BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
I am one hundred percent sure that beginners in the use of English will be infinitely fascinated by the structural beauty of the Idiom which says “making a mountain out of a molehill”. Etymologically, the oldest recorded history of the use of the aforementioned idiomatic phrase “making a mountain out of a molehill” is to be found in Nicholas Udall’s translation, 1548.
From the historical account rendered by the editors of the website known as www.theidioms.com, the idiom was originally mentioned thus: “The Sophists of Greece could through their copiousness make an Elephant of a fly and a mountain of a molehill”.
The above perspectives flashed through my sub- consciousness with the ensuing controversy over what was actually said to the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation on the security nightmares that have faced Nigeria for sometimes with specific reference to the status of procurements of arms under the supervision of the current central administration as alleged by the National Security Adviser- Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd).
I knew it and i still know that it was simply a made-up conspiracy theory lacking logical foundation that the immediate past service Chiefs could embark on another arms procurement scam when they are aware that their boss did not sweep under the carpets the allegations that the government it took over from need to account for about one billion United States dollars said to have been used to procure the military hard and soft wares and indeed sophisticated weapons to battle the growing Boko haram terrorism in the North East of Nigeria. Can grown men knowing that those before them are in hot soup over allegations over involvement in a scandal over purchasing of weapons, voluntarily walk right into another hot soup of similar texture? Besides, these immediate past service Chiefs bravely waged the war on terror from the frontline. Could they have put their lives at risks by fiddling with the resources for arms and then still go to the war fronts without the necessary weapons? it is existentially impossible. Only someone with suicidal tendencies of the most virulent specie can try such an idiocy.
It is relevant that we recall what was attributed to the National Security Adviser and then we critically analyse it.
Those who had the privilege of listening to the BBC Hausa service interview have reported that indeed, the National Security Adviser made those allegations.
He spoke in Hausa Language and not Kanuri.
Hausa is one of the most popular languages in Nigeria spoken and understood by millions of non- Hausa including this writer.
But to demonstrate that the NSA was either on a journey of vendetta against Nigeria’s immediate past service chiefs, National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, reportedly revealed that funds running into billions of naira meant for the procurement of arms and ammunition under the past service chiefs were unaccounted for.
The NSA made the revelation in a BBC Hausa interview. So reports the media.
His revelation came more than one month after President Muhammadu Buhari replaced the service chiefs headed by Gabriel Olonishakin, the former chief of defence staff.
Others were Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, Chief of Air Staff, Abubakar Sadique and Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ibas.
They were replaced on January 26.
It is more plausible to argue that the explanation for this deliberate faux pas by the National Security Adviser may be that he is out to tarnish the reputation of one or all of the previous Service Chiefs with whom he has had brushes since they were all appointed, or that he was simply on an epic journey to build a mountain out of a molehill and to create a scandal that does not exists. This is so because the same man who made the sensational allegations, took back his vomits.
Even when he had repudiated his words of accusation against the erstwhile service Chiefs, some analysts are still on the matter literally spreading the false accusation as if they have some facts that even the purveyor of the sensational accusation does not have.
This was how the National Security Adviser denied his words which he made reportedly to the BBC in Hausa language.
But in a statement by the ONSA late Friday, Monguno claimed he was quoted out of context in the reports on the interview he had with BBC Hausa service.
The statement said the NSA said he only reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and Buhari’s commitment to provide all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.
The statement read, “The attention of the Office of the National Security Adviser has been drawn to some media reports regarding Armed Forces equipment during an interview with the BBC Hausa service.
“We would like to state that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the Former Service Chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview.
“During the interview, the National Security Adviser only reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to deal decisively with insecurity and stated President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued commitment to provide all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment.
“In the interview the National Security Adviser clearly informed the BBC reporter that Mr President has provided enormous resources for arms procurement, but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former Service Chiefs.
“The NSA also informed the reporter that, Mr President is following up on the procurement process as is usual with contracts relating to military equipments, in most cases the process involves manufacturing, due diligence and tedious negotiations that may change delivery dates.”
It added that the NSA at the Aso Villa Media Briefing, said questions relating to Defence procurement should be channelled to the Ministry of Defence.
“All Security and Intelligence agencies are working together to bring an end to insecurity with the full support of Mr. President and Stakeholders including the media and civil society as part of a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach to address our security challenges.”
The question begging for answer is exactly what is the motive behind the allegations made by the National Security Adviser through the BBC Captured in Hausa Language which even a media house like Daily Trust dominated by original Hausa speakers reported that he made the allegations? Also why did he quickly repudiated his own allegation and why is President Buhari still comfortable with someone who has the capacity to say something in the morning and then deny it within seconds in the evening?
Some newspapers said he, the NSA came under pressure to recant his allegations soon after President Buhari stated clearly that there was no truth in the infantile accusation of arms procurement scandal?
Why did Monguno not communicate these allegations to the parliament before the former service chiefs were cleared for Ambassadorial appointments?
It is a fact that under this government, the then Director General of DSS wrote to the senate to ask them not to confirm Ibrahim Magu as substantive Chairman of EFCC based on damaging allegations the then boss of the secret police who is a nephew of President detailed meticulously in writing? One is left then to hazard a guess that the National Security Adviser may be on an adventure of witch hunting against one or all of the former service chiefs over some disagreements which were escavated by a media investigative writer.
On March 18th, 2021 Abdullahi Maikudi wrote in The Will online newspaper that the National Security Adviser was once stopped by President Buhari and his late Chief of staff Abba Kyarri from awarding a $2.5 billion arms deal to an agent in Dubai.
The newspaper said that The plan by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), to buy arms worth $2.51 billion from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2017 was stopped by President Buhari after his late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, told him that the would-be suppliers are commission agents, whilst also faulting the contract Monguno signed with the International Golden Group (IGG), the Abu Dhabi-based arms supplier on March 27, 2017.
In a letter dated April 5, 2017, according to a report by TheCable, Monguno had sought Buhari’s approval to pay $627 million “within eight days” to IGG as the 25 percent deposit for the supply of arms, ammunition, and equipment to Nigerian armed forces.
Monguno as reported by the United States of America based newspaper also requested that the payment be made from the excess crude account (ECA), which the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) top management opposed, complaining to the president that the payment would deplete the nation’s external reserves and make it difficult to defend the local currency, a development which THEWILL independently verified to be accurate.
Mallam Abba Kyari, the then President’s former Chief of Staff who is now late had also blocked the purchase citing President Buhari’s earlier directive that no third parties or agents be involved in arms purchase, maintaining that it must be a country-to-country transaction. Kyari’s staunch opposition to the deal is believed to have severely damaged relations between the two top officials.
Buhari took ill thereafter and went on medical leave to London, with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo stepping in as acting president.
Osinbajo set up an armed forces and police emergency procurement committee (APEPC) with the need to support military operations in the north-east, Lafiya Dole, topping the agenda.
Monguno used the opportunity to re-present the $2.51 billion memo he had earlier sent to Buhari, raising his request to $2.6 billion to include the new approval for Lafiya Dole. He said Buhari had already approved the sum but payment was not made because of his sickness and subsequent medical leave, the report said. Again, he met a brick-wall as Osinbajo insisted that no third parties should be involved in the arms purchase.
With the $2.51 billion IGG proposal dead in the water, according to the report, Monguno felt undermined by Kyari in the scheme of things but kept his cool.
On May 27, 2019, Mohammed Adamu, the inspector-general of police, made a request to the NSA for the purchase of equipment, including arms and trucks, to boost the force’s operations. He put the total cost at N32 billion.
In his submission, Monguno again brought in IGG, the Abu Dhabi-based group, as suppliers and raised the request to N46 billion — a mark-up of about N14 billion, according to the report.
Kyari, again, raised objections against the involvement of IGG — which was to supply even Hilux trucks, according to the proposal sent by Monguno.
Kyari argued that it was better for Nigeria to buy the trucks directly from the manufacturers or enter an agreement with local plants such as Innosons.
Based on another memo from Kyari in which he raised objections to third-party involvement as well as the significant increase in the cost, Buhari directed that the purchase should be handled by the ministry of police affairs.
Meanwhile, President Buhari had restated his directive that third parties or commission agents should not be involved in the purchase of arms.
The President also directed that arms, ammunition and all equipment for the armed forces should, thenceforth, be handled by the ministry of defence.
All purchases, the president instructed, must be done on a direct country-to-country basis with no middlemen and commission agents involved in order to save costs.
The disapproval by the president allegedly enraged Monguno, leading him to write a series of instigating letters to various government officials to protest Kyari’s “meddlesomeness”, the report said.
He also raised the alarm over “threat to national security” and accused Kyari of issuing instructions to service chiefs, even suggesting that it was because of this “meddlesomeness” that Boko Haram was renewing attacks.
On March 3rd 2020, it was reported that in a scathing leaked memo from Nigeria’s Aso Rock, Buhari’s Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno, attacked Chief of Staff Abba Kyari essentially accusing him of working against the president.
The letter by the National Security Adviser warned the President’s Chief of Staff against meddling in the security affairs of the country while also warning the country’s service chiefs to “stop taking orders from Kyari and be wary of his interference.
Buhari ran and won Nigeria’s presidential elections twice on the platform of defeating Boko Haram.
But despite Abuja’s claims that Boko Haram has been technically defeated, there have been several recent attacks by Boko Haram on Nigerian soil.
The intensity of the attacks led to federal lawmakers reaching a resolution calling for the president to sack the current service chiefs and even a senator asking the president to resign.
The service chiefs and other officials had been holding meetings with Kyari, a process that Monguno believes says contradicts the constitution. So is Monguno still angry that he was snubbed?
However, information available even in the public space is to the effect that the immediate past Service Chiefs complied absolutely with all the extant procurement legal requirements in their transactions or in the procurement of weapons by the ministry of Defence.
On April 9th 2020, it was reported by defenceWeb that Nigeria’s military has taken delivery of VT-4 main battle tanks, SH-5 self-propelled howitzers and other equipment from China in an effort to strengthen its land forces in the battle against Boko Haram militants.
The equipment was acquired from China’s Norinco after being ordered last year under an apparent $152 million contract.
The equipment was unloaded on 8 April and included VT-4 main battle tanks, SH5 105 mm self-propelled artillery and other items.
Nigerian Army Chief of Policy and Plans Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun said, “The process of acquiring this has been on for some time but thank God they are coming in now. From this, you can see how serious the Federal Government of Nigeria is in making sure that the Nigerian Army is not only equipped, but contains problem of insecurity we are having across the country.
“This is being tackled with trained personnel and required equipment. What you are seeing here is just a tip of the iceberg. Others are still coming but it is very important that we all see that both the military and the government are really very serious to tackle the security problems across the nation.”
Adeosun said the delivery from China includes main battle tanks, light tanks and two types of artillery. He added that personnel have been trained in China to operate the equipment.
According to Nigerian media, 17 vehicles were offloaded on Wednesday, including VT-4 main battle tank and ST1 light tanks. Photos confirm VT-4 and SH-5 vehicles were delivered.
In May 2019, Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan-Ali, said the Nigerian government had provided funding for the acquisition of modern equipment for the Nigerian armed forces, with some in service and others on the way.
This included 35 main battle tanks, 25 Typhoon MRAPs (mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles), 10 Spartan armoured personnel carriers, 20 Armoured Guard Booths, five armoured mine-clearing vehicles, 50 troop-carrying vehicles and 40 Buffalo vehicles, among others for the Nigerian Army.
In addition, four Ships, 182 rigid hull inflatable and Epenal boats, four inshore patrol craft, two STAN Patrol Vessels and one helicopter were procured for the Nigerian Navy. The Nigerian Air Force has benefited from the acquisition of 25 fixed wing aircraft and 12 helicopters, Dan-Ali said at the time.
The VT-4 (MBT-3000) main battle tank was built by Norinco for the export market and unveiled internationally in 2012. The 52-ton vehicle has a crew of three (commander, driver and gunner – an automatic loader reduces crew numbers). It is armed with a 125 mm smoothbore cannon, a remotely operated 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun but can also fire guided missiles. It can be fitted with a GL5 active protection system.
The vehicle’s fire control unit also comprises roof-mounted panoramic sights, a laser warning device, and a digital gun control system designed to support day and night operation. A 1 200 hp turbocharged diesel engine gives a maximum speed of 70km/h and range of 500 km.
The SH5 self-propelled artillery system is a development of Norinco’s SH2. It is armed with a 105 mm gun on a 6×6 platform. The gun has an elevation of zero to 70 degrees with traverse being 30 degrees left and right. Range of the weapon is around 18 km. The SH5 is fitted with a computerized fire-control system, including GPS navigation and positioning, targeting, and communications systems.
The SH5 has an armoured crew compartment, which is protected again small arms fire and shell splinters. The vehicle has a top speed of 100 km/h and range of 800 km.
The Nigerian Army on 18th January reportedly ordered another 52 locally produced Ezugwu mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles from the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), which will produce the vehicles by the third quarter of this year.
In early January DICON Director-General, Major General Victor Ezugwu, said the order was made to improve the operational efficiency of troops fighting terrorism, banditry and other emerging security threats in the country.
He said the Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister have released their training plans for 2021 with a call on DICON to produce new equipment for the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
“We are also looking at supplying police and other security agencies a lot of non-kinetic equipment for their operations. We have been up and going and this year, we are going to test this equipment and once they pass the field trial test, we are going to have mass production of them,” Ezugwu said.
“This is important to us because we need to produce equipment for the Armed Forces to bring this insurgency and other crimes to an end. We have a feedback mechanism for our vehicles from the field. So far so good – our MRAP Ezugwu has been able to play the role it was designed for very well.
“We are also working on the production of other vehicles,” he said, which are in the prototype phase at the moment. “We are going into mass production this year because we are already having interest shown by the Army and others. We are hoping that as we produce, we will keep improving as time goes by based on the feedback we get from the field.”
The Ezugwu was unveiled in September 2019 at the Abuja International Trade Fair Complex during a Nigerian Army Day event. It is named after Major General Victor Ezugwu, who earned recognition for his efforts to combat Boko Haram extremists. At the end of 2018, he was appointed Managing Director/CEO of DICON.
The Ezugwu is armoured against small arms fire and using flat-bottom armour technology, its hull can withstand a 7 kg TNT explosion whilst each wheel can withstand a 12 kg TNT explosion. The original version carries a crew of 12: commander, driver, two gunners and eight soldiers. Unusually, the vehicle has two weapons turrets which can traverse 360 degrees and a telescopic long range camera for improved situational awareness.
The 4×4 Ezugwu is fitted with an independent suspension system and is powered by a Chinese WD615 turbodiesel engine. It is believed the Ezugwu was designed on a Tatra 4×4 chassis, according to African Military Blog. The Nigerian Army apparently plans to acquire 130 Ezugwu vehicles.
Following the January 2021 announcement, DICON released photos of the Ezugwu showing a vehicle substantially different to the earlier design. The new vehicle is a 6×6 not a 4×4, appears to have only one turret and has a normal windscreen, unlike the original, which only had a driver’s cupola. Earlier photos showed a similar vehicle (with a windscreen), but with two turrets and in 4×4 configuration.
It appears the first batch of 25 Ezugwu vehicles delivered to the Nigerian Army in December 2019 were of the original configuration with two turrets, 4×4 drivetrain and no windscreen. In June 2020, it emerged that 47 Ezugwu vehicles were being produced by DICON.
The Ezugwu is one of many different vehicle types the Nigerian military is taking into service. Since April 2020, the Nigerian Army has received Chinese-made VT-4 main battle tanks, ST1 8×8 tank destroyers, South Korean-made Kia Light Tactical Vehicle (KLTV) armoured personnel carriers and SH5 self-propelled artillery units as well as locally manufactured vehicles.
Domestically produced vehicles include Conqueror and Champion armoured personnel carriers that were designed and built by the Army’s engineering unit. Nigeria’s Proforce has also delivering its domestically manufactured Ara APCs to the Army.
Meanwhile, the recently established Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company (NAVMC) is developing several armoured vehicles for the Nigerian military. These include an Infantry Patrol Vehicle (IPV) fitted with a mounted heavy machinegun; a Tactical Patrol Vehicle with seating for eight personnel, and a Light Tactical Vehicle armoured personnel carrier. Why then are some amorphous groups and persons still bent on building a mountain out of a molehill?
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www. theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.