Right now, millions of Nigerians are perplexed and many are understandably angry that the army chief Tukur Buratai is embroiled in a Dubai property scandal (see the story HERE).
The Nigerian Army fired a statement denying the report saying Buratai bought the said property with his own savings (see that one HERE).
Well, a lot of Nigerians have reacted to the story and some are saying since he is a general, he can afford the property. But is that true? I will try to analyze why it is utterly impossible for a Nigerian general to buy a luxury property in Dubai using his or her salary alone.
1- The Dubai real estate is one of the most expensive ON EARTH. In other words, prime real estate in Dubai is virtually an exclusive reserve for the billionaires. The property do not come cheap at all. An Italian luxury beachfront villa can go for as high as $17 million (see it HERE)and that is not even the most expensive, there are far more expensive pieces of real estate in Dubai.
The property in question involving General Buratai is said to go for $419,826.06 (I wonder why 419 appears in the sum of the house though) or N120million. So let us look at it like this: Buratai was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 17th December 1983 into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army.
That means he has been in the army for about 33 years. If we work on the assumption that he saved to buy the house, that means he must save on the average around N3.6 million every single year from his very first year in the army.
But that is not possible because a general in the Nigerian Army today earns about N1.5 million (the salary structure for the Nigerian Army is posted below) and Buratai is not even a general but a lieutenant-general which means he earns about a million naira as his salary.
And since he did not become a lieutenant general from day one in the army, it becomes very curious to know how he was able to amass the sum of N120 million in his career in the army especially when you consider the fact that he rose through the ranks with his salary slightly increasing with each promotion.
All this is with the assumption that Buratai saved all his salary towards the Dubai property and he did not spend any of his salary on any house in Nigeria, on feeding, clothing or even educating his wives and children.
This is the salary structure of the Nigerian Army:
Private Soldier earns about N48-49,000
Lance Corporal earns about N54-55,000
Corporal earns N58,000
Sergeant earns N63,000
Staff Sergeant earns N68,000
Warrant Officer earns N80,000
Master Warrant Officer earns N90,000
Nigerian Army Salary Structure for
Second Lieutenant- N120,000
Lt. Colonel- N350,000
Brigadier General- N750,000
Major General- N950,000
Lt. General- N1 million
General- N1.5 million
So how was he able to save N3.6 million per year? That is like the entire annual salary he was collecting as a captain or major, so when did he start saving N3.6 million per year? Please do the calculation yourself.
2 – Also, some others say because he was on peacekeeping missions, he got enough money to buy the property. That too is not correct. $1,210 per month is the salary for the United Nations peacekeepers until it was recently jerked up to $1,332 a month per soldier — the largest increase in 35 years at 17 percent (you can see more detailed breakdown of UN peacekeeping forces salaries HERE and from the United Nations itself HERE).
So if Buratai worked as a UN peacekeeping soldier, it means he will have to do so for $419,826.06/$1,210 months = 346.9 months before he can buy that property. That means Buratai will have to work as a UN peacekeeper for almost 345 months (that is a whopping 29 years) before he can save N120 million to buy the house in Dubai.
How is that possible when he has spent just 33 years in the army and definitely not 29 years working in the United Nations?
After I published this piece, some said oh, he was not a peacekeeper but a UN military observer and they get higher pay, yes, that is correct but that still does not explain how he was able to amass almost $420,000 to buy houses in Dubai, the highest ANNUAL salary you can get as a UN military observer is $163,615 and that is for Step 10 commanders i.e, the highest level commanders (Buratai was a UN military observer in Angola (as part of the Verification Mission II) and records do not indicate he was on Step 10 or Grade 14, UN military observers are ranked from Step 1 to Step 10 (Grade 5 through to Grade 14) and their salaries PER YEAR vary from $36,727 for the lowest to $163,615 for the highest-ranking commanders of which Buratai does not appear to be one. Even if he was, he would have to serve for more than two and half years ($420,000/$163,615 = 2.567 years after which he will not touch a cent of his salary) as the HIGHEST UN MILITARY OBSERVER which he was not so that argument that he was a UN military observer does not add up and also, we are yet to see other UN military observers from other parts of the world snapping up houses in Dubai). I have attached a snapshot of the salaries of UN military observers below and you can check it out HERE too
You can also see how the United Nations pay its military observers HERE and for those who want to understand the roles of the UN military observers (and precisely what Buratai did in Angola) even better, check out the United Nations Military Observers Handbook HERE
According to the United Nations, UNAVEM II (UNITED NATIONS ANGOLA VERIFICATION MISSION) was established in May 1991 to verify the arrangements agreed by the Government of Angola and the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, for monitoring the ceasefire and the Angolan police during the ceasefire period, and to observe and verify elections, in accordance with the Peace Accords. It lasted till February 1995, this was all a period when Buratai was not even a general but a junior soldier.
I must also state that Buratai was ONE of the 350 unarmed UN military observers for UNAVEM II. As of 25 October 1991, the Mission included 350 military observers, 89 police monitors, 14 military medical personnel, 54 international civilian staff and 41 local civilian staff for the mission, of which Buratai was a member of the team, NOT the commander, the mission was headed by Miss Margaret Joan Anste from the United Kingdom so there was no way Buratai would have even collected the highest salaries reserved for the top-ranking military observers. If you are interested, you can read all about UNAVEM II HERE.
3 – To the best of my knowledge, Buratai did not inherit any billions from his ancestors. He grew up in the dusty village of Buratai in Borno State so he cannot lay claim to any hereditary wealth. If there is any, he should make it public.
4. Since it has been ruled out that neither his salaries, allowances or UN peacekeeping salaries can make a Nigerian general to be so rich to the extent of purchasing a property in Dubai (we are not even talking of the other houses in Nigeria or any others if available), it means it is possible he might have made the money from some businesses.
If you have a business in Nigeria that rakes in so much profits for you that you can save N120 million, then the business should be a popular one. Does Buratai have any cash-spinning business(es) in Nigeria or anywhere in the world?
If so, where are they? Were they declared? Where are the tax statements? PENCOM documents? CAC registration documents? And where did the funds to start those businesses come from? It is not enough for the army to release a statement and expect millions of Nigerians to just swallow it cap, belt and lanyard.
5 – I must also state that even American generals will have to think twice before they snap us houses in Dubai (I am actually yet to hear of any American general purchasing Dubai property). In fact, they CANNOT even afford such houses despite being generals in the world’s richest and most powerful military.
Their salaries CANNOT support such a lifestyle. As at 2013, the salary was $164,221 PER YEAR for a three-star general and $179,700 for a four-star general in the United States Army (you can read more on how much American generals are paid HERE).
That is why you see many American generals like James Cartwright retiring to become speakers or defence contractors in order to make more money. So if the salary of an American FOUR-STAR GENERAL is $179,700 after serving for 37 years, how did Buratai buy a property for $419,826.06 after serving for 33 years? Is the Nigerian military now more lucrative than that of the United States or one system is more corrupt than the other?
I am not even accusing him of anything, all I am saying is that it will be very helpful for many soldiers and Nigerians living in poverty to know the secrets of his wealth-making machine. Not a few soldiers living in penury after retirement will be more than grateful to the army chief if he comes out to tell the world the secrets of how he was able to buy a house that even a US general cannot dream of. I am sure a lot of Nigerians will want to know how to save N120 million in 33 years.
6. The Nigerian Army contradicted itself and shot itself in the foot badly as it said in its rebuttal signed by Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, the Acting Director Army Public Relations to Sahara Reporters that Buratai was never the director of army procurement. The army stated and I quote:
In addition, General Buratai was never near either Defence Headquarters or Army Headquarters in 2013. It is pertinent to also note that he was never a Director of procurement in Army Headquarters as alleged. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Army never had a Directorate of Procurement till when he established one last year when he became Chief of Army Staff.
In a bid to rubbish the hard earned reputation and good name of the Chief of Army Staff, these blackmailers will stop at nothing hence all these kinds of mudslinging.
But that is not true because right now as I am writing this, I am on the website of the Nigerian Army and it is clearly stated that Buratai was the director of procurement at the defence headquarters (the army simply stated he was not the director of procurement of the army headquarters and he was never near the defence headquarters) but the truth is that he was actually the director of procurement at the DEFENCE headquarters (why the army left out this vital piece of information in its statement is baffling because what that will mean to some Nigerians is that oh, Buratai was never director of procurement and that it is the work of the enemies again .
Here is the link to Buratai’s profile on the Nigerian Army website (see HERE) and I have also attached the snapshot below so you can see clearly that someone is either lying somewhere or wants to deliberately misinform the public:
Based on this watery defence, no serious-minded person will take the army statement with half a molecule of salt. What a smart army would have done would be to post the salary of the lieutenant-general and prove to us mathematically how one can save to buy a Dubai property and also point to other generals with houses in Dubai from the same salary scale.
7 – Personal savings, what savings? Where did Buratai save the money until it piled into N120 million? Is it inside a kolo under his bed or in which Nigerian bank? Savings from which source? Salaries? Has all the transactions of all the units he headed been investigated and scrutinized?
How did he save the money from his salaries? Did he tell the bank to deduct this every month from his salaries from his day one in the army? If so, how much? Where is the evidence? If he is able to buy a house worth N120 million, that means logically, he should probably be worth billions of naira. Did that also come from personal savings? I rest my case for now. I actually want to go and eat. Bye.
NB: This analysis applies to all senior-ranking officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces (Army, Navy and the Air Force), the Police and the paramilitary forces (Customs, Immigration, Prisons) and other uniformed services. Not even their respective heads eg the service chiefs or the comptroller generals earn enough from their salaries to purchase a Dubai property. At best, their salaries can allow them enjoy a modest standard of living and that’s all to it, it does not afford them a life of flamboyance in any way. Nigerians must begin to ask the right questions as to the source of wealth of public officials especially when we know how much they are earning. If an American general cannot buy a property in Dubai, why will a Nigerian general be able to do so? Buratai owes over 180 million Nigerians (including me of course) a solid explanation (taxpayers’ money cannot enter voicemail) and the Nigerian federal government and defence council should as a matter of responsibility and urgency institute an independent investigation into this scandal involving the nation’s number one soldier. This piece is not to indict him in any way but an analysis based on figures as mathematics is the universal language and numbers don’t lie. If our military is to be world-class and the rot in the system cleaned up, then you will agree with me that our number one soldier should be ABOVE BOARD in all ways.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Opinion article first published on Abiyamo.com