, Brigadier-General Texas Chukwu, Director Army public relations, debunked every claim saying the Army is not an institution that would send personnel to a war zone and forget them there.
In his comment Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu also discredited the allegation that the Army does not provide adequate welfare for soldiers saying allowance for every official is N45,000. According to him, it is unfair for anybody to say they’ve been in this theatre and they have not been fed. He said the theatre commander in Gubio does not take the welfare of soldiers lightly adding that personnel are supplied with enough ammunition to face insurgent groups in any part of the country.
It would be recalled that the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, had circulated a set of operational guidelines warning Nigerian ARMY Commanders of grave consequences should they abandon their positions in the face of fire power from Boko Haram insurgents. Buratai’s memo was a response to recent killings and maiming of soldiers and officers by terrorist, amidst renewed fears of resurgent of Boko Haram.
He said, any commander who abandons his position in the face of enemy fire leading to avoidable death of troops and loss of equipment will be subjected to harsh punishments as enumerated in the Armed Forces Act.
Meanwhile, Gandoki, a corporal with the special force unit of the Nigerian army, walks out of a sport betting shop, scans through the ticket in his hands, then nods as his face widens into a smile. The corporal and many other soldiers fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east do not receive their operation allowance regularly. They find means of survival by gambling, using as low as N50 to predict results of games that could—if by chance their predictions hit it right— enrich them with a few thousands of naira.
“For months now, we’ve not been paid our allowance. How would we have survived if not for the small money that we see from this sport betting?” Gandoki asks, smiling his way to a bar close to where his unit is camped. His predictions on matches in European football league have so far won him almost half the amount of allowance owed him by the Nigerian army.
A few bottles of beer and a plate of pepper-soup are enough consolation for this special force soldier who has just a few days left in Maiduguri, Borno state capital, before returning to the frontline, where the fight continues.
Soldiers Wear Slippers to War Front
A standard soldiers’ footwear is dark green camouflage shoes but some who are fighting Boko Haram walk into battle with open-toe slippers. Soldiers in the trenches would reveal that being ‘poorly kitted’ in the army is an understatement.
“Kitting of soldiers? You are on your own,” Gandoki jeers. Then, he yells: “We have our special uniforms that we use as special force soldiers. But nowadays, none of us is still that specially kitted.
“Soldiers now use any type of uniform they can afford. We were even once told that part of the money owed us would be used to buy our uniforms. We were also assured of getting camouflage T-shirts, rather, what we were given were Etisalat branded T-shirts. And when the uniforms came, if you get a trouser, you will not get the shirt. If you get camel bag, you will not get knee guard.
“When they bring the uniforms, they share it among themselves at the top. Even in Abuja, you will see officers that did not train with us being kitted with special force uniforms.
“In NAPEX (Nigerian Army Post Exchange), the store where military uniforms are being sold, each goes for about N25,000. But then, how much is an average soldier’s salary? So, that is why we put on anything we have. And we do that even in the war front. Soldiers who don’t have desert boots and can’t buy canvass, wear slippers.”
Many of the soldiers have not been given fragmental jackets (bullet-resistant vests) since they got drafted into the war theatre. In the bushes where the action takes place, the soldiers don’t expect a luxurious living. They simply want the authorities to provide them with camp beds.
“We buy the beds and tents with our money. Some of us went to Mali in 2013 for an operation where we were fully kitted. When we came back, and redeployed to operation Lafiya Dole, they collected the bed and fragmented jackets from us and were sent to the bush in Bama, at the time the insurgency was very hot. It was hell.”
“We go for parameter patrol without night vision goggles. We go in blindly, and because we are not equipped with these night vision goggles, Boko Haram will be approaching your camp in the night and you will not see them until they are already closer, firing at you.”
‘Nothing Special About Special Forces Soldiers’
Should soldiers whose unit bears the name special not be given preferential treatment?
Special forces are military units trained to carry out special operations, and in Nigeria, hundreds of soldiers from various divisions and battalions have been specially trained and drafted into this unit where the task is to fight Boko Haram insurgents.
“Anything they call special is supposed to be treated special because of the training you undergo, but there is nothing special in this operation we’ve been in here,” Gandoki says, his chin lowering from disappointment.
“We will be advancing to face the enemies, and all we are given to eat for days is popcorn and biscuits.”
He was a young soldier in one of the divisions in the south-east when a signal was sent to the armed forces; army, air force, navy and the police regarding the assemblage of a select few for special training.
“We were nominated from across battalions, and were assembled at the military cantonment in Jaji,” he said, adding that on arrival, they were told to see themselves as lucky to have been picked for the training. The soldiers saw it a privilege but none of them knew they would end up squaring up against Boko Haram in the north-east.
“The training was in Russia, and we were there for four months. We were supposed to stay up to six months, but there was pressure on us to return and fight.”
‘We Begged Our Enemy For Water’
Before departing for Russia, these would-be special force soldiers were given 30% of their training allowance, and assured of getting the remaining 70% upon their return. Sadly, the soldiers’ hopes were dashed as it never came forth.
They never got what they were promised.
Gandoki is in the first batch of the specially trained soldiers deployed to the operation in the north-east, and their first assignment, upon return in 2014, was to engage Boko Haram insurgents in Sambisa forest.
“We were about 200, advancing into Sambisa, and the first problem started when we weren’t given food or money to feed,” he says as his voice dropped again.
“On this first assignment to the bush, some died and, luckily, some of us returned alive. If you see the kind of food they would eventually give us, you will weep for us. There was a time we were begging our enemy for water, because we were going to die of thirst. The military helicopter, we were told, would bring water but wouldn’t be able to land because where we are is not safe for it. And, I would ask, what about us on the ground here?”
The insurgents may have killed quite a number of soldiers, but these fighters say lack of food and water should also be held responsible for soldiers’ death.
Living With Pain
Gandoki, who has been in the operation for three years, has sustained injuries and not much has been done in taking care of him.
“I have two gunshot wounds on my body,” he says, reaching for his leg and back where the injuries are. “There is rubber inside my leg because the vein almost cut off so they have to brace it with rubber. And, nothing has been given to me to sort my medical bills, even when we heard that money was released to take care of some of us who have been affected.”
He is a victim of Damasak and Gashiga attacks in Borno. The task was to clear a Boko Haram hideout, and the special force battalion was to meet with a strike group in Abadam, still in Borno, where they were to proceed to collectively strike the hideout.
“We took off and on our way we had an issue with our vehicle, and we spent the whole day trying to fix it. In Gashiga, we entered Boko Haram ambush. We called our jet, and there was no response. We started a battle with the enemies and it was there I got hit with multiple bullets.”
Gandoki’s vehicle had run into the mines and while the soldiers were trying to pull themselves out, the insurgents started shooting at them. “With our injuries, we withdrew to Damasak, and after a while, we advanced again and this time, the attacks were overwhelming.”
The insurgents outnumbered and then overpowered the “battalion”. “We call it a battalion but what we have is actually a company, yet those generals at the top get monetary allocations for a bigger battalion while the formation sent to fight in the bush is the smaller company.”
More than 40 soldiers were killed. The soldiers were not the size of a battalion that they should be, and then, the machines they were left to fight with were faulty.
“The two scorpions we had were not working,” Gandoki explains. “The general purpose machine gun (GPMG) mounted on the scorpions were faulty, too. I don’t know why they are not serviceable, and instead of the commanding officer to tell the theatre commander, he was pushing us to the frontline and there we got ambushed.
“They said it is a battalion, but let me tell you the truth, it is not a battalion that is deployed to Gashiga. It is a company. A company has about 200 soldiers as against a battalion of 800 soldiers. Those in authorities label us a battalion so they can get the money meant for about 600 soldiers.”
The soldiers had managed to fire one bomb before the machines stopped working. Advance, attack, withdraw and defense are the four phases of war, and since their machines were not forthcoming, they had to withdraw, but sadly, they couldn’t defend.
While some injured special force soldiers couldn’t get out alive, Gandoki had found himself in the hospital.
The morning after they were “dumped” at the hospital, Gandoki said the pain was becoming unbearable for him, and he started crying, calling for help. An officer who was moved by Gandoki’s plight came to him, helped him get on a wheelchair and he was wheeled to where his bullet-ridden leg got scanned. Even when the scan had showed bullets inside his leg, it took three days before he was moved into the theatre for surgery. He said throughout his stay alongside other soldiers at the 7 Division hospital, the army left them with no food.
Since the surgery, Gandoki says he has not had any post-surgery treatment. Apart from his leg injury, sounds of gunshots and IED explosions had affected his eardrums— such that until a word or phrase is repeatedly said, he can barely understand. His left ear functions no more.
“From the army hospital, I was referred to the University of Maidugri Teaching Hospital,” he explains. “But, it is better you sit at home and find a way of treating yourself than go to any of these hospitals. You will spend money transporting yourself to and fro the hospital and you get there, sit for hours because nobody would attend to wounded soldiers. They will keep telling you doctor is coming. We will be there, tired, in pains and waiting on empty stomachs.”
If a soldier is wounded and goes for treatment and has not returned within three to five days, Gandoki says such soldier’s account would be frozen.
“They will say he has gone AWOL. If you sustain a bullet wound while fighting in the bush, you are supposed to RTU (return to unit). But now, they will ask you to return to front line.”
When Gandoki refused to return to the front line, he was slammed with a two-count charge; disobedience and failure to perform military duty.
Gandoki has lost hope in the hospitals. He had thought as a special force soldier, he would have enjoyed some special medical treatments. The strong-willed fighter now uses salt and water to mop his injured leg, a post-surgery treatment he can afford. And for his bad ear, he uses cotton wool to cover it.
Soldiers Sleep Inside Classrooms
Special force soldiers deployed for operation Lafiya Dole have been camped in classrooms of a secondary school along Gubio road, outskirt of Maiduguri.
“When we return from the bush, these are the classrooms we live in,” Gandoki says, shaking his head. “One has spent six months in the bush, and when you return to Maiduguri to shop for a few things— after being on the road for about 12 hours— you come to sleep on the floor of this classroom, because you have nowhere to sleep. Even when the commanding officer came and saw our condition, he shook his head, pitying us.”
He adds that soldiers who have mattresses got them from deserted villages.
“I sleep inside the tank,” Gandoki’s friend who does not have a space in the classroom says. “We get mosquito net ourselves for N400, because if you wait for the army, mosquitoes will kill you here.”
‘If I Do Not Wet this Floor, the Dust May Kill Me Overnight’
Rusty zinc houses where hundreds of soldiers rest their heads are scattered on the dusty expanse of land inside the Maimalari barracks in Maiduguri.
One evening, Danje, one of the old serving soldiers in operation Lafiya Dole, returns from Konduga, tired but he still had to fetch water some metres away so he can wet the sandy floor of his zinc house.
“If I do not wet this floor, the dust may kill me overnight,” Danje says, flashing a smile as he drops his rifle and picks up a bucket. For three months, he has not been paid, too, but as soon as he gets his operational allowance, he intends to buy five bags of cement and fill the room with concrete.
“When we arrived here many years ago, with all our loads, we were told all the blocks of flats in the barracks have been occupied,” he explains. “And you know, as soldiers, we just have to find our way.” For almost a year, Danje says, he will spread his mat atop one of the abandoned and faulty vehicles at a mechanic workshop to spend the night. He did this until he was able to save enough money, like other soldiers, to construct his own zinc house.
“This is my own self-contain apartment,” he laughs. “I built this place myself, with my money and my hands. A sheet of fairly used zinc sells for N700, while the new goes for N1,000, we can only afford the former. And to put this whole structure together, you will spend at least N31,000 on zinc alone.”
Danje says soldiers have been abandoned and that the authorities do not make an attempt to refund them. “Soldiers would go to the bush to fight, and when some of us are lucky enough to return here, are we supposed to be spending our own money to construct where we will rest our heads? Is it not the responsibility of the Nigerian army to make provisions for our accommodation here?”
The soldier says his condition is better than some of his colleagues who still have nowhere to put their heads. “The system here is; carry your cross, I carry my cross.”
Food Without Meat
Willie has just been posted to Maiduguri. The young soldier is three weeks old at Giwa Barracks and he is struggling to come to terms with being served food without meat.
“Not once, in my three weeks here have I tasted meat,” Willie says, as he waves off the teeming flies on the wrap of semovita and watery soup by his side.
“All they give us here; beans, rice and semo, we have never eaten vegetables here. They will share food by 5:00 pm and if you do not rush, you will not get food.
“By right, our feeding timetable says every Saturday, I will eat food with soft drinks or bottle water or sachet water. We are also supposed to get fruits twice in a week, but we don’t get all of those. They said they will give one soldier one bag of water for a week but we don’t get it. Before, from theatre command, we heard they used to give soldiers popcorn and juice but not anymore, and we don’t know why.”
Once, the soldiers were to advance to the bush for a task and they “had to buy garri and take along, because we were not given food, and we were going to walk some 15 kilometres”.
The experience is the same with soldiers in Maimalari Barracks and those currently in the bush.
“Yesterday, they gave us one soup you cannot even describe as okra or ewedu,” Jacko, a soldier in Maimalari turns their feeding into a subject of mockery. “The food was tasteless, and this morning, they cooked beans and pap; the pap, oh my God, o my God!”
‘We Started Eating Human Flesh When Food Supply Stopped’
His eyes are almost covered with blood clot, with his eyeballs uncomfortably positioned. He looks strange — like a character in a horror movie.
Gimzy, a sergeant, has spent the last three years, from one bush to the other in the dreaded Sambisa forest, and now he is back in Jimtilo Barracks, Maiduguri.
“I lived in Sambisa for three years,” he begins, adjusting the rifle dangling around his arm, and groping for a stick of cigarette from his chest pocket. Like many others, Gimzy and Motu, his brave wife who lived with him in Sambisa, have not had an accommodation in the barracks since they returned. “And, I don’t have any money, my wife and I just found one corridor to sleep when it’s dark. But, they keep telling the whole world we soldiers are fine that they are taking care of us, that they are paying us.”
Gimzy is more worried about food than accommodation. While in the bush, they were being supplied food, but at a point the food stopped coming and soldiers were left to fend for themselves.
“Normally, they bring in food for us with gun trucks and escort. And it takes days before they get to us, that is if they are not ambushed by the enemies. But for almost three months we didn’t get food and we had finished all we have, we gathered that the enemy had set ambush everywhere and it was hard to get food across to us.
“And they don’t use helicopter to supply us food, because the hovering helicopter would reveal our location to the enemies.”
Many Soldiers Have Either Salary Or Allowance Problem
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan had re-initiated the integrated payroll and personnel information system (IPPIS) where payment of salaries and wages were to be directly paid into the government employees’ accounts. The main aim of the system is to pay accurately and on time with the statutory and contractual regulations.
About N75 million was appropriated to implement this. In September 2017, the presidential initiative on continuous audit (PICA) wrote to the armed forces to submit its payroll for migration to IPPIS, but soldiers at the frontline accused the army authorities of not responding as irregularities continue to dog their payment.
“We heard the navy and air force have submitted the payrolls of their personnel for IPPIS, but it does not appear the army has,” says Kazau, a soldier who is yet to get his two months pay.
“Our money comes through the army authorities, and before it gets to us, they would have cut from it. And that is why we have been praying they agree with the IPPIS so that we can get paid directly from the government.
“Seventy percent of soldiers in Maiduguri here either have salary or allowance problems. Some soldiers are owed nine months allowance, and you will still be sent to the bush despite the suffering because you don’t have an option.”
No Danger Allowance, Shortchanged On Operational Allowance
For each soldier fighting insurgency, N45,00, they understand, is the approved sum for operational allowance. But, of this approved sum, N30,000 is what eventually gets to them. N20,000 is paid into their account, and N10,000, a hand-to-hand payment. A deduction of N15,000, the soldiers are told, is used for their feeding.
The soldiers feel cheated. They say their counterparts in the navy and air force who are also in the operation get the full N45, 000, and they are given food.
“In fact, we heard the operational allowance is originally N75,000 from which N30,000 is for feeding, and the remaining N45, 000 is to be paid to us,” a soldier in Baga explains.
“Apart from that, if a soldier is going on pass, he is supposed to be given transport allowance or a military vehicle drops him, but we don’t get that here.”
Soldiers who have been in the operation for over three years and are daily exposed to danger on the frontline have not, for once, been paid danger allowance, and this, the soldiers say they are entitled to.
But, What Has Happened to the Billions Appropriated by the Army?
“We will devote a significant portion of our recurrent expenditure to institutions that provide critical government services. We will spend N369.6 billion in education; N294.5 billion in defence; N221.7 billion in health and N145.3 billion in the ministry of interior. This will ensure our teachers, armed forces personnel, doctors, nurses, policemen, fire fighters, prison service officers and many more critical service providers are paid competitively and on time,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in 2016 when he presented his ‘budget of change’ to a joint session of the national assembly.
Eight billion naira, N25 billion and N78 billion were appropriated for operation Lafiya Dole in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.
In the 2017 appropriation, the ministry of defence budgeted N2.2 billion to rehabilitate barracks nationwide. There is also a separate budget of N1.7 billion for the construction/provision of barracks while another N1.6 billion is budgeted to construct special force barracks.
In the same budget, the Nigerian army is to purchase defense equipment for N5.8 billion, construct barracks for N5.2 billion while N51 million on is for rehabilitation of barracks.
N2.56 billion is budgeted for the provision of uniforms and other kitting items, and N670 million for the purchase of health/medical equipment.
N5.5 billion is for the provision of barracks and N1.4 billion for uniforms and kitting in the 2016 budget.
In spite of these huge budgeted sums, the soldiers at the end of the chain feel no effect.
Army Authorities Not Saying Anything
Twice, the army refused to respond to a FoI request sent for budgetary and fund release records.
Same request was also sent to the office of the accountant-general of the federation, and there has been no response.
When contacted, the Nigerian Army Finance Corps asked TheCable to return to the army headquarters in Abuja. An officer at the corps office in Lagos who pleaded to be anonymous, however, said the top generals are to answer for these funds.
“Indeed, funds were released for our troops but they boys in the bush are being shortchanged,” he says. “Check out those generals, and ask them where they get money to build mansions and estate in Abuja and soldiers don’t have where to sleep when they come out of the bush.”
The information requested from the army were; a breakdown of amount released for the construction/rehabilitation of barracks across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states; the name of each construction/rehabilitation project for which funds were approved from January, 2014 to October, 2017; a breakdown of total amount released to kit soldiers and officers in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states from January, 2014 to October, 2017; a breakdown of total amount released as operational/danger allowance for soldiers and officers drafted into the Operation Lafiya Dole across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Interestingly, in the 2017 appropriation, the ministry of defence earmarked N20 million for a line item it called “implementation of FoI”.
Jude Chukwu, army spokesman wouldn’t hide his anger when he was reached for comment over the poor welfare of troops fighting insurgency.
“Which soldiers? I am with the soldiers you are talking about and I don’t know who is giving you that report,” he said with an unfriendly tone.
“Sometimes you people will just be asking some questions that one would just imagine how you people came about it. Do you know the meaning of a soldier? If you know the meaning of a soldier, you wouldn’t ask that question. You wouldn’t ask me whether a soldier can comfortably be taken care of or not. People are fighting war, and you are talking like this? Do people stay in the room and be fighting war?”
Chukwu, beating his chest, said no soldier ever complained of poor welfare.
“You journalists just pick up something. Soldier have enough, they have food to eat. No issue with welfare, I don’t know why you are asking.”
Chukwu, however, did not respond to why the army authorities failed to make available information on how funds have been spent on the soldiers’ welfare.
*Names and designation of soldiers have been altered to protect their identity.
This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR
Severe Acute Malnutrition: CISLAC holds memorable gubernatorial debate in Jigawa By Abubakar Jimoh
An estimated 2.5 million Nigerian children under-5 suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) annually, exposing nearly 420,000 children under-5 to early death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.
Jigawa state records one of the worst malnutrition indices in Nigeria with 66% stunting, 13.8% wasting, 50.4% underweight rates of under-5, as reported by Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) in 2016.
Malnutrition and nutrition-related morbidity constitute serious public health concerns in the state with 15.5% exclusive breastfeeding rate. In 2017, the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programmes admitted 62,953 with 57,201 cured, 170 death and 911 defaulters, consumption of RUTF varies along monthly admission rate.
It is against this background that Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organised a first time in history debate for gubernatorial candidates in the state to provoke constructive discussions and interactions on efficient Primary Health Care as a prerequisite for prevention and treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
Given the importance role of political parties in the general elections, the debate elicited commitments of the candidates to address SAM in state.
The debate attended by gubernatorial candidates of All Progressives Congress (APC), SDP, PDP, PDM, People’s Trust, MPN provided them with enabling platform to articulate proposed policy and programmes to advance adequate nutrition status as a child right with assurances to strengthen Primary Health Care system for adequate and sustainable nutrition intervention.
‘We will prioritise LGs with severe cases’ – APC
As contains in its party manifesto, All Progressives Congress (APC) commits to: prioritise the reduction of the infant mortality rate by 2019 to 3%; reduce maternal mortality by more than 70%; reduce HIV/AIDs infection rate by 50% and other infectious diseases by 75%; improve life expectancy by additional 10 years on average through our national healthy living program.
The party also commits to increase the number of physicians from 19 per 1000 population to 50 per 1000; increase national health expenditure per person per annum to about N50,000 (from less than N10,000 currently); provide free ante-natal care for pregnant women, free health care for babies and children up to school going age and for the aged and free treatment for those afflicted with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS; boost the local manufacture of pharmaceuticals and make non adulterated drugs readily available.
While responding to questions during the debate, candidate of APC also the present Governor of the State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Badaru represented by his Deputy Barrister Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia said in order to attain adequate and optimum healthcare delivery across the state, the administration had commenced the implementation of Primary Health Care provisions as enshrined in the National Health Act, 2014.
According to him, apart from working to ensure functional and effective Primary Health, the administration works towards provision of one Primary Health Care centre per ward.
“Jigawa state is the first state in Nigeria to complete its conditional cash transfer programme. The 2019 budget has an extensive allocation for SAM program to nine (9) Local Government Areas.
“We will prioritise Local Governments with severe malnutrition cases, while sustaining existing coverage.
“The state has budgeted sum of N2billion for conditional cash transfer programme. Also, N160million has been budgeted for nutrition counterpart funding.
“State Government will ensure timely release to sustain existing effort.
“Through adequate mapping and preparation, we will revitalise our Primary Health Care centres to effective cater for SAM.
“We will boost human resources for Primary Health through adequate recruitment of health workers to improve access to healthcare services.
“This will be supported through our existing programme in School of Nursing and community scheme to encourage enrolment of girls into health institutions and community participation in healthcare services,” he assured.
‘We will facilitate timely release of funds’ – SDP
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) acknowledges that citizen’s productive capacities are predicated on good health.
The party in its manifesto commits to free health services for all Nigerians up to the age of 18 and seniors over the age of 65 years; and affordable health services for all Nigerians in every part of the country; create infrastructural facilities in the health sector for effective health care delivery.
Other promises by the party include to revitalise primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems; give special attention in addressing problems of WF, HIV/AIDS, maternal and infant mortality; and make functional clinics accessible to inaccessible communities.
While responding to a question on proposed strategy by the party to ensure sustainable investment for the CMAM activities and expansion to other Local Government yet to be covered, Hon. Bashir Adamu Jimbo, the Gubernatorial candidate of SDP said the party would work towards sustainable initiatives and free programmes on Primary Health Care to systematically curb malnutrition, while enhancing SAM interventions in the state.
He assured to prioritise sustainable CMAM programmes and nutrition investment through constructive collaboration with Civil Society Organisation and development partners to extend CMAM activities to other Local Government Area yet to be covered in the state.
Hon. Jimbo attributed delay in release of budgeted funds as the major factor militating against sustainable interventions to address SAM in the state, while giving assurance to facilitate timely release of funds, if elected as the Governor.
“Proper collaboration with Civil Society groups and development partners will help in adequate supervision, promote accountability and ensure compliance to the implementation of nutrition funding as contains in the budget,” he explained.
‘We will deploy adequate human resources for health’ – PDP
The People Democratic Party’s overall policy objective for the health sector aims at improving the health status of Nigerians in order to increase productivity, job creation, wealth creation and poverty reduction through improvement of healthcare services, ensuring universal access to basic health care and reproductive health, improvement of maternal and child health.
Mallam Aminu Ibrahim Ringim, the party’s gubernatorial candidate during the debate committed to fulfil the state’s commitment to adequate nutrition investment through strengthen financial and technical collaboration with relevant stakeholders.
He promised to reintroduce Guduma Health system as part of initiatives to improve efficient Primary Health Care services delivery at community level, while adopting a multi-sectoral approach to improve services.
“Adequate human resources remains paramount to effectively deliver on Primary Health Care. We will encourage appropriate training, retraining and research programmes to boost skilled healthcare personnel to be deployed across healthcare centres.
“We will enhance collaboration with development partners and Civil Society groups to sustain adequate funding for SAM prevention,” Mallam Ibrahim
‘We will strengthen accountability around PHC, nutrition funds’ – PDM
As contains in its party manifesto, Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) commits to ensure proper coordination and reinforcement of government and nongovernmental organizations to improve access to qualitative Primary Health Care; health education and advocacy in schools and through community based associations; constructive engagement of international health management and delivery agencies on preventive medical initiatives.
Other promises by the party include support for healthy lifestyle advocacy; establishment of a National Health Board and Health monitoring and regulations blueprint; improved access to affordable medical care; reduction in infant and child mortality rate; increase in life expectancy; reduction in loss manpower arising from illness; and reduction in the need for medical treatment outside Nigeria.
In his response to a question on the immediate measures the party will put in place to ensure timely release and judicious utilisation of fund by the line Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi, the candidate of PDM promised to ensure proper control and supervision of government finances to promote full implementation of nutrition funds in the state.
In order to ensure functional Primary Health Care, Mallam Sanusi assured to maintain regular supervision of PHC centres in the state through partnership with Civil Society Organisations.
“Our government with work with CSOs to provide adequate financial resources to nutrition activities and ensure accountability by every person in charge of nutrition programme.
“Apart from financial prudence, we will ensure timely release of budgeted funds to sustain and expand nutrition interventions in the state.
“We will boost human resources for Primary Health Care through adequate recruitment of skilled personnel of high professional competence,” he assured.
‘We will commit $160 per child to prevent SAM’ – MPN
The gubernatorial candidate of Mega Party of Nigeria, Sheik Rudman Abdullah, during the debate pledged to establish Desk Official across the 27 Local Government Areas in the state, and sustain partnership with development partners and Civil Society Organisations.
“If elected as the next governor, I will commit $160 per child to prevent SAM across Primary Health Care centres.
“I will hold responsible Ministries, Departments and Agencies accountable to ensure timely release of funds; and mainstream nutrition in primary and secondary education curricula,” he assured.
‘We will double existing budgetary provision for treatment of SAM’ – PT
“If elected as the next governor, l will double existing budgetary provision for prevention of SAM and ensure timely release of fund.
“I will operate philosophical approach to governance, secure child right and boost Primary Health Care through targeted empowerment programmes,” said Muhammad M.Y Milo, gubernatorial candidate of Peoples’ Trust party.
In her remarks at the end of the debate, Chioma Kanu, Program Manager (Health, Human Development and Social Inclusion), CISLAC, encourage each party to prioritize Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programmes in the state through existing policies implementation, adequate budgetary allocation, timely release, cash backing and utilization of funds and oversight activities.
She advised them to ensure Local Government autonomy to enhance full financial independence in the management of Primary Health Care systems for transparency and accountability to promote adequate and sustainable coverage of nutrition interventions in the state.
She said: “Expanding the existing CMAM programmes to additional prioritized Local Government Areas in various states for adequate coverage and timely intervention is paramount across the states.
“Prioritising full implementation of the National Health Act 2014 will promote adequate, accessible and affordable Primary Health Care for effective delivery of CMAM and other nutrition services.
“More importantly, sustain budget line for nutrition and ensure timely releases of funds for the procurement RUTF will avert stock-out in distribution, the situation that may exacerbate treatment of SAM children in the state.
The Project Coordinator further drew their attention to full implementation of Child Right Act to effect adequate nutrition status as a child right.
Jimoh is the Head of Communications at Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Abuja.
How Buhari Mismanaged PTF Yet claimed to be a man of Integrity By Charles Adeyi Ameh (Charlie Bee)
When, in 1994, the late General Sani Abacha, invited former Head of State, Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to serve as head of the newly created Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), the latter gave one condition for this acceptance: He must be given the title of Executive Chairman, and he must have a free hand to run the Fund as he saw fit, without any interference from anyone.
The PTF was itself a child of controversy. Abacha had, in 1994, increased the price which Nigerians had to pay for petrol, diesel and kerosene. The Nigerian populace vehemently opposed the hike, both because the increase was exorbitant, and because most Nigerians were certain that the windfall from the price hike would find its way into the hands of a few highly placed Nigerians.
To assuage this fear, Abacha summoned Gen. Buhari from retirement, to administer a new Trust Fund into which all excess income from the price increase would be paid, and from which the Fund would intervene in critical areas of the economy in such a manner as to directly benefit ordinary Nigerians. Buhari’s main qualification was that he was considered to be both a strict disciplinarian and an incorruptible man. And he was for this reason expected to ensure that the fund was properly used, and that it would not become another avenue from which public funds were simply carted away by a handful of well-placed Nigerians. That was the expectation. But the reality, in the end, was a story of massive and cynical looting of the public treasury under the watchful eyes of General Buhari –an ineptitude leader. Many years later, the same Major General Muhammadu Buhari now the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has the audacity to say that his “integrity is intact”.
How the Fund Became a Funnel
Gen. Buhari was Executive Chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund from its inception in 1994, to its disbandment by the Obasanjo administration in 1999. According to the report of the Interim Management Committee, which was set up in that year to investigate the affairs of the Fund, the total income accruing to the Fund from mid-1994 to July 1999 was in excess of N181 billion. There were six major areas in which the PTF intervened directly during the period. They were: roads and waterways; supply of educational materials and rehabilitation of educational infrastructure; food supply; health; water supply; and what was curiously termed other projects.
The management structure of the Fund was so capricious, from start, as in retrospect to suggest that the executive chairman was far more impressed by his position as an alternate Head of State, an Interventionist Czar who was answerable to no one, not even the Head of State himself, than anything else. First, he unilaterally appointed a single consultant, Afri-Projects Consortium, as the sole adviser to the Fund. Then he delegated virtually all his powers to this agency. Afri-Projects Consortium was given the exclusive power to initiate projects, assess their probable cost, approve the costs, execute the projects, and assess the quality of execution, all alone. The Consortium’s decisions could not be questioned by anyone outside the Fund. Even the statutory members of the Fund’s Board of Trustees found themselves helplessly watching as huge sums of money were paid out for questionable projects. And not surprisingly, the three professional management firms recruited by the Interim Management Committee to audit the performance of Afri-Projects Consortium came up with the unanimous conclusion that APC had over-charged the Fund for its services to the tune of over N2 billion.
The Rural Telecommunications Development Scheme was another such scheme from which money was cynically carted away by favoured clients. The scheme was designed in two parts: a Pilot Phase, and the Main Phase. The Pilot programme was intended to determine the viability of the project. But this did not deter PFF, under Gen. Buhari, to award contracts for the main programme to the tune of N1.6 billion, without any contracts signed, and before any conclusions could be drawn from the Pilot project.
It is a horrendous story of criminal negligence, cynical fraud, and unprecedented disregard for all civilised standards of prudence and transparency in the disbursement of public funds. In the end, the independent consultants concluded that of the N181 billion that accrued to PTF in the four and a half years of its existence between July 1994 and July 1999, as much as N25 billion was either stolen or improperly expended. Gen. Buhari was Executive Chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund from its inception in 1994, to its disbandment by Obasanjo administration in 1999.
The Great Man’s Defence
Sources from within the PTF Interim Management Committee assert that when Gen. Buhari was invited to comment on the findings of the committee’s consultants regarding the conduct of the empire over which he presided, he coyly retorted that he was not aware that such massive fraud went on his watch, but that in any event, he could not have benefited personally from the hideous purloining of the treasury. .
That may be true, but it does not detract from the fact that he delegated to this outfit the sole and exclusive power to initiate projects, assess those submitted by other companies, approve variations on contract sums, and determine the quality of work done. He also, by his own admission, according to our sources, approved in writing all recommended payments from the Fund. But he did not know, he claimed, that those to whom he had delegated virtually all his powers were stealing the country blind. And no one has a right to call him to account, since to do so would be to question his famous reputation.
Remember Former President Shehu Shagari was kept in jail for nearly one and a half years by Buhari, and almost lost his sight, when Buhari seized power on December 31, 1983, not because he was found guilty of any criminal offence, certainly not for abuse of his office. Shagari’s only crime, it appeared, was that Buhari was convinced that the buck stopped at his desk, for as President, he had to pay vicariously for the purported crimes of his lieutenants. Umaru Dikko, Shagari’s ubiquitous Minister of Transport, almost died in a crate, contrived by Buhari, that was en route from London to Nigeria, where he no doubt would have suffered worse than Shagari’s fate. Some state governors were jailed for 200 years and more, because they could not account for how they spent their security votes (which were often no more than N20 million).
According to the report of the Interim Management Committee, which was set up in that year to investigate the affairs of the Fund, the total income accruing to the Fund from mid-1994 to July 1999 was in excess of N181 billion. There were six major areas in which the PTF intervened directly during the period. They were: roads and waterways; supply of educational materials and rehabilitation of educational infrastructure; food supply; health; water supply; and what was curiously termed other projects. Shockingly, Buhari ensured that over 70% of the projects in the 6 categories were done in the north. What a fair-minded officer and gentleman. A nationalist indeed who was voted in 2015 to bring the change we all desire! And now he wants to be re-elected for another four years.
The management structure of the Fund reflected how Buhari ran the affairs of the country as head of state, when he abdicated all responsibilities to Tunde Idiagbon. He was just satisfied with being the executive chairman, as he was with being called head of state and c-in-c. And, without being accountable to anybody, at the PFT, Buhari exuded the impression he was an alternate Head of State. The same way he kowtowed to Idiagbon was the same way he handed over PTF to a single consultant, Afri-Projects Consortium (APC), as the sole adviser to the Fund. This agency- Afri-Projects Consortium – was given the exclusive power to initiate projects, assess their probable cost, approve the costs, execute the projects, and assesses the quality of execution, all alone by Buhari. Nobody questioned their actions and legality of the powers they exercised. After all, puritan Buhari was watching.
The same way General Buhari ran his government and even the PTF under Late General Abacha is the same way our unrepentant president has handed over the destiny of all Nigerians and their unborn generations to the “CABAL” in ASO ROCK today.
Since Buhari was not accountable to even Abacha who appointed him and board set up to supervise the PTF was supplanted by APC at the behest of Buhari, it meant the PTF functioned like a parallel government. The submission of Afenifere to the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC) led by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa gives an incredible insight into Buhari’s biased and nepotic disposition to the other parts of country. Afenifere noted at the Oputa Panel that nothing else typifies the marginalisation of the Yoruba nay the south than the lopsidedness of the projects carried out by the PTF. Figures from PTF Situation Reports (Vol. 2 Dec. 98) show that the PTF carried on as if there was no Southern Nigeria, as well over 70% of projects were shamelessly taken to the north by Buhari.
The same is happening today to the lopsidedness in the appointment of the heads of government, agencies, security agencies and other federal appointments. Federal Character does not matter anymore in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari.
For the avoidance of doubt, let us attempt sector by sector analysis here. Of all the roads rehabilitated by the PTF, only 1984.5 kms of roads representing 24% were carried out in the entire South; from where the bulk of the PTF revenue came since the south consumes over 70% of refined petroleum products. Out of this paltry figure, South West got 10.5% while South east and south south combined, got only 13.5% of all the roads, despite being ravaged by erosion and swamps. What this means is that all the Southern States had 4,440.43 kms or 24 per cent of road rehabilitation as against 13,870.47 kms or 76 per cent in the Northern States.
The North-West States of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara had a lion share of 5020 kms or 27.42% because the Fund’s Chairman, puritan Buhari and the military dictator Sani Abacha were from there; The North-East States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe picked 23.48 per cent. This is the zone where Salihijo Ahmed, the late Chief Executive of Afri-Project Consortium APC, the sole consultants that supervised all PTF projects came from.
Afenifere submission showed further the Figures in other sectors were even more callous. For instance, under the National Health and Educational Rehabilitation Programme (NHERP), the entire south had zero allocation in the tertiary programme, while the North picked 100 per cent. In the vocational programme, the entire South had 3% while the North had 97%. In the primary area, the South recorded 12% as against 88% for the North and in the secondary area, it was 14% for the entire South and 86% for the North, again courtesy of the fair-minded general who the APC says will bring the change we need.
The health sector is also similar. For the Teaching Hospitals, the South had 38% while the North had 62%. For the Specialist Hospitals, it was 29% for the South and 71 per cent for the North; in General/State Hospitals the south had 44% while the North had 56%. For health clinics, it was zero for the entire South against the North’s 100 per cent. Under the food supply summary, the South had 17% compared with 83% for the North, Buhari’s zone having 60.54 per cent to itself. Figures do not lie. Why should a fair-minded nationalist run the PTF in such lopsided manner? Is he seeking votes to return to power to wreck more underdevelopment to the southern Nigeria?
On the massive fraud discovered when PTF was disbanded in 1999, the prudent, puritan general only defence was that he was not aware that such massive frauds went on his watch, but that in any event, he could not have benefited personally. What manner of defence! And of cause he has remained poor ever after and had to take a loan from banks to purchase nomination forms. Buhari must believe Nigerians are a bunch of idiots to tell such a story, despite driving a fleet of armored jeeps even when his convoy was attack at Kawo Kaduna by a bomber.
In the end, the independent consultants concluded that of the N181 billion that accrued to PTF in the four and a half years of its existence between July 1994 and July 1999, as much as N25 billion was either stolen or improperly expended, under our anti-corruption crusader!
For a moment let us accept that Buhari was not aware of the massive frauds at the PTF and dis-empowerment of the entire southern Nigeria in his PTF days. This poses even a greater danger because it means a cabal would naturally run the country if he becomes President. If a much younger Buhari could not stop fraud and dis-empowerment of the entire southern Nigeria in the PTF, can an octogenarian Buhari do any better?
The tragedy of the PTF recounted clearly shows that Buhari is an unrepentant dictator who is not prepared to listen to anybody. This explains why he told Achacha he would not account to anyone as Chairman of PTF. Can this same Buhari who ran a parallel Government with PTF, be subjected to democratic practices and ethos, like allowing the Legislature and Judiciary to run as envisaged by the 1999 Constitution?
Is the quintessential principle of separation of powers, which govern democracy be possible in a Buhari Presidency? Aside torpedoing democracy in 1983 for no just cause and being an unapologetic Islamic fundamentalist, Buhari is, by nature and training, anti-democratic. He abhors the press and press freedom. He just cannot bear the fact that all human beings are born equal. To him, there are blue-bloods and talakawas whose place in life is hewing wood and drawing water. The world has moved from such atavism and Nigeria should not be further dragged back to it in fulfillment of Buhari’s inordinate ambition beyond 2019 May.
Why has BUHARI not Probed the $252m Sales of NITEL with El-Rufai’s Involvement?
Although President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated the ministry of communication to provide details of the recent privatisation of the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) and its mobile arm, MTEL, to ascertain whether or not Nigeria was short-changed.
Speaking to journalists sometime on August 19, 2015 after briefing the president on the activities of the ministry of communications, before the appointment of the ministers, the former Permanent Secretary Tunji Olaopa said the president requested that a memo detailing how the transaction was processed be submitted directly to him for further directive on the issue to no avail.
He had said that Mr. Buhari was concerned about the possibility of Nigeria not receiving a fair value from the deal.
“The president was also concerned about the liquidation of NITEL. He is not opposed to its privatization but he wants to know… and he wants us to bring a memo on how the whole transaction was undertaken so that he would know whether Nigeria was short-changed,” he had said then.
Mr. Olaopa said the president was very concerned about the whole issue of privatization that is hindering investments in ICT and said “that he will personally champion this. The president talked about the potentials of the ICT sector in generating employment,” Mr. Olaopa was quoted.
He said Mr. Buhari was also concerned about the quality of service from telecom operators in the country. Nearly one year six months after this report nothing has been heard about the investigation inspite of the fact that substantive ministers has been appointed for the Ministry of Communication with a new Permanent Secretary – has president Buhari decided to soft-pedal because el-Rufai is involved?
The privatisation of the NITEL and MTEL was completed in December 2014 after the financial bid was opened in October 2014 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
A consortium run by the now failed Skye Bank’s chairman, Tunde Ayeni, the founder of Sahara Energy, Tonye Cole, and two other companies, received the nod from the Nigerian government to take over the two companies for $242.3 million (about N42.4 billion).
Their investment vehicle, NATCOM Telecommunications, emerged the sole bidder for the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL and Mtel.
NATCOM has as members NATSPACE Telecommunication Investment Limited, PCCW Global Limited, Prime Union Investment Limited, Olutoyi Estate Development & Services Limited, Legal Resources Alliance & Co., Sahara Energy Resources Limited, and LM Ericsson Nigeria Limited.
Of the seven firms, Mr. Ayeni, profiled as a businessman and lawyer on Skye Bank’s website, owns three.
He is the founder and operator of Prime Union Investment Limited, Olutoyi Estate Development & Services Limited, and Legal Resources Alliance & Co. There were suggestions that he has link with NATSPACE, but PowerSteering could not independently verify that claim.
In December 2014, Mr. Ayeni led NATCOM in its acquisition of NITEL/MTEL less than two months after he also led Skye Bank to buy Mainstreet Bank from Assets Management Company of Nigeria, for N120 billion.
In 2013, Mr. Ayeni was the chief promoter of Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Company Limited, a group that eventually bought the Ibadan and Yola electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs. Mr. Cole is the owner of Sahara Energy, while LM Ericsson is a subsidiary of Swedish group, Ericsson.
NATCOM, which merges the seven firms, appears to be a new corporate entity created solely for the purchase of NITEL/MTEL. Very little is known about the consortium. NATCOM emerged winner after NETTAG Consortium, another little known group, was disqualified for failing to attach a $10million bid bond to its bid submission as stipulated in the Request for Proposals (RFP) to prospective bidders.
History of failed sales
Before the acquisition, four previous attempts to sell NITEL failed.
Nigeria started the process of privatising the national telecom groups in 2000 as part of the government’s reform of the telecommunications sector.
In 2001, the government tried to sell 51 per cent equity to Investors International London Limited (IILL) as the strategic core investor.
There was also the failed management contract by Pentascope in 2005, the aborted Orascom Telecoms bid in 2005, and the strategic core investor sale through negotiated sale strategy to Transcorp that was cancelled in 2009.
The last effort was the strategic core investor sale in 2011, where New Generation Communications Limited and Omen International emerged preferred and reserved bidders respectively.
Following the last failed attempt, former Vice President Namadi Sambo-led National Council on Privatisation, adopted the guided liquidation strategy for the sale of NITEL/MTEL.
However, here are the details of how former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, and now the incumbent governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and PricewaterhouseCooper dubiously awarded the contract to manage NITEL to Pentascope International and made Nigeria to lose over N100 billion.
In a crowd of the physically endowed, Nasir el-Rufai, former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, had conspicuously shown himself as the squirrel is in the Animal Kingdom. Barely four foot six and so frail of frame, el-Rufai is, however, adequately compensated upstairs with outstanding intellect and generally, with a constitution so steely it sometimes borders on arrogance.
On 18 March 2003, that latter quality surged to the fore and literally tore to shreds a vital document that could well have saved the nation the sum of N100 billion lost to a most dubious management contract. The message in the document, from Dr. Haliru Bello, then Minister of Communications and titled, “NITEL Management Contract Signing Ceremony,” was terse but instructively frank. “In view of the prevailing circumstances surrounding the Management Contract,” it read, “you are advised to halt the signing ceremony scheduled for today, 18th March 2003, until further notice.” The letter was signed by Engineer G.O Asiegbu, permanent secretary of the Communications Ministry for the minister.
Inside the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, where the signing ceremony was holding, Dr. Anaze Chinwuba, then chairman of the NITEL Board of Directors, who received the message, drew el-Rufai’s attention to it. But, as Chinwuba told a two-day public hearing organized in February 2005 by the House of Representatives Committee on Communication on the management contract, el-Rufai flew off the handle when he saw the directive to stop the signing. According to Chinwuba, the FCT minister retorted that he would not take directives from permanent secretaries, as he was also one.
With that arrogant disposition and some strokes of the pen, the BPE committed the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL, into the hands of a hangman. As el-Rufai himself told the hearing, he was already fixated on giving away the management of NITEL to Pentascope International, an emergency vehicle that was later discovered and el-Rufai knew very well to be unqualified in all ramifications, to manage the parastatal.
If he would be believed, he was doing it innocently. The Minister’s excuse was his infuriation at the couple of delays that the signing of the contract had suffered, and he was eager to prise the operations of ailing NITEL away from the leprous fingers of the public service and place them in the competent, reliable grasp of a private manager. In his judgement and that of Price Waterhouse Coopers, PWC, BPE’s Adviser, that manager was Pentascope.
How competent, honest and reliable Pentascope was would manifest within a year after it sank its teeth into NITEL. Between April 2003 and March 2004, Pentascope had squandered a gain of N15 billion which it inherited to record a loss of N19.15 billion. Turnover had also dropped to N41 billion from N53 billion. Even as revenue generation was taking a flight, el-Rufai’s brilliant managers were redefining prudence, as direct cost and overheads spiralled from N21.3 billion and N19.4 billion respectively, to N26.3 billion and N30 billion.
Pentascope’s performance could not have been otherwise, considering its unimpressive financial, managerial and professional pedigree. The Dutch firm was only three months old when the BPE advertised for Expressions of Interest to manage NITEL. A small consulting company, rather than an active telecoms operator,
Pentascope was registered on, of all days, 1 January 2002, which was a public holiday worldwide, with a workforce of only eight persons, including its janitor.
It was not even registered in Nigeria to do business, as required by the Companies and Allied Matters Act. Both Professor Augustine Odinma, internationally renowned telecoms consultant, and the House of Representatives Communications Committee wondered how Pentascope got to be favoured by PWC and the BPE as the management contractor for NITEL, as the firm did not meet any of the criteria the Bureau listed in its advertisement. Yet Mallam el-Rufai remains an incorruptible man today. The pre-qualification criteria demanded that “Interested managers MUST be international telecommunications operators and MUST demonstrate, one, evidence of having installed and managed at least a million telephones; two, a successful track record of expanding a telecommunications network in a developing country; and three, sufficient management resources to grow NITEL and enhance shareholder value. Yet el-Rufai has the audacity to call Atiku corrupt.
Unless the advertisement was sheer window dressing, what the BPE under Mallam el-Rufai set out to do was unambiguous. It was looking for a telecoms operator of international standing, with outstanding track records. From the beginning, the BPE appreciated that “for any telecoms operator to be qualified to manage NITEL, it must demonstrate that it possesses the above mentioned criteria,” as noted by the House committee.
Clearly, Pentascope did not meet any of the requirements but Mallam el-Rufai signed the BPE agreement. At the hearing, the BPE and PWC engaged in buck-passing on who gave the Dutch firm the clean health bill that secured it the NITEL deal. Under oath at the public hearing, the Managing
Director of PWC, Mr. Ken Igbokwe said services of the consulting firm to the BPE were restricted to financial advisory. But el-Rufai clarified that the PWC was involved in the entire selection process. PWC, it was, that assisted the BPE in evaluating and short listing the initial 14 companies that applied to nine. The two bodies subsequently invited the nine companies to submit managerial, technical and financial bids. Of the nine, four were disqualified.
After a purported due diligence process and review of the five bids, PWC narrowed the list down to three. These are African Access/Lucent, which demanded $230 million to turn NITEL around and was awarded 56.8 points; BNSL/TCIL, which charged $35 million to do the job for three years and was scored 71.5 points; and Pentascope, which charged $45 million to execute the contract over the same period and was given 75.5 points. Pentascope’s high scores were hinged mainly on one factor: It claimed a working agreement with KPN, the Netherlands leading telecoms company. During evaluation, PWC and the BPE would be expected to have conducted extensive investigations of Pentascope’s claims and verification of the documents it submitted. To hoodwink stakeholders, especially the NITEL board of directors and the National Council on Privatization, NCP, before the management contract was signed, the two buddies (BPE and PWC) submitted that Pentascope was, until 2002, owned by KPN. “Pentascope,” PWC and BPE told the NITEL board and the NCP, “had provided evidence of KPN’s commitment to continue to provide them with support and technical assistance as required.”
However, as was later exposed, these claims were gross misrepresentations willfully fabricated to mislead the NITEL board, the NCP, the federal government and inquisitive stakeholders. Pentascope was never owned by KPN. On the contrary, the former was only a supplier to the latter. Odinma, who consults for the House Communication Committee and whose dogged probing unearthed some of the malpractices that attended the Pentascope scam, explained that the firm, being a “type II consultant, is a stand-alone company, with limited consultancy skills and liability.” Interpreted, Pentascope is unsuitable for full-scale management of large telecommunication companies like NITEL.
How PWC and the BPE did not knock off Pentascope’s claim at the evaluation stage, only officials of the two bodies can explain. At the public hearing in February 2005, the House committee members and participants drilled PWC’s Igbokwe and Nick Allen, one of the company’s directors, on the criteria that informed the choice of Pentascope as the preferred management contractor and on the authenticity of the documents it submitted for the evaluation. A member asked Igbokwe whether Pentascope, which PWC recommended, had ever installed a million lines in any developing country or has any track record of financial ability as strictly demanded by the PBE advert.
The PWC chief responded that applications were considered on the basis of consortium or technical partnership, rather than solo qualifications. PWC, Igbokwe said, believed that Pentascope was affiliated with KPN. Not satisfied with Igbokwe’s response, chairman of the hearing, Hon. Yemi Akodare, requested for clarification. He told Igbokwe: “Let me try and simplify this issue. The issue is that Pentascope International, which won the bid, is not a telecoms operator. It is a consulting firm. The first point that we actually wanted you to clear here is this. In this publication, we were looking for an International Telecommunications Operator, and when you talk of an International Telecommunications Operator, a consulting firm is here bidding. Do you see that consulting firm qualifying in the bid?” A flummoxed Igbokwe, rather than answer the question himself, beckoned on Allen to confront the legislators.
The PWC director stated that organizations that undertake telecommunications management contracts, whether in Africa or elsewhere, only need to be associated with large telecoms companies. He cited Pentascope as an example. “What we expected was the kind of organization that came forward. But we were looking for who was behind them, who they were affiliated with and also the capabilities of the people that they were putting forward,” Allen said. The legislators further stretched Igbokwe and Allen in the question-and-answer session.
The Chairman: Pricewaterhouse Coopers. That is a big name and full of integrity, is it not? Based on whatever documents that Pentascope presented, what was the basis of your assessment or evaluation of these documents? How much diligence work did you do to verify on ground, for example, the authenticity of the kinds of documents or claims that Pentascope made to you as Pricewaterhouse Coopers?
Mr. Nick Allen: It is not typically part of the role of the financial adviser to do that and it was not in the scope of work we do for BPE. I have seen circumstances where financial advisers have been asked to do that if circumstances suggest it appropriate but in this situation, it was not considered.
Question from A Hon. Member: If I heard you well, you said that it was not within your scope of job. Is that what you said? Mr. Nick Allen: Your original question was whether we carried out detailed diligence on the bidders and I am saying that it was not part of our scope of work.
A Hon. Member: If that is not within your scope of work, how are you going to analyse it and how are you going to advise BPE? BPE is about selling the first carrier of Nigeria. That is NITEL. If you feel that as financial advisers it is not your duty to do the due diligence, then what is your job?
Mr. Nick Allen: Our job is to support BPE, consistent with the terms of reference as set out for us, which did not include detailed due diligence on the bidders.
A Hon. Member: I want to refer you to your document here. Page 19, your rating of Pentascope. There is a statement there, “sound technical.” What do you mean by sound technical? How did you come out with that conclusion that Pentascope is sound technical?
The Chairman: Pricewaterhouse Coopers, it is like you are having problems answering some of these questions?
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: He asked us a question and we do not know the document that he was referring to.
The Chairman: But these are the documents that you presented to us. You brought these documents to us yesterday and I am sure that definitely, you must have looked at these documents.
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: He just said sound technical, page 19, and we do not have page 19, so we need to find out what page it is and try and respond to you.
Mr. Nick Allen: We have found the reference, and the document that you were referring to was a presentation made to the NITEL Board which attempted to capture the results of the evaluation of the documents that had been submitted by the bidders, their proposals for managing NITEL. That was a process that involved a number of people both from BPE and ourselves reviewing the documents and evaluating them against such detailed evaluation criteria that had been agreed at the beginning of the process. On the basis of that, Pentascope scored very highly.
The Chairman: They asked you if you did a due diligence in respect of this presentation that was given to you by these companies. It is just for you to say that yes, we did our due diligence and we confirmed all the presentations that they did, or that we did not.
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: With respect to the question on “sound technical,” what it actually said on this document is sound technical and organizational proposals.
Remember that part of the process that we are evaluating these bidders for is what they plan to do and how they plan to do it. What this is referring to, I believe, is that they have strong technical proposal for what they are going to do when they get into NITEL… Whereas the relationship between Pentascope and KPN is by Technical Support Agreement that they have – (interruptions)
The Chairman: Can you clear that point when you talk about Technical Support Agreement? Did you by any chance see any Technical Support Agreement?
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: I believe that there was and it was included in the Management Contract binding them and their affiliates.
The Chairman: Did you see that document and will you be able to produce a copy of that document? Mr. Nick Allen: Yes, and as Ken was saying, it is part of the NITEL Management Contract.
The Chairman: This is the Management Contract here. Can you please give it to him and let him see if he can bring it for us. (Passes the document to Mr. Nick Allen)
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: Mr. Chairman, if you remember the note that I sent to you to forward these documents, I was basically saying to you that these are copies of documents that BPE gave to us. We know that this was referred to in this document; they are copies of everything that we had. So, I would not imagine that it would be included in this document without being part of the document that was signed. What I am trying to say is that the copies that we have and we gave to you are copies of everything sent to us by the BPE as advisers and that was what we forwarded to you.
We have looked through that briefly and it is actually reference, although it is not part of the appendix. So we cannot give you what we do not have. What I mean is that we only gave you what we have, we are not party to the contract.
The Chairman: Was there a technical agreement?
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: Yes, we did see it at the time of evaluation.
The Chairman: Look at Schedule G there. It must be what you are talking about.
Please, can you open to the schedules and look at it, because there is no way you are going to have an agreement with somebody who is just a consulting firm, and here you are looking for an international telecommunications operator. You must have definitely seen a binding agreement during your due diligence search or your due diligence investigation.
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: At the risk of trying to sound legalistic, what we are saying is that these documents that we have, that we forwarded to you, were copies of things sent to us by the BPE. At the time that all of these were being done, we actually did see those agreements and they were supposed to be an integral part of this final copy, but obviously, it is not there because Schedule G referred to the two agreements, one with VWN and the other with KPN. What we forwarded to you were electronic copies of what was given to us, without prejudice to our position.
The Chairman: Sorry, it has to be clear that, being an appendix and it is supposed to be part of the agreement, are you suggesting now that BPE must have sent to us something different from what they submitted to you?
Mr. Ken Igbokwe: I have not made any such suggestion. I am just looking at the facts and the fact is that what we forwarded are copies of what we have. This is because we are not party to that agreement. BPE would only send to us copies and we would just file that because it is an electronic copy, and that was what I printed and sent to you. It should be part of the agreement.
The Chairman: You have now said that there is another agreement which you actually verified and you found out that agreement was a technical agreement between KPN and Pentascope. It is very important because whatever you are telling us here is already on record.
How el-Rufa’i killed NITEL
On the strength of this report the former chief executives, union and group of retirees from the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) on the 3rd of April, 2013 (ten years later) rose stoutly against an attempt by former FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i to reject the blame for the destruction of the telecommunications monopoly, urging the Federal Government to hold the former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) solely responsible for this monumental national loss.
One of the former managing directors of MTEL, the GSM arm of NITEL, Mr. Kunle Bello, who voluntarily resigned so he could avoid the touted new managers, Pentascope, said he foresaw the collapse of NITEL/MTEL due to insincere and inconsistent implementation of policies by the El-Rufa’i-led BPE. He described the Pentascope management brought in by El-Rufa’i as an “irredeemable misfortune” upon the telecommunications industry and an unmitigated disaster on NITEL/MTEL staff, “who have been dying one after another” due to non-payment of their pensions.
Bello, an ITU telecommunications engineer, said Pentascope allegedly squandered more than N100 billion of NITEL’s hard-earned income, besides the loss of revenue without adding a single telephone line. He challenged the judicial and executive arms of government to rise to the occasion to absolve themselves of blame by going after the perpetrators of the fraud. In a statement signed and issued by the group of retirees in Abuja on that day, they disagreed with the claim in a widely-circulated statement by El-Rufa’i that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar approved the appointment of Pentascope, the failed management consultant hired to manage NITEL in 2003.
The former workers who said they held El-Rufa’i responsible not only for the collapse of NITEL, but also the destruction of their careers, said the issue at stake is beyond the debate of who signed and who did not sign. “The issue is who issued or originated the memorandum to the National Council on Privatization (NCP)? How did El-Rufa’i, as DG, BPE, pick Pentascope to manage NITEL?” The retirees accused El-Rufa’i of misleading, not only the NCP, but the entire Federal Government by presenting Pentascope as a capable management company that could turn around NITEL.
One of such former employees, Michael Awos, who put in 30 years as a technical staff beginning with the defunct P & T, said that Pentascope was brought purposely to “siphon money and kill this organisation (NITEL) they had spent all their lives to build. “He el-Rufai allegedly broke and twisted all the rules to make Pentascope win. Penstascope was one and the same with El-Rufa’i. The face of Pentascope was represented by El-Rufai’s two closest friends Mr. Hassan Musa Usman and Tijjani Abdullahi. Pentascope in Holland was a one-man office. It had a single room as office. Its rolling mast was on top of a church building. The retirees also said that the true story of the destruction of their national carrier was revealed in two reports by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Quoting from the report, the retirees said that “rather than using Atiku as scape goat for the collapse of NITEL to serve his hidden agenda, the concerned group of former NITEL workers advised El-Rufa’i to be honourable enough to accept the responsibility for railroading and blackmailing the former NITEL board and the privatization council into approving a contract that had short-changed Nigerians and children yet unborn. According to these former NITEL workers who described themselves as the “human debris of the destruction wrought on NITEL by El-Rufai’s selfish and callous agenda to short-change Nigerians,” the former BPE DG should apologize to Nigerians for his misdeeds.
They recalled that in May 2003, the House of Representatives exposed the underbelly of El-Rufai’s alleged hypocrisy to mislead government and Nigerians about the Pentascope management contract. The committee they said, found that the evaluation of the bids was “suspect” and that Pentascope lied on its true legal status and origin, which the group said El-Rufa’i allegedly covered up. The former NITEL workers said the House found that Pentascope was supposedly registered on January 1, 2002, which was a public holiday in European countries. Despite the alleged inaccuracies and lies by Pentascope, the group accused El-Rufa’i of imposing the Dutch company on a hostile NITEL board, its workers and Nigerians.
According to the group, the Pentascope’s alleged misadventure led to NITEL’s profits nose-diving from N15 billion in 2002 and turned it into a loss of N19 billion in 2003. The group, quoting the House Communications Committee report, also said that NITEL’s turnover dropped from N53 billion to N41 billion. Despite the dramatic drop in turnover under Pentascope management, the group alleged that direct and overhead costs increased from N21.3 billion to N26.3 billion and from N19.4 billion to N30 billion. The NITEL former staff advised El-Rufa’i to focus on these issues rather than using others as a scapegoat, saying that it is not uncommon for leaders to be misled by clever liars into signing something that turned out to be fraudulently arranged to produce a desired outcome.
The retired NITEL workers wondered why El-Rufa’i thinks the House, the former NITEL board and others that exposed the fraudulent process of handing over NITEL to Pentascope were wrong but he was right. Comrade Elias Kazzah, National Adviser of the Senoir Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporations (SSACTC) and President of NITEL unit of the association, also called on El-Rufa’I to shut up on account of his alleged mismanagement of the Pentascope transaction that led to the demise of the company. He said that NITEL was so commercially viable that it contributed to NIPOST and provided support to the ECOMOG troops in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
He recalled that the BPE under El-Rufa’i rebuffed other options put on the table for revamping NITEL even though they had failed at six previous attempts at addressing the NITEL’s imbroglio. Comrade Kazzah regretted El-Rufa’i’s handling of the controversial management contract, insisting that the “coming of Pentascope was through the backdoor.”
According to him, to demonstrate its reservation against the deal, NITEL workers blocked the gates of Transcorp Hilton venue of the signing of the management contract between BPE and Pentascope, but claimed that El-Rufa’i surreptitiously smuggled the parties to the deal through the back. He noted that Pentascope came on board with the preconceived agenda to have a run on NITEL’s the huge cash, both local and foreign currencies at that time and to disorganise and frustrate the network. Meanwhile, a former Managing Director of NITEL, Prof. Buba Bajoga, who agreed to speak on record, decried the destruction of NITEL as “very painful.”
He said by the time he left the organization as its head in 2000, NITEL was a very viable commercial organization. “We approved the payment of dividends to government and I remember that I left N15 billion and U.S. Dollar 200 million in the coffers of the organization,” he said. Bajoga said NITEL made more profit than most banks. “We paid all our bills and were financing all our projects,” he added.
FCT Probe: Senate Panel Wants El-Rufai to Refund N32b
In another development, Former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nasir el-Rufai, had been compelled to refund N32 billion missing from the proceeds from the sale of government houses, most of which he sold to himself and made and signed 100 C of Os on the eve of his departure from office.
That is the recommendation of the Senate FCT Committee which probed the affair and, which, in its report, had branded him then as unfit for public office.
The committee also recommended that one of the guest houses of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, which el-Rufai bought be retrieved from him because he abused his office by the action.
The recommendations were contained in an interim report of the committee which probed the FCT administration between 1999-2007.
Committee Chairman, Abubakar Sodangi had presented the report to the Senate on the 10th July, 2008 Thursday, but it could not be debated then before the Chamber began its recess.
Part of it reads: “All officers who disobeyed or ordered the disobedience of the court orders should be prosecuted by the Attorney General of the Federation;
“Also on the sale of Federal Government houses, the total receipt is N96.7 billion and deductions were N34.2 billion. The balance was given as N62.19 billion. The bank statements show only N29 billion, leaving a balance of only N32 billion unaccounted for despite all demands from him (el-Rufai) and his officers.
“After assessing the activities of Nasir el-Rufai in his duties as Minister of the (FCT), we came to the inevitable conclusion that:
-“He should account for all funds collected by the ad-hoc bodies he raised during his tenure; namely Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS), Committee on Sale of Government Houses in the FCT, the Satellite Town Development Agency, Abuja Investments and Property Development Company, among others.
-“The house (el-Rufai) obtained for himself where he signed as lessor and lessee be revoked, as a person cannot sell an item to himself.
-“el-Rufai is not a fit and proper person to hold public office in a democratic set up.”
Four years ago, the House of Representatives had also barred el-Rufai from holding any public office for life over his role in the contract awarded to Pentascope to manage the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).
That followed the adoption of the recommendations of its Committee on Communications which held a pubic hearing on the alleged fraud in the selection of a management contractor, the manner in which Pentascope emerged, as well as the loss of over N100 billion by NITEL in the process.
The House unanimously agreed with the committee that el-Rufai “acted in subterfuge and in perpetuating executive rascality, he positioned Pentascope to squander over N100 billion of taxpayers’ money and as such should not go unpunished.”
It also barred former NITEL Board Chairman, Vincent Maduka, Benard Verr, and S. Asinugo from holding public office for life.
El-Rufai was the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) when the contract was awarded.
Some people have all the luck in the word. El-Rufai who, as we have just seen and read, single-handedly ruined NITEL and left it flat on its back, was rewarded by Obasanjo with another pot of gold when he was appointed Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. For a habitual glutton, this was too much temptation.
But still, nobody could hold El-Rufai accountable or stop him, let alone punish him, rather he has escaped the wrath of the law and risen to become the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, covered by executive immunity where he is now wracking more havoc and perpetrate more heinous crimes against the people of Kaduna and the nation at large while still nursing his ambition of being re-elected and becoming the President in 2023. President Buhari should be advised to watch his back now while the people of Kaduna should be very careful and vote wisely in 2019.
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