EFCC : Fresh N3bn Arms Deal Probe

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) is extending its investigation of arms deals during the Jonathan administration to a $3 billion contract said to have been awarded by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) under the late General Andrew Owoye.

Several arms dealers , a military chief and some other officials who served under Azazi have already been invited by the EFCC for interaction on the matter, The Nation gathered yesterday.

The arms dealers are being quizzed over the alleged inflation of N3billion contract for the supply of 20 units of K-38 patrol boats to the Nigerian Army by the disbanded Presidential Implementation Committee on Marine Safety (PICOMMS).

The agency is also understood to have made a breakthrough in tracking how some of the $2billion arms votes and extra-budgetary funds were withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) based on orders from above.

Similarly, the commission has quizzed a former Chairman of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Marine Safety (PICOMMS), Air Vice Marshal, Salihu Atawodi(rtd), for a N600m arms scam.

A top-level source familiar with the development said the arms dealers were invited “for interaction on the contracts given to them.”

“We noticed some discrepancies like the short supply of equipment, non-delivery and outright refusal to execute contracts.

“One of the areas we are looking into is how PICOMMS was allegedly mismanaged under AVM Atawodi. We have allegations of inflation of N3billion contract for the supply of 20 units of K-38 patrol boats to the Nigerian Army.

“There are issues about lack of due process in the award of the contract and non-delivery of the 20 units of K-38 patrol boats to the Nigerian Army.

“From records so far, the nation might have been short-changed to the tune of over N2billion out of the contract sum.

“In an instance, N620million was withdrawn from the contract sum, changed to dollars and shared by some officials of PICOMMS in one day. We will fish out the culprits.”

A top source in EFCC said: “Atawodi was arrested for alleged case of conspiracy, abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds.

“He allegedly abused his position as chairman of presidential implementation committee on marine safety to defraud the Nigerian government to the tune of over N600m through dubious contract to procure military boats.

“He awarded the contract to one Hypertech Nigeria Limited. The contractor was fully paid, but the boats were never supplied. The contract award process violated the Procurement Act.

“AVM Atawodi, who has been on the radar of the anti- graft agency since 2013, was quizzed for several hours on Wednesday after he responded to the invitation extended to him.”

The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the grilling of Atawodi by the commission.

“He is assisting ongoing investigation,” he added.

About two years ago, a businessman blew the lid open on N3billion contract for the supply of six units of K-38 patrol boats to the disbanded Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Security (PICOMSS).

The businessman alleged that one of the officials of PICOMSS converted N620million down payment for the contract into personal use.

The same PICOMSS was enmeshed in the theft of over 200m Euros.

On the alleged massive withdrawal from the CBN,sources said that although the apex bank was hamstrung, it was careful in obtaining a written directive from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

It was unclear at press time whether the EFCC would interact with CBN officials.

But some vital documents have been retrieved from the apex bank to aid ongoing investigation.

One of the curious aspects of the investigation was the withdrawal of N620m from the contract sum in cash and the sharing of the loot in a day.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that apart from probing spurious transactions in commercial banks, the EFCC has started looking at alleged “compelling and forceful” withdrawals from the CBN for security matters.

The actual figures in question were not disclosed last night, but a highly-placed source said some part of the $2billion was sourced from the apex bank.

The source said: “Investigation has shown some requests for funds or intervention funds from the CBN for security reasons. We are tracking all these requests, approvals and remittances.

“We are already retrieving some relevant documents from the apex bank in order to ascertain what such funds were actually meant for.

“One of the key things we discovered was that the CBN management was, however, careful because it made sure it got presidential approval of such requests.

“We will confront some of the suspects with these documents we have retrieved. They have the opportunity to give the details of how they spent such funds and the arms procured.”

It was learnt last night that the Acting Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, had a meeting with the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), on how to fast-track the trial of some key suspects in custody for the $2b arms scandal.

A source said: “The EFCC under Magu is doing its best to apply international best practices in managing the suspects arrested with $2b arms deals.

“The EFCC chairman has met with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on how to fast-track the trial of the suspects. What the anti-graft agency did was only to approach a Chief Magistrate’s Court for an order to remand the suspects.

“But these suspects can go to a High Court to vacate such order. We are trying to tidy up to arraign the suspects in court for an order to keep them in prison custody. In fact, the EFCC cell is becoming overstretched.”

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