The controversial arms procurement deals under the immediate-past administration of Goodluck Jonathan have become a subject of litigation in the United States, where a national of Niger Republic, Hima Aboubakar, and a US arms dealer, Ara Dolarian, are locked in a legal battle involving a $246m contract.
The $246m order at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2014 was for the supply of weapons and equipment, including helicopters, bombs and ammunition.
According to AFP, the deal reportedly collapsed in 2015 and the arms never arrived, forcing Aboubakar to sue Dolarian for fraud in a Californian court.
Aboubakar claimed the US arms dealer failed to ship $8.6m worth of bombs and rockets to Nigeria as ordered, damaging his reputation as “a trusted arms supplier to the Nigerian military”.
Dolarian, however, alleged in court documents that he was unwittingly caught up in a “money laundering scheme” and that Aboubakar’s arms money was “stolen from the Nigerian government”.
Campaign group, Transparency International, described corruption in the defence procurement sector as “the new diesel for Nigeria’s kleptocrats”.
It estimated that more than $15bn had been stolen, “leaving the military without vital equipment, insufficiently trained, low in morale and under-resourced.”
“This has crippled the Nigerian military,” it added in a new report published on Thursday.
But the Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, rejected the TI’s report, describing it as “a sweeping allegation.”
Enenche said the defence ministry now did “government-to-government” deals and no longer used contractors.
Pieter Wezeman, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said Dolarian’s deal with Aboubakar and his company Societe d’Equipments Internationaux “rings alarm bells”.
Court documents show SEI signed off on the purchase of six Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters from Dolarian for $25m each, which Wezeman said was far above their normal value of $5m each.
A former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd.), is answering charges for criminal diversion of $2.1bn arms fund, breach of trust, money laundering and arms possession.
He was accused of orchestrating a sprawling embezzlement scheme that saw “phantom contracts” awarded for personal and political gains.
Last year, a committee set up by Buhari indicated that SEI played a “major” role in the alleged scam after being awarded nearly $1bn worth of contracts “characterised by irregularity and fraud”.
Aboubakar, however, told AFP, “We continue to work with the Nigerian Army. Forget about what the people say; they lie.”