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EDITORIAL: $1bn From ECA: Needless Controversy



Majority of the members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), across party lines, gave their approval to the Federal Government’s plan to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight not just the insurgency in the North-east but also to assist the security architecture of the country in its operations.  Ironically, the plan to withdraw the money as approved is generating needless controversy to the point that one of the governors is threatening legal action to challenge the decision taken collectively by his colleagues.

The government, to douse the controversy, has been trying to explain the underlying factors that justify the infusion of the huge sum into the system to further energise the nation’s security apparatus and also enhance its operational competence and efficiency. Of course, it is out of the question that such an amount will go exclusively into the fight against insurgency. It is to be expected that any procurements will go into the general security infrastructure pool to cater for all the issues in the states, including policing, community policing, Boko Haram in the North-east, kidnapping, small arms trafficking, cattle rustling, and clashes between herdsmen and farmers as well as other security challenges.

We recall that the $1billion was approved by the governors’ forum when they met across party lines, after the security summit. It is in that context and regardless of what anyone may say to the contrary, that we posit that there is no denying the fact that Nigeria is facing serious security challenges that need to be addressed comprehensively in a holistic manner.

On a daily basis, even with the degrading of Boko Haram, the remnants of that rogue organisation still manages to carry out embarrassing bombings of soft targets in a fading determination to reassert itself. While the politicians are inexplicably engrossed in debates that are unhelpful to the matter at hand regarding the propriety or otherwise of re-equipping the security agencies, and in particular, the strengthening of its intelligence gathering and analysing capabilities, the terrorists are having a sustained stream of arms’ supplies from the fleeing ISIL and Al-Qaeda networks.

Also, other security problems are not abating as Nigerians are, on a regular basis, subjected to harrowing activities of kidnappers who have since turned the crime into an industry. No day passes without reports of kidnapping across the nation’s landscape. In some cases, even when the ransom is paid, the criminals still go ahead to kill their victims exposing their families to a double jeopardy of not only losing their money but also their loved ones. Add that to the belligerence of the Niger Delta terrorists, it will become obvious why the nation’s security apparatus is need of urgent improvement in its hardware and software components.

Unless Nigerians are indulging in collective amnesia, we consider it pertinent to bring back our memories to the episode created during the last administration when a near total absence of the requisite military hardware was blamed for the way Boko Haram was able to rapidly mutate into one of the world’s most evil group. Security agencies were then fighting literally with their bare hands against terrorists that are well –armed.

Since then, and tracking the national budget in the last couple of years that the present administration has been in charge, there is no evidence to prove that there has been any significant outlay for procuring the weapons and equipment needed for the counter-insurgency war and also the effort to safeguard the country against internal dissension and the danger it poses to national security. Sadly, in the view of this newspaper, it has almost been security operatives brawn against the terrorists who, in their psychopathic criminality, are sometimes better equipped than regular forces. It may sound unpatriotic to admit that reality, but it only goes to make a very strong case for the revaluation of the security network so as to be able to bring it up to date and to the modernity it is in dire need of. Though there are compelling reasons to play down the casualty level on the part of soldiers putting their lives on the firing line, it is indubitable that some of them, nonetheless, lose their lives in battle at a level that would not have been possible if they had adequate logistics.

We urge the government to fast-track the procurement of the weapons required, recruit personnel that will reinforce existing troops and expand the intelligence gathering facilities necessarily needed in the effort to restore, within reasonable limits, normalcy in the nation’s security environment.

Critics against the $1 billion budget are basing their disapproval on the immediate past experiences whereby money meant for arms ended up in private pockets. It is important, in our opinion, that such apprehensions are assuaged. Only credibility, transparency and due process in the transactions will guarantee a departure from the ugly past.



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