Nigeria’s Defence Ministry is at the centre of a fresh controversy over a contract deal totalling $1.4 million it awarded for a United Nations project.
Emerging reports allege that the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, alongside the Ministry’s immediate past Permanent Secretary, Danjuma Nanfo and Brig. Gen. LYM Hassan in charge of peacekeeping, have been fingered in the alleged sharing of funds meant for the relocation and renovation of Nigeria’s Level 2 Ministry Hospital in Mali.
It is alleged that the controversial contract which has reportedly landed Brig. Gen. Hassan in detention and facing court-martial is being sponsored by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), according to an exclusive report by an online newspaper, TheCable.
Funds from the $1.4 million were allegedly shared among the three senior officials of the ministry without any renovation executed.
According to The Cable’s report captioned, ‘General detained as another scandal rocks Buhari’s government,’ it was gathered that the UN Level hospital is a “brigade/sector” level surgical facility established in 2008, and which caters to life, limb and organ-saving surgical operations.
The scam was reportedly exposed when the UN expected Nigeria to relocate from a temporary camp to the new UN Super Camp in Timbuktu, where the facility ought to have been domiciled.
Investigations reveal that the Defence Ministry quickly contracted inexperienced contractors to handle the installation of the Level 2 hospital without observing the initial due process of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP).
President Muhammadu Buhari had reportedly approved the contract at the sum of $1,464,750 in care of certain contractor, but that the ministry turned back to re-award the same to another contractor at the sum of $1 million, short by $464,750.
In re-awarding the contract, the Defence Ministry stated that “the contract price is fixed and no request for variation will be entertained. It is expected that you will relocate the items in good conditions and perform to the highest standard all the obligations under the contract and to remind you also that it is not transferable”.
But in a press statement, the Defence Ministry’s spokesman, Col. Tukur Gusau, said the contract in question followed due process.
“The fact of the matter is that the procedure of awarding contracts by the ministry is in line with the existing procurement act of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The said contract has already been successfully executed and the contractor has requested a team from the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Headquarters to carry out a completion inspection of the project.
“The team is due in Mali soon. There is no fraud in the process. The case of the said army general currently standing trial at the army court-martial has no connection with the award of any contract by the ministry.”
Gusau’s statement was, however, silent on other allegations contained in the scandal report. The statement did not mention anything about the last minute change of contractors and the request for $500m variation.
It also did not address the request by the United Nations that Nigeria withdraws its troops serving in the peacekeeping mission, as well as the loss of the position to Rwanda.
Reacting to the allegation, the Director of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said:
“There have been several scandals in the Ministry of Defence.
“Those officers involved in this scandal must be court-martialled and thereafter dismissed from the army. They should be handed over to the relevant prosecution agencies to face the full wrath of the law.’’
The President, Campaign for Democracy, Usman Abdul, said, “The rules of engagement in the award of contracts are clear. This does not exclude contracts from the Ministry of Defence. We want to know if due process was followed. If not, why? Nigeria has signed the Open Government Partnership that has to do with open contracting. If the government signed that treaty, the government must investigate this scandal.”