Whistleblowers in the defence industry are raising the alarm over a massive fraud of $466.5 million about to be executed at the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) with some arms dealers, using the United States’ refusal to grant export permit for military hardware to Nigeria as pretext.
A letter to the government aroused the suspicion. An arms procurement company wrote that in view of the refusal of the US to give export licence to Nigeria, it had reached an agreement with NAF to substitute the initial order for Cobra AH-IV with alternate attack platform which it claimed, has greater fire power.
The letter detailed the alternate equipment to include six upgraded armed Puma Helicopters with the equivalent attack capabilities of the Cobra; four SU-25KM upgraded ground support/ attack aircraft;2 EU 25 UB for the purpose of qualifying and training NAF pilots for specific mission.
To power the pitch further, it offer additional incentive by proposing to build a suitable purpose built storage and hanger for the Puma and SU25 helicopters to accommodate the ground support requirements.
Same day, the company initiated a second correspondence with the NAF from its representative office at 1c Barnes High Street, London SW 13 9LB, United Kingdom titled “ Additional Critical Armament Requirement for NAF”. The company put the cummulative charges for the various equipment, including shipping at $466.5million.
Whistleblowers were shocked that in a government parastatal known for slow moving mails and deliberations, the NAF recommended the pitch by the military hardware supply company to the higher echelon of government within 16 days of submitting the proposal.
In its recommendation, NAF wrote: “The NAF hereby confirms the letters from the firm (name withheld) regarding platform amendment and additional armament requirement for the NAF. This arrangement became necessary because the United States of America failed to endorse the sale of Cobra AH-IV attack helicopter to Nigeria.
Accordingly, NAF has agreed that the said firm (name withheld) replace the Cobra helicopter with six upgraded armed Puma helicopters, four upgraded SU-25KM and two upgraded SU-25UB attack aircraft”.
The NAF stated that the technical specifications and scopes of work for the aircraft types, required upgrade, training and support package as well as the additional armament requirements have been signed by both parties.
Stridently painting the urgent need for the supply, the NAF urged the approving authority to consent to the request immediately to address current national security challenges as the equipment were needed in the short term.
Curiously, the NAF letter admitted that the equipment being procured was not the appropriate hardware to meet the needs. It noted that the acquisition of new Mangusta 129-Attack Helicopters were actually needed to enhance the Force’s operational capabilities.
The contents of the correspondence soon became known to insiders in the Defence industry and led to serious petitions against the transaction on the grounds that it would amount to massive fraud if executed and that the NAF was guilty of negligence as it did not carry out the mandatory due diligence before endorsing the deal.
According to a petition by a military hardware supplier, “ the total cost of $345.05million, including freight in the attached invoice…does not differentiate between the Puma and SU-25. The unit cost for the SU-25 is mentioned as $11million for a new jet on the internet. While the offered SU-25 are not new, the Puma helicopters are heavily overloaded in price of at least $45 million each”.
Wondering why the NAF would prefer overloaded cost, the company said it quoted $25 million for the helicopter adding that the $39.45 million offered by the preferred firm for armament to NAF, far exceeded its quotation of $13million.
Its conclusion: “This proposed deal being supported by the approving authority is heavily overloaded and considering the probable age of the equipment, is not a fair deal for Nigeria at all”. It added that the proposed training for the pilots and the building of a new hanger are out of place since the pilots are adequately trained and there exisits a subsisting hanger.
Defence industry sources believe that the transaction is a smokescreen for massive fraud as the proposed equipment are no longer being produced and those being refurbished for supply under this transaction cannot deliver on their functions.
Efforts to obtain the reaction of the NAF at the time of going to press were not fruitful as the official lines of the media department were switched off.