Nigerian Soldiers Had Faulty Weapons Under Goodluck Jonathan: Minister

Nigerian soldiers shoot into the air to mark release of detainees cleared of being Boko Haram members.
Nigerian Information Minister Lai Mohammed said that the country’s soldiers were armed with faulty weapons under former President Goodluck Jonathan. STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria's information minister has accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of arming soldiers with faulty weapons in the war against Boko Haram.

In a statement issued on Monday, Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, rejected claims Jonathan made recently that the Nigerian army's success in taking back territory from the militant group in 2015 was down to weapons purchased under the previous administration. On the contrary, Mohammed said, weapons and equipment purchased under Jonathan's administration lacked basic components and spare parts. There were even reports of ammunition exploding inside gun barrels when the weapons were fired, injuring soldiers, he added.

Jonathan recently claimed in an interview with France 24 that the Nigerian military was still using the equipment procured under his administration and that his government laid the groundwork for their successes in 2015.

But in his statement, Mohammed said that, under Jonathan's administration, troops lacked basic vehicles and other equipment needed to fight against Boko Haram effectively and often had to use civilian vehicles and trailers as makeshift military vehicles. "That explains why troops remained largely static and were unable to effectively deploy to completely rout the Boko Haram terrorists in all their known enclaves," he said.

The minister also made reference to an arms corruption scandal that took place partially during Jonathan's time in office. A 2015 investigation by Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), found that more than $2 billion of government funds meant for buying arms to fight Boko Haram had gone missing since 2007.

The scandal centers on Sambo Dasuki, Nigeria's former national security advisor, who is accused of fraud totaling $68 million. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Several other high-profile figures, including former defense minister Bello Haliru Mohammed and Olisa Metuh, the publicity secretary for the opposition People's Democratic Party, have also been implicated in the scandal. They both deny any wrongdoing.

Jonathan has not been implicated in the arms corruption scandal and has refused to discuss the issue while cases are ongoing.

"It is also clear, as has been shown so far by the outcome of the panel probing past arms deals, that the purchase of substandard weapons apparently resulted from the massive corruption that enveloped the deals, the kind of horrifying graft that saw the purchase of refurbished choppers that lacked rotors or fighter jets that could not be deployed to the theater of war because they were not up to par," said Mohammed.

Jonathan has not responded publicly to Mohammed's comments.