President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to approve $1billion to procure arms to fight insecurity has generated reactions in the polity. As soon as the minister of defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, made the disclosure, it became a subject of fierce criticism for the opposition.
The minister had said, “What I can add after all that I have said is to inform you that of recent, our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari gave approval for the purchase of more equipment for the military, worth $1 billion.”
It is instructive to note that the president’s approval was an endorsement of what the National Economic Council ( NEC) had earlier approved. The council approved the withdrawal of the $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) by the federal government to fight the terrorist group, Boko Haram and other forms of insecurity in the country.
The approval for the withdrawal was disclosed by Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, after a NEC meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on December 14, 2017. NEC has all the governor’s of the 36 states if the federation as members, the opposition governors inclusive.
As expected, the first to raise the alarm over the $1 billion was the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) despite that governors elected on the party’s platform were also part of the NEC meeting that gave the approval. The PDP called on the National Assembly to proceed with the appropriate actions against the president.
The party also demanded for an independent investigation into the processes of release and utilisation of special funds for war against insurgency in the last three years.
The PDP, in a statement yesterday by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that the $1 billion fund was to be used to finance President Buhari’s interests in the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s national convention and 2019 campaign.
The PDP said, “It is a notorious fact that the presidency and the APC have been plotting to loot this $I billion from our heavily depleted Excess Crude Account (ECA) since last year, using the guise of fight against insurgency.
“This is the same Buhari administration that has been boasting of having technically defeated the insurgents. This is also an administration that is not known to have exhausted subsisting budgetary allocations for defence.”
The party noted that its investigation has revealed that the presidency willfully sidetracked the National Assembly, so as to avoid legislative scrutiny and accountability and pave way for the diverting of the fund for selfish partisan purposes. The party wondered why the president, who had sworn to protect the constitution, would fall to the temptation of resorting to ways and means which were totally at variance with the laws and all democratic tenets.
But some political analysts have dismissed PDP’s outburst as crying wolf where there is none. Quoting an adage in the local parlance which says “na thief dey know thief”, meaning “It takes a thief to catch another thief”, the pundits observed that the PDP were the first to raise the alarm because they were in this same situation in 2014 when the then president, Goodluck Jonathan, requested for a $1bn loan to fight Boko Haram . At the end of the day, most of the money ended up in private pockets. Till date, most of the major PDP actors are still running from court to court to clear their names.
The thinking is that the PDP elements are apprehensive that the the ruling party wants to use the money just like they did to prosecute the 2019 elections. But they should also know that even if the APC uses the money for the elections, it is not a guarantee of victory. The PDP did same and still lost the elections.
It is common knowledge that Nigeria is presently under siege as a result of the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen militia, cattle rustlers, kidnappers, cultists and armed robbers.
The military is deployed to at least 30 out of the 36 states of the federation and the country is in peace time. The military is not in charge of internal security but because of the ineffectiveness of the police, the military has taken over the job of the police. It is incumbent to note the need for a strong democracy, we need a strong police force.
According to security experts, routing out insurgents and insurgency wars cost money. The United States government spent 841 billion dollars in the 16 years in Afghanistan. Other estimates place the 16-year cost in the trillions of dollars because they measure a broader range of factors.
Some keen observers of the polity have called on the opposition to give the president a chance to tackle insecurity in the country. Politics should be waved aside and let Nigerians unite against insecurity.
The PDP has been criticising the president handling of insecurity in the country and now that President Buhari has made the move to tackle insecurity, the same party is still crying foul. My take is that let the opposition give the president a chance rather than going partisan on everything, including sensitive issues like national security. At the end of the day it is still them that will bring Buhari under scrutiny to see if the money was used for security or for other purposes.