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Nigeria targets firms over arms fraud

Nigeria indicts firms over arms fraud contracts

  • 25 March 2016
  • From the section Africa

Soldiers looks at burnt house on 4 February 2016 during a visit to the village of Dalori village, some 12km from Borno state capital Maiduguri

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Soldiers have complained of not having enough equipment to take on Boko Haram militants

Nigeria has indicted more than 300 local and foreign companies and individuals, including senior military officers, over an arms scandal.

They are accused of defrauding the country of $241m (£170m) in fake contracts, a government statement says.

President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a probe last year after funds meant to buy weapons to fight Boko Haram militants were allegedly diverted.

More than $35m has been recovered in the investigation so far.

The contracts were awarded by the office of the national security adviser from 2011 until 2015, the statement from the office of the president says.

It lists all the companies and individuals indicted including former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, who is facing separate fraud charges linked to the arms scandal.

Mr Dasuki, who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan, has previously denied the allegations of corruption in relation to phantom contracts.

The investigation was done by a special committee appointed President Buhari, who came to office in May partly on a promise to clamp down on corruption.

The committee found that contracts were awarded "without any contractual agreement or evidence of jobs executed", the statement says.

It gave an example of how one of the companies, Societe D'Equipement International, "was overpaid to the tune of $8.9m and $7m".

Analysis: Naziru Mikailu, BBC News

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President Buhari won the election on a promise to deal with corruption and Boko Haram

The scale of the alleged fraud is massive considering the number of companies and individuals involved.

This is the first time such a detailed report has been made public and the fact that both serving and retired military officers have been indicted appears to show the president's commitment to rooting out endemic corruption that has stagnated the development of Africa's largest economy and oil producer.

One thing that underlines the suspicious nature of some of these deals is the status of the companies involved – it appears that some of them were just set up for the purpose of these phantom contracts.

Even in situations where the contracts were executed, it is alleged that some officials who owned these firms through proxies helped them to avoid paying tax.

Apart from cash, the government says it has seized some properties belonging to some of the indicted individuals.

Many Nigerians will welcome the news that the government is not only uncovering who allegedly looted funds but has also started recovering some of it.

On patrol with Nigerian soldiers battling Boko Haram

'How I almost became a suicide bomber'

Under the previous government, some soldiers complained that despite the military's huge budget, they were ill-equipped to fight Boko Haram.

Even though the militants have lost most of the areas they once controlled, they are still able to carry out attacks in some rural areas.

In the latest incident, 16 women were abducted from a village in the north-eastern state of Adamawa.

The women from Sabon Garin Madagali village were seized while fetching firewood and fishing in a nearby river, residents told the BBC Hausa service.

The Islamist insurgency has killed at least 20,000 people in north-eastern Nigeria since 2009.

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