Nigeria's former national security adviser stole $2 billion meant to purchase military equipment for the army to use in the country's fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, according to new allegations from the government.
President Muhammadu Buhari's office revealed the charges on Tuesday and ordered the arrest of Sambo Dasuki, who served as the West African country's security adviser under former President Goodluck Jonathan, who served as Nigeria's president from 2010 to 2015 before losing to Buhari in this year's elections. During his presidential term the militant Islamists took control of territory in Nigeria's northeast, where the group is trying to carve out its own Islamic state. Jonathan also saw his reputation take a hit after the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, which garnered domestic outcry and international attention.
Dasuki was appointed to the position of national security adviser in 2012, with his stint in office occurring as the threat from Boko Haram increased.
The official reportedly awarded "fictitious and phantom contracts" for equipment — including 12 helicopters, four jets, and ammunition — with the bogus deals amounting to the $2 billion sum. According to the government, the items never made it into the hands of the army.
The president's office said that Dasuki's alleged phantom contracts had jeopardized the country's safety.
"Had the funds siphoned... been properly used for the purpose they were meant for, thousands of needless Nigerian deaths would have been avoided," it said.
In a statement attributed to Dasuki by local media, he was quoted as saying that he always served Nigeria "with the best of intentions." He is already in the middle of an ongoing trial for allegedly possessing illegal weapons and has been under house arrest for that charge. It is unclear whether the latest arrest order from the president has been carried out.
Boko Haram has waged a six-year campaign that has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people. The group started its brutal siege in northeastern Nigeria, but has since extended its reach into neighboring countries like Chad and Niger.
In recent months, Nigeria, backed by regional neighbors, has recaptured much of the territory initially lost to Boko Haram, although suicide bombings and other attacks blamed by officials on the militant group remain part of daily life in the north.
The arrest order for Dasuki comes amid a campaign championed by Buhari, who was elected in March and sworn into office in May, to tackle graft that he says has benefited elite individuals in the country while much of the population lives in poverty.
In August, the administration introduced a new accounting system that will see all payments funneled through a single approved government bank account. The policy aims to end the use of several different accounts for government revenues, which officials fear has helped abet the embezzlement of funds in the past.
Local media outlets have dubbed Buhari's efforts an "anti-graft war." Fighting corruption was one of the president's key campaign promises, with the leader repeatedly citing a claim that $150 billion had been stolen from the state in the last 10 years.