Thursday, December 2, 2021

EXCLUSIVE: Bank documents expose how Tukur Buratai cornered NDDC contracts as Nigerian Army general

The former chief of army staff’s underhand dealings while heading critical positions within the army hierarchy underscored the depth of untamed corruption in the military.

• February 24, 2021
Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai
Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai [PHOTO CREDIT: BBC]

Tukur Yusuf Buratai admixed his duty to protect Nigeria’s territorial integrity with an appetite for questionable fortune, Peoples Gazette can report, raking in millions from government contracts in contravention of extant code of conduct regulations forbidding public servants from handling private businesses, except subsistence agriculture, while in service.

Financial records obtained by our reporters detailed how Yasiga Nigeria Limited, a company registered in 1996 by Mr. Buratai — a retired lieutenant general and immediate past chief of army staff — cornered disbursements from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a federal agency established to address deprivation in the oil-rich Delta region but which has been enmeshed in decade-long multibillion naira contract scams.

Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)

Yasiga, a commercial enterprise which Mr. Buratai was running even as a top military officer, received N49.7 million from the NDDC for unspecified contracts on April 1, 2014, in gross violation of Section 6 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

The firm was also credited N73.1 million from the NDDC on June 10 of the same year. Both transactions were paid into Yasiga’s account 1015538180 with the United Bank for Africa. 

On June 17, 2014, seven days after the last tranche of payment was received from the NDDC, Mr. Buratai, a major-general at the time, transfered N10 million from Yasiga to his personal account. He was appointed chief of army staff by President Muhammadu Buhari a year later.

Mr. Buratai had before his controversial appointment as army chief in July 2015 served as director of procurement at defence headquarters and commander of the multinational joint task force combatting the dreaded Boko Haram thugs. 

A spokesman for the NDDC could not be reached for comments Wednesday morning.  

Mr. Buratai did not return multiple calls and messages seeking comments from the Gazette, but his underhand dealings while heading critical positions within the army hierarchy underscored the depth of untamed corruption in the military. 

Snake charmer

Although more infamous for his involvement in the massacre of over 1,000 Shi’a faithful in December 2015, Mr. Buratai has not been a stranger to corruption allegations. His tenure as chief of army staff was beset by corruption allegations almost as frequently as his bloody crackdown on critics of President Muhammadu Buhari.  

In a series of publications by Sahara Reporters in 2016, Mr. Buratai was alleged to have procured expensive assets in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, between 2013 and 2015, from suspected proceeds of crime.

Mr. Buratai, who owned up to purchasing two properties in Dubai, however, claimed that he amassed his wealth through “personal savings” and not ill-gotten gains. Both him and his media surrogates also touted the success of his snake farm along Keffi-Abuja Highway in Nasarawa, just 50 kilometres from the nation’s capital.

Anti-corruption campaigner Fatima Ibrahim said anti-graft agencies should probe Mr. Buratai’s NDDC contracts and his entire leadership at the Nigerian Army, where top commanders have long face allegations of diversion of military funds. 

“Anti-corruption agencies should find out the services that an army general rendered to the NDDC,” Ms. Ibrahim said. “We have had enough of brazen stealing of public resources.”

“He should explain to them whether he was paid for supplying snakes to the NDDC or performing as a snake charmer for the agency’s workers,” Ms. Ibrahim said.   

Trail of blood 

Mr. Buratai’s five-year reign as army chief was smeared by resurgent terrorist attacks, emboldened banditry and vicious extrajudicial killings of Nigerians by soldiers under his command.

On December 12-14, 2015, just months after his appointment as chief of army staff, more than 1,000 Shia Muslims were reportedly murdered by a contingent of soldiers in Zaria, purportedly for blocking Mr. Buratai’s motorcade during a rowdy procession the previous day.

Mr. Buratai, who defended the military carnage, alleged an attempt on his life, but provided no evidence to substantiate his claim. Even then, rights groups said his claim did not justify the level of carnage which Mr. Buratai’s men left behind in the historic Zaria community.

Mr. Buratai oversaw the fatal shooting of many unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on October 20, 2020, by troops apparently deployed to the scene on his directive.

Lekki Toll Gate
Lekki Toll Gate

The army under Mr. Buratai, which had initially denied the presence of its personnel at the scene of the shooting, retracted its denial while stating that troops were sent to quell tensions at the toll plaza on the request of the Lagos government — a claim authorities in Lagos have since contradicted.

Amidst the nationwide uproar over the Lekki attack, the Gazette uncovered the death of some soldiers following a mysterious operation in Lagos. The Nigerian Army has declined to speak on how the soldiers died, fueling suspicion that it was part of a cover-up measure activated by the controversial former army chief.

The Buratai dispensation also perpetrated the extrajudicial killing of civilians in Oyigbo, a predominantly Igbo community in Rivers State while on a reprisal mission to hunt down operatives of secessionist Biafra group, IPOB, who had reportedly killed a soldier.

ICC probe

ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda

Petitions have now flooded the International Criminal Court and other international bodies for Mr. Buratai to be charged for war crimes over his role in the 2015 massacre of Shiites in Zaria, and last October’s deadly attacks on #EndSARS protesters in Lagos.

President Muhammadu Buhari on February 4, moved to preempt the ICC by nominating Mr. Buratai and other immediate past service chiefs as ambassadors following their resignation on January 26.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had said in December that her office had established sufficient grounds to proceed with war crimes investigation against Mr. Buratai and other military chiefs over multiple cases of crimes against humanity in Nigeria.

The former service chiefs were confirmed as non-career ambassadors by the Senate Tuesday, despite widespread condemnation and opposition by some lawmakers.

Download Buratai’s Yasiga bank document here.

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