Some officials of the Ministry of Defence, Ship House, Abuja, are at the heart of a major fraud revolving round how part of the $1 billion Excess Crude Account Funds meant to purchase arms for the military were paid to foreign firms for providing controversial services.
SaharaReporters obtained a document, dated April 15, 2020, from the ministry detailing one of such payments to a firm based in the United States of America.
The Ministry of Defence asked the firm to send its “banking coordinates” for payment in reference to “some legal consultancy services rendered” although checks by SaharaReporters showed that the firm had nothing to do with legal services.
On the MOD letterhead, the correspondence is titled, “Request for Invoice TAS/SO/FMD/043367/15/042020” and addressed to “Soye Oyibo & CO/ Trans-Atlantic Source, Orlando, Florida, USA.”
“With reference to the legal consultancy services rendered, we request that you send the invoice and your banking coordinates for the payment. Please be advised that failure to do so timeously may negate the time frame given to make this payment. Your earliest response shall highly be appreciated in this regard,” Maj Gen E. Shaukat, of the Account and Finance Department of the MOD signed the correspondence.
A top source in the Ministry of Defence revealed to SaharaReporters that the firm in Orlando, Florida, is one of the suspected firms where parts of the $1 billion arms funds were laundered to.
“The company needs to be investigated. The National Assembly has to call for investigations. We believe that this is one of the companies used to launder the missing arms funds to the United States. Top officials of the MOD are complicit. This is just one of the foreign firms that got payments. We don’t know the others yet,” he stated.
Checks by SaharaReporters showed that Trans-Atlantic Source LLC is a Florida Domestic Limited-Liability Company filed on March 27, 2008.
According to company-information.service.gov.uk, the same company in the United Kingdom, which was incorporated in 2018, was dissolved in February 2020. The nature of the business is categorised as “engineering activities.”
The National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Babagana Monguno (retd,), had in March raised an alarm that the funds meant for the purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram and other security challenges in the country was missing.
Although under pressure, he later recanted that he was misquoted.
In an interview he granted to the BBC Hausa, Monguno had said, “We don’t know where the money went to. The president has given out some money for equipment but they are yet to arrive. The president has done his best by ensuring that he released exorbitant funds for the procurement of weapons which are yet to be procured, they are not there. Now the president has employed new hands that might come with new ideas. I am not saying that those that have retired have stolen the funds, no. But the funds might have been used in other ways unknown to anybody at present.
“Mr President is going to investigate those funds. As we are talking with you at present, the state governors, the Governors Forum have started raising questions in that direction. $1 billion has been released, and that has been released, and nothing seems to be changing. So I assure you that the president will not take this lightly.
“The funds are nowhere to be found and the weapons have not been seen and the newly appointed service chiefs have declared that they have not seen the weapons. Maybe they are on the high seas, on their way coming from wherever they were purchased, from the US or Europe, but for now, there is nothing on the ground. I have not seen anything the service chiefs have also not seen anything.”
SaharaReporters had on March 16 reported how the $1 billion set aside to buy military ammunition was actually released to the military, and shared among the air force, the army and the navy under the immediate past service chiefs.
SaharaReporters learnt that the $1 billion release, which was greeted with widespread criticisms when President Buhari announced so in April 2018, was approved by the National Assembly and shared to the military arms in 2019 through the Ministry of Defence without public knowledge to avoid more criticisms.