Security is to be tightened around members of the Special Investigative Panel on Arms Procurement, journalist learnt yesterday.
The presidential directive was said to have followed the suspicious death of a member, Rear Admiral T.D. Ikoli, and threat to others.
The panel, which has wound up its operation temporarily, was probing the $2.1 billion arms procurement from 2007 to 2015.
It had investigated the purchase of arms in the Army and the Air Force. The review of arms procurement in the Navy was outstanding at the time of Rear Admiral Ikoli’s death.
Three of the members of the panel are believed to have had a close shave with death.
Rear Admiral Ikoli died in what the panel described as “suspicious circumstances” on April 5 in Lagos.
About one week before his death, Rear Admiral ikoli’s dog was killed, also in suspicious circumstances, it was learnt.
Panel Chairman Air Vice Marshal JON Ode narrowly escaped being ambushed by a 12-man gang in two separate vehicles. The wife of another member (a retired Major-General) narrowly escaped being abducted.
It was learnt that after the developments, the panel opened discussions with President Muhammadu Buhari. Besides, it wrote a letter to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on the danger its members were being exposed to.
Prior to the alarm raised by the members of the panel, none of them had security presence in their homes.
A source, who spoke in confidence with correspondents, said: “Right from the start of the probe, JON Ode Panel members were being threatened but they defied the intimidation to complete their assignments
“Some of those involved in the $2.1b arms scandal were associates, colleagues, junior officers and students of members of the panel. But they refused to be swayed by personal ties in doing their job.
“But there had been obvious security threats against the panel members by some of those implicated and their fronts.
“Ikoli’s death shattered panel members who did not bother initially to ask for protection.”
The source said the aborted attacks against the chairman of the panel, AVM JON Ode and the wife of another member made the team to make representations to the Presidency.”
Iit was gathered that the government directed that police and military security be provided in the homes of the members.
Those who want escorts have also been given.
Another source added: “The Presidency has directed that adequate security measures be put in place for AVM JON Ode members’ panel following intelligence reports on threats to their lives.
“The government also took the steps in view of the way corruption is fighting back and the high-level risk taken by members of the panel against their colleagues and course mates.
“We now have some level of police and military presence in the homes of the members of the panel. I will not go into details on this.”
Also yesterday, it was learnt that members of the panel did not receive sitting allowance.
The government spent over N200million (not up to N300million) on the committee instead of the N600million being bandied.
A document revealed that the cash was expended only on accommodation, transportation, breakfast and lunch for members.
A source said: “The panel members did a selfless service. They were not given official vehicles. Some members attended sittings by taxi-cab. One of them had a rickety car which could not withstand rains.
“Even when requests were made for official vehicles, none was made available.
“But some mischievous elements have launched propaganda against the committee by alleging that it spent N600million. The good thing is that members signed for what was expended on them. The records are there.”
Members of the investigative committee include AVM J.O.N. Ode (rtd.) –Chairman; R/Adm J.A. Aikhomu (rtd.) ; R/Adm E. Ogbor (rtd.) ; Brig Gen L. Adekagun (rtd.); Brig Gen M. Aminu-Kano (rtd.) ; and Brig Gen N. Rimtip (rtd.) .
Others are: Rear Admiral T.D. Ikoli ; Air Cdre U. Mohammed (rtd.); Air Cdre I. Shafi’I; Col A.A. Ariyibi ; Gp Capt C.A. Oriaku (rtd.); Mr. Ibrahim Magu (EFCC); and Brig Gen Y.I. Shalangwa – Secretary.
Some of the areas of investigation are:
How 10 contracts totalling $930,500,690.00 were awarded
Payment of N4,402,687,569.41 for unexecuted contracts
Procurement of two used Mi-24V helicopters instead of the recommended Mi-35M series at $136,944,000.00.
Purchase of four used Alpha-Jets for the NAF at US$7,180,000.00 funded by ONSA
Cannibalisation of engines from NAF fleet to justify procurement of jets
Excessive pricing of 36D6 Low Level Air Defence Radar at $33m instead of $6m per one
Delivery of radars without vital component of Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) that distinguishes between own and adversary aircraft
Strange transfer of $2m to Mono Marine Corporation Nigeria Limited owned by some Air Force officers
N15bn lavished on the maintenance of Alpha-Jets, C-130H aircraft and Mi-24V/35P helicopters.
N2.5billion contracts awarded to Syrius Technologies (an Ukrainian company) not registered in Nigeria
Award of seven contracts worth N599,118,000.00 to Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON); two were delivered.