The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC) detectives yesterday grilled a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, over alleged N13 billion arms cash traced to him and his relations. This lasted for over 9 hours.
The General was also asked to account for the transfer of N115m, $132,000, €16,000 and £44,0000 to his relatives who allegedly did no job.
The five beneficiaries are Raymond Ihejirika, Nkechi Ihejirika, Ndubuisi Ihejirika, Orji Ihejirika and Kingsley Ihejirika.
He was also questioned for allegedly awarding N3, 658,293’846.94 contracts to two companies owned by his brother-in-law, Chinedu Onyekwere.
Another query raised for Gen. Ihejirika was seeking his explanation in respect of suspicious transactions to the tune of N845,600,000 and $3,450,619 made from Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria’s (DICON’s) domiciliary and Naira accounts.
He is expected to account for the suspicious transactions alongside a former DG of DICON, Maj.-Gen. E.R, Chioba (retd), who was intercepted at the airport and questioned by the EFCC.
As at press time, the EFCC was set for the trial of Gen. Chioba.
According to sources, Gen. Ihejirika was brought to the EFCC office in Abuja about 11am by a Military Police officer.
His interrogation by a crack team of detectives, which started immediately, lasted till about 7.30pm when he was released on bail.
Spotting a grey Safari suit, Gen. Ihejirika was looking tired as he stepped out of the EFCC last night.
A fact sheet indicated that Ihejirika was questioned based on the report and recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement (CADEP).
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “From the report of the panel, the ex-Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ihejirika will account for over N13billion arms cash during his tenure from September 2010 to January 2014.
“We isolated all aspects related to him in the report and asked him to respond to all the allegations.
“Accompanied by his lawyer, he said he did not commit any infractions”. He admitted that contracts were awarded to his brother-in-law based on emergency needs of the Army. He said the contracts were duly and satisfactorily executed by Chok Ventures Ltd and Integrated Equipment Services Ltd owned by his brother-in-law.
“He has also requested to go back and gather more information, expressing unawareness as regards some documents and questions put to him by investigators.”
Some of allegations in arms probe panel’s report against Gen. Ihejirika are: “The Committee reviewed the procurement carried out by Chok Ventures Ltd and Integrated Equipment Services Ltd, two companies that shared the same registered office, had one Chinedu Onyekwere as common controlling shareholder and sole or mandatory signatory to the various banks accounts of the companies.
“The Committee further established that between March 2011 and December 2013, the two companies exclusively procured various types of Toyota and Mitsubishi vehicles worth over
N3, 658,293’846.94 for the Nigerian Army without any competitive bidding. About 17 contracts were awarded to the two companies to procure the vehicles.
“Most of the contracts awarded to the companies were also split, awarded on the same date or within a short space of time at costs and mobilisation higher than the prescribed thresholds.
“For instance, on 15 Feb 13, the two companies were awarded contracts worth N260, 000.000.00 and N315, 000,000.00 respectively for supplies of various vehicles. The Nigerian Army could not justify the exclusive selection of these vendors against other renowned distributors of same brands of vehicles procured.
“More seriously, the Committee found no credible evidence of delivery of the vehicles by the two companies as there were no receipt vouchers but only unauthenticated delivery notes, invoices and waybills that were purportedly used for the deliveries.
“Nevertheless, the vendors were fully paid based on job completion certificate authenticated by the then Chief of Logistics, Maj.-Gen. DD Kitchener (retd). The payments were also made without deduction of Withholding Tax (WHT).
“Furthermore, analyses of the various bank accounts of the 2 companies showed transfers to individuals, such as Raymond Ihejirika, Nkechi Ihejirika, Ndubuisi Ihejirika, Orji Ihejirika, Kingsley Ihejirika and Naomi Onyeabor.
“Thus, the Committee recommends further investigation to determine delivery of the vehicles and relationship of funds beneficiaries with Lt.-Gen. OA Ihejirika (rtd) the former COAS and the 2 companies. Furthermore, Lt Gen OA Ihejirika (rtd), Maj Gen DD Kitchener (rtd), Col AM Inuwa’ Cpl. Abubakar Usman and the CEO of Chok ventures Mr Chinedu Onyekwere should be held accountable for the issues arising out of the contracts.”
“Furthermore, analyses of the various banks of the two companies revealed suspicious transfers to individuals, such as Raymond Ihejirika, Nkechi Ihejirika, Ndubuisi Ihejirika, Orji Ihejirika, Kingsley Ihejirika and Naomi Onyeabor. The total amounts transferred to these individuals was over N115m, $132,000, €16,000 and £44,0000.
“The Nigerian Army awarded seven contracts to DICON in September 2013 for the procurement of Igirigi and Spartan APCs, arms and ammunition amounting to N4, 329,985, 000
“The committee discovered that suspicious transactions to the tune of N845,600,000 and $3,450,619 were made from DICON’s domiciliary and Naira accounts. Out of this amount, the then DG DICON, Maj.-Gen. E.R, Chioba (retd) personally withdrew N81m and $131,740 in cash from the accounts. The sums of N764,600,00 and $3,318,879.17 were also transferred to the accounts of Lava Trade, 7×7 Limited, and Oranto Petroleum Limited.
“The explanations offered by Gen. Chioba that the transfers were payments for services and foreign exchange were unconvincing as there was no evidence of a formal business relationship between DICON and these companies.
“Consequently, the committee opines that the poor procurement process associated with DICON contracts contravened financial regulations, encouraged illegal withdrawals leading to wastage of public funds, diminished the capacity of the Nigerian Army in the campaign against terror and served as a conduit for misappropriation of entrusted funds.
“The committee is of the view that Lt. Gen. A. O. Ihejirika, Lt. Gen. KTJ Minimah (rtd), Maj. Gen. A.I Muraina(rtd), Maj.-Gen. U. Buzugbe(rtd) and Maj. Gen. E.R. Chioba(rtd) are to be held accountable.”