By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
The ongoing trial of former Chief of Defense Staff Alex Badeh recalls an article I wrote about him nearly a year ago (see my August 8, 2015 article titled “Boko Haram, Alex Badeh, Jonathan and the Stolen Trillions”) in which he basically indirectly pleaded guilty to the charges now preferred against him. Read on:
I thought I had become inured to the scandal of brazen corruption in Nigeria until I watched the interview former Chief of Defense Staff Alex Badeh granted to Channels TV on August 1. It’s the worst form of self-indictment I’ve ever seen in my life.
Badeh told Channels TV that the last time the Nigerian military bought any equipment was some 9 years ago, that is, in the twilight of Obasanjo’s second term. “If I go down memory lane, I think the last time any piece of equipment was bought for the Nigerian army was some APCs that were bought in 2006, and how many were they? They were few,” he said, pointing out that the Nigerian military flies “the oldest fighter aeroplanes in the whole world.”
The Alpha jets that form the backbone of the military onslaught on Boko Haram, Badeh told Channels TV, were bought in 1981. If Badeh is right (and I have no reason to think he is wrong since he was Nigeria’s most senior military officer until his sack), that basically means that, from Musa Yar’adua’s administration when the Boko Haram menace started, to the end of the Jonathan presidency when it reached a crescendo, not a single piece of equipment was purchased for the Nigerian military.
The military depended on obsolete equipment at best and no equipment at all at worst to fight a determined and sophisticated Boko Haram. If I didn’t hear this directly from Badeh himself, I would have dismissed it as some wacky conspiracy theory.
But it isn’t the revelation by itself that is scandalous; it is the fact that the neglect of the military is coterminous with the extravagant ballooning of the Nigerian military’s budget. In 2010, for instance, government budgeted N836,016,773,836 (which translates to $5.07 billion at 165 naira to a dollar) for the military. In 2011 the amount ballooned to N1,080,894,801,178 ($6.55 billion). In 2012 it increased to N1,154,857,159,110.00 ($6.99 billion). It increased even more in 2013 to N1,178,832,576,309 ($7.14 billion). Last year, it was scaled down a bit to N1,174,897,477,334.00 ($7.12 billion).
That’s trillions of naira gone down the begrimed pockets of corrupt government officials in the name of fighting Boko Haram! My head spun as I looked at the figures. Now, Badeh says in spite of these trillions that the Jonathan government budgeted for the military, “the last time any piece of equipment was bought for the Nigerian army was … in 2006!”
So what happened to the trillions of naira? Every Nigerian should be asking this until we get an answer. After a whopping $32.88 billion in military budget to fight Boko Haram in the last five years, we don’t have a single piece of military equipment to show for it. This simply boggles the mind. It’s beyond scandalous; it’s unacceptably and insanely criminal.
In spite of all that money, hundreds of thousands of our compatriots in northeastern Nigeria have been murdered—and are still being murdered daily— by Boko Haram, and thousands more are internally displaced and writhe in unspeakable hardship. Lives have been disrupted, businesses have collapsed, and thousands have lost even the will to live. Yet one of the men who superintended over the criminal enterprise that was military budget goes on TV, without a tinge of moral compunction, to gloat about the incompetence of the government he was a part of. I am angry, very angry. This sort of criminal impunity should never go unpunished.
We are talking here about the twin evils of unconscionably mindboggling theft and of the heartrending destruction of the life of an entire region of the country. I know President Buhari is aware of the scale and depth of the criminality that characterized the military budgets in the last 6 or so years, but we should still prod him to not only recover the stolen trillions but bring to justice the criminals who masterminded this astonishingly conscienceless heist.
This is all the more unpardonable because from Badeh to former President Jonathan, and all the minions in-between, the fact of the Nigerian military’s unpreparedness, which was all too obvious to even a perfunctory observer, was intensely denied. Military officers were court-martialed and sentenced to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram with bare hands. In other words, they were condemned to death for refusing to commit suicide. Fighting a well-armed enemy with bare hands is suicide. Pure and simple.
But, in press conferences, Alex Badeh passionately defended the death sentence passed on soldiers who mutinied and ran for their lives. Now he admits that the military he headed had no equipment to fight Boko Haram.
Former President Jonathan also once threatened to withdraw soldiers from Borno State when the state’s governor said Boko Haram was better armed and more motivated than the Nigerian military—a fact Badeh has now admitted. During a February 25, 2014 presidential media chat, Jonathan said, “The statement is a little bit unfortunate because you don’t expect a governor to make that kind of statement and if the governor of Borno State feels that the Nigerian Armed Forces are not useful, he should tell Nigerians. I will pull them out for one month; whether he will stay in that his Government House; just one month, but I will fly back to take over the state.”
When you add all this to the recent revelation by SaharaReporters of a N1,751,864,867 ($8,853,600) fraud in the Office of the National Security Adviser over purchase of arms and ammunition to fight Boko Haram, which never made it to Nigeria, all lingering doubts that the Jonathan presidency was a massive criminal enterprise are removed. I don’t know what would have become of Nigeria had Jonathan won another term.