The Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs) comprising: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC)(HRC), Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR), Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW), Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF), Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF), International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY) and Igbo Ekunie Initiative (pan Igbo rights advocacy group), are deeply concerned and worried that the Buratai Dubai Property Corruption is a verge of being swept under the carpet by the Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari.
This is not the first time such high profile and damning corruption accusations against President Muhammadu Buhari’s hatchet men are swept under the carpet. It is on indisputable record that the “anti corruption” policy of the Buhari administration is totally directed and targeted against the opponents of its administration and others it considers as “enemy-citizens”. A former governor of one of the States in the South-south zone was a mere clinic attendant in a hospital owned by his predecessor-governor before his election in 1999 as a State legislator and later as a speaker; from where he became governor in 2007. Today, he is widely believed to have acquired so much wealth illicitly through public filtered funds and is said to be a major financier of the Buhari’s presidential election campaigns.
Another former governor in one of the States in the Southwest was a staff of a multi-national company before he joined politics and later became a governor in 1999. Today, he is widely believed to be two times richer than his former employer-company and is linked with tens of billions of naira choice properties and companies in Lagos, Abuja, etc, including billions of naira investments in paper, television and radio media. A former governor in old Anambra State was recently accused by the EFCC of an N500Million public corruption, leading to his hurried decampment to the ruling APC and death of the fraud accusation till date. A former governor of Bayelsa State and a late former governor of Kogi State also have their pending cases before the EFCC dropped till date on the instructions of the Presidency. The two are members of the APC ruling Federal Government. Instances are too numerous to be mentioned. Till date, none of the above mentioned persons; whose antecedents are well known to the Buhari administration, have been questioned over their obvious stinking loots and questionable richness.
While the loyalists and proponents of the Buhari administration strongly accused of corruption, are shielded from arrest, competent investigation and diligent prosecution; those considered by the administration as its opponents and enemies are arrested and extra judicially and unconstitutionally detained before being arraigned for trial over corruption allegations. There are cases whereby the Buhari administration cooks up spurious allegations of corruption and misconduct for the purpose of ousting some public officials from their legitimate positions and consolidating its ethno-religious divisive policies. The recent mass and unceremonious retirement of innocent senior military officers dominated by officers of the Southeast and the South-south regions, is a clear case in point. Till date, no clearly defined crimes punishable under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and its auxiliaries have been established against them within the confines of the rule of law and due process.
We are therefore, not surprised a bit over the strong accusation levelled against the COAS, Lt Gen Turkur Buratai, who has also been baptised by our lead-partner (Intersociety) as “Buratai The Butcher”; following his murderous roles and involvement in the December 2015 massacre of over 700 Shiite Muslim faithful in Zaria and similar massacre of over 200 nonviolent and unarmed pro-Biafra agitators in Onitsha, Aba and Asaba on 2nd and 17th of December 2015; 18th and 29th of January 2016; 9th of February 2016 and 30th of May 2016. Our concerns, therefore, are not about the criminal Dubai properties in his name; which existence and ownership the Nigerian Army has also confirmed; but deepening plots by the challenged and violent Government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari to sweep it under the carpet as it has been doing.
As expected, the Government of Muhammadu Buhari has already mobilized its proxy media and CSOs in Southwest to sway and scare the public and their attentions away from the issue with intent to cover it up and sweep it under the carpet. The thunderous publicity given to the watery reaction and defense of the Nigerian Army over the issue as against the original story; is a clear case in point. The conspiracy of silence maintained by turncoat Southwest CSOs or defensive statements by same over the same issue; is a further attestation of the Buhari administration’s reckless and restless efforts at covering up the issue. Till date, Nigerians are yet to see and read usual alarmist petitions from the “CSOs Coalition Against Corruption” to EFCC for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting Gen Turkur Buratai over the confirmed and brazen criminality. But if it is to be a perceived opponent of the Buhari administration, heaven would have been let loose.
It is recalled further that our lead-partner, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) had in its public statement of 21st of March 2016 informed the world that Lt Gen Turkur Buratai (COAS) ought to have been retired since 3rd of January 2016 after attaining mandatory service age of 35 years, having been born on 24th of November 1960 at Buratai town in Biu Local Government Area of Borno State and enlisted into the Nigerian Army via the Nigerian Defense Academy on 3rd of January 1981 as a member of 29 Regular Combatant Course 29 (29 RC) where he obtained a National Certificate in Education (NCE) and became a Second Lieutenant on 17th of December 1983. By Nigeria’s Public Service Rule (2008:28-29) presently applicable in Lt Gen Buratai’s case, the compulsory retirement age for all grades in Nigeria’s public service is 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.
Intersociety further informs that Lt Gen Turkur Buratai and his likes in Regular Course 29 of NDA (recipients of old or abolished National Certificate in Education) are expressly exempted from benefiting from the Harmonized Terms and Condition of Services Officers (HTACOS), 2012 (Revised); designed to make retirement age in the military (army, navy and air force) different from other personnel or public servants of the Federal Government. The HTACOS was also meant to scrap the years of service of 35 years of service and fully embraced the age on rank bracket. This means that as long as officers and men of the Nigerian military pass the necessary promotion board examinations, they would not be retired just because they have served 35 years. But that will now depend on their Run- Out -Date (ROD). HTACOS was also specifically designed to start from the 36th Course (C36) of NDA and their equivalents. The 36th Course members were the first military officers to start full degree programs at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and recipients of upgraded university degrees. Army officers under Courses 1 to 35 (including Lt Gen Buratai’s Course 29) studied and graduated with the National Certificate in Education (NCE) from the NDA.
As expected, President Muhammadu Buhari has adamantly retained Lt Gen Turkur Buratai against the above clear provisions, for the purpose of sustaining his butchery and ethno-religious cleansing policies particularly against the Peoples of the Southeast and the South-south regions of Nigeria. The provisions of the said HTACOS, too, are observed in gross breach by the Buhari administration. The recent mass retirements cited above are a clear case in point.
The Code of Conduct for Public Office Holders under the Buhari administration administered by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB); is popularly believed to be grossly riddled with corruption and brazen criminality. There are strong allegations that a racket or criminal clique now exists in the CCB whereby old forms filled and submitted by public office holders before assumption of their offices or appointments are recklessly and criminally withdrawn for criminal updating and upgrading. Under this reported crooked and criminal arrangement, a person that previously declared on assumption of office, say N60million assets and cash; can now update and upgrade his or her new loots, by criminally withdrawing his or her old form and filling new one with backdated pieces of information. An instance of this was reported to have taken place recently in one of the States in the Southeast when the CCB reportedly held an executive seminar for selected government appointees. A request for the “upgrade” was made to a CCB top official and it was penciled down for “negotiation” and approval.
Admission by the Nigerian Army authorities to the effect that “the Dubai Properties of Lt Gen Turkur Buratai were contained in his recent Assets Declaration Form”, is a serious indictment on the authorities of the Code of Conduct Bureau, to the extent that public officials can now smuggle in their brazen loots in the Code of Conduct Forms and they are expressly accepted without any concrete verification to ascertain their conformity with the laws of the law or otherwise.
It is also further unheard of that a serving military officer in this modern military age also engages in estate merchandise, to the extent of acquiring and owning private properties in millions of dollars with reckless abandon in overseas while still serving. Any serving military officer that acquires and owns private properties overseas is an international organized criminal, akin to Pablo Escobar of infamous Columbian Medlin Cocaine Cartel. This is because, by modern military doctrine and convention, no serving military officer is permitted to own such. Such properties may only be tolerated if acquired and owned during military service retirement particularly through military consultancy and writing activities, engaged in by outstanding retired senior military officers. This feat is obviously thousands of miles away from the reach of the likes of Lt Gen Turkur Buratai. It is clear and obvious that a consultancy office or a bookshop in Lt Gen Turkur Buratai’s name and location can only be entertained and patronized an army of Maiduguri flies!
For the purpose of putting the records straight to de-contaminate the polluted mindsets of riotous Judases and Thomases, under the payroll of the Buhari administration, Lt Gen Turkur Buratai has no iota of excuse or defense under the law to have acquired and owned the said properties in Dubai, which may most likely be a tip of iceberg from totality of other possible illicit properties in his name and ownership locally and internationally. We are in total agreement with Uche-Wisdom, Durueke, Esq. (President of CLO). The renowned activist and lawyer had this to say and following probing questions to ask: “To many Nigerians, it is interesting that a serving Nigerian Army officer could own properties Dubai - whether alone or with his wives. In the circumstances, I have been asking myself (and Nigerians) the following questions:
1. Assuming that he; Tukur Buratai, has not been spending, even a kobo, from his monthly salary and allowances since he joined the army (in 1981), how much has he saved? 2. What sum was in his account the total when the properties were bought?
3. Has he any other business or job from which he earned additional income? If yes, what is it? Who and who do business with him? (Does the law and military tradition allow that?)
4. Were the sums for the installmental payments by the General remitted from his accounts in Nigeria? Or, has he foreign account?
5. If he has a foreign account, is he remitting money to it from Nigeria?
6. Which bank was involved in the transfer of the sums to Dubai?
7. Did he ever disclose that he was buying properties in Dubai for the purposes of foreign exchange transaction?
8. How were the sums used for payment of the two properties transferred on each occasion from Nigeria to . . . for the purpose of buying the two properties?
9. Has any other property or other properties in Ghana, (Nigeria or any other location)?”
In addition to the above erudite questions, we circumstantially submit that the issue above is a clear case of economic and financial crimes including money laundering, criminal transfer, criminal operation of foreign accounts and foreign currency transaction while in office as well as embezzlement and criminal breach of trust and abuse of office, all triable and punishable in Nigeria.
The Buhari administration, which claims to be “fighting corruption”, is therefore called upon to rise up to the occasion by relieving Lt Gen Turkur Buratai of his COAShip and subjecting him to thorough investigations for the purpose of discovering more illicit properties that may most likely have been acquired in his name and ownership with illicit public funds. Our call for his immediate removal as COAS stems from his express admission of acquiring and owning choice properties in Dubai while still serving as COAS and a soldier.
It must be clearly noted that public allowances and salaries all over the world including Nigeria are not paid to the public office holders for property acquisition and ownership or estate merchandise locally and overseas but strictly for the purposes of performance of official duties and personal basic upkeep.
For: Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs)
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Leader SBCHROs & Board Chair, Intersociety
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Comrade Aloysius Attah, Chair, Anambra CLO & Head, Publicity, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348035090548
Jerry Chukwuokoro, PhD, Head, Research & Strategy, SBCHROs
Mobile Line: +2348035372962