ABUJA – Nigeria’s president on Tuesday ordered the arrest of the former president’s national security adviser for allegedly stealing more than $2 billion meant to purchase weapons for the military to fight Islamic militant Boko Haram rebels.
“Thousands of needless Nigerian deaths would have been avoided” if the money had been properly spent, Femi Adesina, an adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, said in a statement.
It accuses Sambo Dasuki, a key adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, of awarding “phantom contracts” to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets, and bombs and ammunition that never were supplied, worth a total of $2 billion.
Dasuki also got the Central Bank to transfer $142.6 million to a company with accounts in the United States, the United Kingdom and in West Africa for unknown purposes and without contracts, Adesina said.
Dasuki denied any wrongdoing in an interview Tuesday night with the PR Nigeria news agency, and said he was proud that in the final months under his watch Nigeria’s military ousted Boko Haram from a self-declared Islamic caliphate set up after the rebels had taken control of a large swath of northeast Nigeria.
The offensive came as Jonathan faced elections. Last year, soldiers told the AP they were going into battle without food and armed with only 30 bullets each.
The State Security Service has kept Dasuki under house arrest for more than a week despite a Federal High Court order allowing him to travel abroad for medical care. The court had allowed Dasuki bail after he pleaded innocent to other charges of money-laundering, involving more than $423,000 found in cash, and illegal possession of arms seized at two of his homes.
The State Security Service, an agency formerly under Dasuki’s control, said he refused to answer questions about arms deals — charges Dasuki denied Tuesday.
Social media buzzed with comments about revenge and payback. Dasuki is said to have arrested Buhari, a former military dictator who seized power from a democratically elected government, when he was ousted in a palace coup in 1985.
Tuesday’s development follows an interim report by a presidential committee investigating arms procurement, part of the fight against Nigeria’s endemic corruption that Buhari has waged since taking office in May after defeating Jonathan in elections.
Dasuki, 60, had usurped the role of the Ministry of Defense in procuring weapons. He was called before a Senate committee last year to explain South Africa’s seizure of $9.3 million in cash from a private Nigerian jet that landed in Johannesburg and a $5.7 million bank transfer that South Africa said involved an illegal arms deal. Dasuki said the deals were legitimate.
Dasuki, a retired army lieutenant colonel, participated in every coup in Nigeria going back to the 1980s
Adesina says Buhari has also ordered the arrest of several others linked to the scandal.