- 50% of ‘staff grant’ allowance allegedly withheld monthly
- CAS refusal to pay NAF Officers in DHQ, Tri-service agencies raises questions
- He was being prudent, stopped double payments–officials
The Nigerian Military Chiefs have been accused of tempering with the officers and soldiers allowances as was provided for in the Manual of Financial Administration for the Armed Forces of Nigeria (MAFA) 2017. MAFA was signed in 2017 with effective date from November 27, 2017.
Findings by Global Sentinel revealed that despite clear stipulations provided in MAFA on how the allowances of Service personnel would be disbursed, they are largely discarded to the whims and caprices of the Service Chiefs. The consequence, is that most of the officers are complaining of being short-changed with hundreds of millions of naira unaccounted for.
This, according to sources, is causing disaffection amongst the officers, especially those of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) serving in the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and other Tri-Service institutions like the Nigerian Defence College (NDC), Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), and Defence Intelligence Agency, as well as Armed Forces Command and Staff College amongst others.
The concerned Officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted the fact that multi-million naira windfalls are made off their allowances to the detriment of their wellbeing and those of their family through systemic tempering of the budgeted and approved amounts under MAFA.
It was however, the NAF officers serving at the DHQ and Tri-Services that were most embittered by refusal of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, to even pay them at all in two out of the four months of 2020 as his counterparts in the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Navy have done.
IPPIS and MAFA: New measures, old complaints
The Armed Forces of Nigeria had under Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) reviewed the incomes, wages and allowance structures of their officers and personnel through MAFA. The financial manual, which was aimed to bring uniformity in the payment structure of the three military services, was to ensure that equivalent ranks in the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and NAF were paid the same. This document, was also prepared as a prelude to the eventual enrolment of all military personnel on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) scheme of the Federal Government.
While MAFA came into force in November 2017, after the Federal Executive Council had in 2016 instructed all military personnel to enrol on the IPPIS system but the terms enshrined in the financial manual, were never implemented until January 2020. At the same time, it took the military authorities until 2019 to eventually join the IPPIS after much negotiations with the Federal Government through the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Salaries and Wages Commission and Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning to reach a compromise.
To this end, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, in 2018 through the Director of Funds in OAGF, Mr. Usman Kudu, organised a sensitisation programme for the enrolment of the Nigerian military on the scheme with the aim of commencing on July 30 of same year. Consequently, a compromise was reached after the military were assured that the system will enhance “maintenance of the integrity, security of data and easy retrieval of personnel records”.
Under the arrangement, the officers and personnel salaries were to be paid through IPPIS, while the non-regular allowances were to be handled as stipulated by MAFA under the supervision of the Service Chiefs.
But to the surprise of most officers, the MAFA was neither implemented since November27, 2017, when it came into force, nor was it approved after enrolling into IPPIS mid-2018. This created suspicion in the minds of officers who accused the Service Chiefs of embezzling their upwardly reviewed allowances.
Why MAFA was not implemented for two years–DHQ
Sources within the military establishment close to the Service Chiefs informed Global Sentinel that contrary to claims and speculations, there were no budgetary provisions for MAFA within the two years of 2018-2019.
“It was not until 2020 that money was made available for its implementation. So all these years (2018-2019) the military was still operating the old system and even when the salaries were eventually routed via IPPIS in 2019 because it was not budgeted for,” a Senior Officer said.
In the same vein, when a Whistle-blower in 2019, blew the lead on the allegations of underpayment of soldiers as provided in the MAFA, the DHQ was quick to dismiss any form of embezzlement of billions of naira in the military.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement in 2019 said that the MAFA document had not been activated for implementation.
Nwachukwu who could not provide any further information on the current allegations, had clarified then that the insinuation that personnel of the Armed Forces are under remunerated as against the provisions of MAFA 2017, was unfounded and untrue.
He assured: “Contrary to the claims made by the Twitter handle @millisaint, the said document has not been activated and therefore yet to be implemented, since the appropriation 2020 was recently passed.
“The provisions of the MAFA document are thus, billed to be operational in year 2020.”
“It is also essential to point out that MAFA allowances are not part of the Salary Structure of the Armed Forces, consequently, even when implemented, the salary structure will remain unchanged.
“The anticipated impactful change on the salary structure will only come as a result of the recently approved N30,000 minimum wage that will be paid by IPPIS,” he added.
“The DHQ wishes to reassure all personnel of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and members of the public that personnel welfare is paramount in the vision and mission of the current leadership of the military.
“Any form of short-changing of personnel will be met with stiff penalties,” he further assured.
Photospeak: Anything to hide?
What happened to 50% of our entitlements?
But contrary to the DDI’s statement, there is ongoing speculation that the officers are being short-changed by the Service Chiefs.
At the root of the grouse of the officers and personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces, was the alleged pilfering of the their non-regular allowances to the tune of 50 percent from the rank of One-Star General and below.
The details of harmonised allowances for officers in the Armed Forces of Nigeria manual of financial administration sighted by Global Sentinel, revealed what each rank in the Nigerian Army and their equivalent in the other services were to receive under the ‘Staff Grant Allowance’.
The Chapter Six sub-head RR of the MAFA 2017 document reads: “PSOs (Principal Staff Officers) at Service HQ (Headquarters), GOCs (General Officers Commanding)/equivalent and staff officers in DRUs (Direct Reporting Units) and equivalent are often called upon to perform several extra-official functions for their Services/Units. These functions include representation of the Service/Units at various fora, impromptu hosting of stakeholders, liaison with MDAs as well as conduct of oversight responsibilities amongst others. Most of these functions come up on an irregular basis and involve the expenditure of substantial sums of money for their effective discharge.
“Moreover, the Monetization Policy that was executed in Year 2004 did not incorporate the cost elements attendant to the discharge of such Staff functions into the emoluments of applicable officers.
Consequently, the recognition of these functions and the attendant cost of discharging them make it necessary for staff grant to be paid to relevant officers at the following monthly rates…”
Unfortunately, apart from the senior officers at the level of Two-Star Generals, information had it that the rest were only being paid half of their entitlements.
To make matters worse, the Air Force Chief is in addition, being accused of not paying at all to the officers serving at the DHQ and Tri-Service Institutions for two out of the four months disbursed so far in 2020, with the other two being halved in line with how their colleagues were remunerated in the Army and Navy.
CAS is being prudent, he stopped double payment–Officials; No he is cheating us–Aggrieved Officers
Officers who were close to the workings of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, have defended him as a man of integrity who has the best interests of the service personnel at heart. According to them, Abubakar since assumption of office has improved allowances for NAF officers and personnel but noted that “he is a very prudent man who will not compromise when it comes to the management of resources”.
One of the senior Officer who debunked the allegations levelled against the CAS explained that all the officers were paid their entitlements as stipulated by MAFA including those serving at the DHQ and Tri-services.
However, the source explained that the payment was halted when the Air Chief realised like their counterparts in the Army and Navy that those in the Tri-Services were receiving double allowances and he wants to stop that. According to him, the Tri-Service Committee set up to harmonise the payment processes of MAFA had agreed that all services were to pay the same amount and that the only point of conflict were those deployed to the DHQ and tri-service institutions.
“The arrangement was that the basic salaries will be paid through IPPIS, while non-regular allowances will be paid by each service (that is the Army, Navy and Air Force). But it was realised that DHQ and other Tri-Service institutions also have budget heads and were required to pay these allowances to officers serving in the respective institutions.
“It was however, noticed that some people were drawing (payments) from both sides and on February 2020, a letter was sent out to these Tri-Service institutions to send us list of all the Officers of the Air Force so that we can know if there is any of them that have been paid their allowances. But until now, there was no response and the payment has been withheld until the issue is resolved and I want to assure you that nobody would be owed if it is proven that they have not been paid.
“The general idea behind what CAS has done (by withholding the payment) is to harmonise this in the interest of equity and fairness–so that people don’t get double allowances because you are just entitled to your salary via IPPIS and non-regular allowances. The ethical and moral standard are being upheld here as steps are being taken to ascertain that officers are not being paid twice as done in the Army and Navy,” the officer explained.
But these explanations were debunked by some of the affected officers as being deceptive, saying that what was being budgeted and paid at the DHQ and Tri-Service level are mere ‘rations’ and not the ‘Staff Grant’ which was approved and budgeted for, hence the CAS has no right to withhold it.
The Officers wondered why the Air Chief would withhold such entitlements especially the ‘Upkeep Allowance’, when he was a beneficiary while serving in various Tri-Service institutions including the DHQ.
One officer summed it up, saying: “From the onset, there is one allowance called ‘Upkeep’ but when he came into office he stopped it and this was something he was a beneficiary of as an Officer and never complained for once. The MAFA 2017 demanded the Services to pay new allowances structure other than the salary paid through IPPIS. Initially, all the service Chiefs refused to pay until 2020 when Army and Navy started paying while Air Force lagged until the CAS was pressured to do so. But even at that he has only paid two months out of four for this year and in those two months, our allowances were slashed by 50 percent.
“To let you know that he is aware of what he is doing, he sometimes pays this upkeep allowance only after much pressure and once in three months including the AVMs. The other months he wont pay and this was budgeted for. Even though the officers were not happy that the ‘Staff Grant’ were halved but at least our colleagues in the Navy and Army are being paid so far this year and the way things are going we are not sure of this month of May.”
Another senior Officer also wondered why the Air Force Chief will be using the demand for the nominal rolls from the Tri-Service institutions as an excuse when he was the one that deployed the officers in the first place.
“Pleas don’t mind them as they know it is absolutely true if not more than that…he is yet to pay to us the allowances covered by budget for the past two months. This is sheer impunity,” the Officer remarked.
Meanwhile, efforts were made by Global Sentinel to get responses from the NAF Director of Public Relations (DOPRI), Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola; Naval Director of Information (DINFO), Commodore Suleman Dahun; and the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sagir Musa, who directed me to Defence Spokesperson, Brig-Gen. Nwachukwu, to no avail.
Towards transparency and accountability in Defence Budget
Due to the ongoing reforms and anti-corruption drive of the government and relevant stakeholders, efforts are being made to ensure that transparency and accountability is the watchword in the defence and security institutions.
To this end, the military has taken steps by enrolling in the IPPIS scheme with MAFA 2017 as a supporting structure that helps to enshrine transparency and accountability in the system. However, the recent revelations has shown that a lot still need to be done in this regard.
In the same vein, Global Sentinel as well as some not-for-profit organisations including Transparency International-Defence & Security (TI-DS)/Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), CLEEN Foundation, and Public And Private Development Center (PPDC) amongst others, have dedicated efforts towards strengthening the ongoing reforms in Nigeria’s national security and defence sector.
It is against this backdrop that TI-DS/CISLAC engaged in capacity building activities, aimed at demanding accountability and transparency in defence budgeting in Nigeria with publication of several well researched Policy Briefs and trainings.
An extract from the policy thrust noted: “Bringing about improvement in a sector that directly affects our lives, national integrity and sense of belonging to the Nigerian state such as the country’s national defence and security is a task too big to be left alone to elected officers, bureaucrats and securitocrats, that is, those responsible for the bureaucracy of security.
“In the light of Nigeria’s war against terror and other myriads of (in)direct threats that have turned the country’s landscapes into deathscapes, where violent deaths occur without accurate records of lives lost or convincing actions taken to prevent repeats, rethinking what constitutes defence, accounting and accountability as well as transparency have become compelling. This is because threats to state and human security have warranted budgeting and spending huge resources with little to show for it in terms of the improved security, quality of equipment, morale of the fighting forces and waning confidence in the state’s capacity to protect and prevent harm by the general public.”
“TI-DS/CISLAC is convinced that the need and right to demand accountability and transparency cannot be over-emphasized although there must be sensitivity to the preservation of the integrity of the state and her institutions even when individuals have to be named and shamed for infractions and improprieties as part of public scrutiny of security budgets.”
This, it concluded, is because the more transparent and accountable the government is, the better its chance of maintaining public support for governance, retaining public allegiance and confidence and sustaining peace and security.