Corruption hit troops fighting Boko Haram

Nigerian army soldiers preparing for deployment against Boko Haram militants, on Nov 8, 2015.
Nigerian army soldiers preparing for deployment against Boko Haram militants, on Nov 8, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

Abuja (AFP) - Nigerian troops were denied weapons to fight Boko Haram and thousands of lives were lost because of rampant fraud in the procurement process, President Muhammadu Buhari has alleged.

Buhari ordered anyone involved in corrupt multi-billion dollar deals for weapons and equipment to be "brought to book" after receiving a report from a committee set up to probe the issue.

"The findings made so far are extremely worrying considering that the interventions were granted within the same period that our troops fighting the insurgency in the northeast were in desperate need of platforms, military equipment and ammunition," he said late Tuesday.

"Had the funds siphoned to these non-performing companies been properly used for the purpose they were meant for, thousands of needless Nigerian deaths would have been avoided."

Buhari, a retired army general and former military ruler, came to power in May, vowing the crush the Islamist rebels whose insurgency has killed at least 17,000 people since 2009.

Front-line troops serving under his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan frequently complained the militants were better armed and they lacked the proper equipment, including bullets, to fight.

In one instance, some frustrated soldiers fired shots at their commander's vehicle. They were court-martialed, found guilty of mutiny and sentenced to death.

The complaints came despite Nigeria having one of Africa's biggest defence budgets.

Buhari set up a 13-member committee to probe arms procurement between 2007 and 2015 and spoke out after receiving its interim report.

According to the statement from his office late Tuesday, the investigation "unearthed several illicit and fraudulent financial transactions".