The House of Representatives ad hoc committee auditing the arms and ammunition procured by the country’s Armed Forces on Friday knocked the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, for snubbing its invitation before the panel.
The House Ad Hoc Committee on the Need to Review the Purchase, Use and Control of Arms, Ammunition and Related Hardware by Military, Paramilitary, and Other Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria held its first investigative hearing in Abuja on Friday.
The COAS was represented by the Commandant of Nigerian Army War College, Maj.-Gen. Charles Ofoche.
Ofoche, who pleaded on Attahiru’s behalf, said the COAS was attending a meeting with other service chiefs in Ibadan, Oyo State.
He said: “The country is embroiled in a lot of crisis, so they are moving around. And he thought he could make it down here this morning for this meeting, so the notice was quite short for me to come and represent him because he would have loved to do it personally and that is why there is no written note.”
“We are at your service. We are here to serve you as a people and to serve all Nigerians. We cannot pretend that we do not know there is a crisis all over the country.
“The Chief of Army Staff cannot be at every location at every time. He is on the way trying to get to know his men. He took over barely a week ago. He is going around trying to get first-hand information as to the capability of the fighting force he is leading.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of the committee, Aliyu Al-Mustapha, alleged that criminals had been caught with arms and ammunition said to have been procured by the Armed Forces.
He said: “You can bear witness to the fact that Nigeria is embroiled in serious security issues and year in year out, appropriations were made and huge sums expended on procurement of arms and ammunition.
“Yet, in the whole of the arrests made, you find these arms and ammunition with some of these bandits and miscreants. Some of them can be traced back to the very military or police. It is a serious issue and the National Assembly is well-positioned to dig deep into the root of this issue and find a solution.”
Al-Mustapha stated that the lawmakers were not witch-hunting the COAS or the army.
He added: “This is a very serious and sensitive security matter; at least, let us see the man, being that this is the first meeting with the Nigerian Army. The accounting officer of the army should have appeared to give us his account and position as far as the communications made to him.
“For the chairman and secretariat, there is no communication before that the COAS is having another schedule that may not allow him to be physically present here. That is a contravention to Section 88, Section 89 (1) (of the Constitution), and of course Section o1 of the Armed Forces Act 1994.
“There is a need for a motion to allow the COAS to come and make his submissions personally to this committee.”
In the same vein, a member of the committee, Ifeanyi Momah, condemned Attahiru for not writing the committee to introduce and endorse Ofoche to speak for him.
He said: “So if he is not the one making the remarks, it makes it very easy for him to actually engage in culpable deniability since he is not the one making the remarks.”
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