In this report, MUYIWA OYINLOLA examines the controversies surrounding recently approved $1bn by the federal government to fight insecurity and the development could make or mar the ongoing effort to end the spate of insecurity in the country
The Federal Government during on Wednesday gave approval for the release of the sum of $1 billion to procure equipment for the military to fight insecurity across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari gave the approval during a meeting he held with the heads of the nation’s security agencies.
In attendance at the closed-door security meeting he summoned were Minister of Defence, Brigadier-General Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonishakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok Ekwe; National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Mongunu (rtd); Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
The Defence minister who indicated that $1 billion was approved for the procurement of the equipment while briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, said the insecurity in Taraba, Zamfara and other states was also discussed.
Recall that The National Economic Council (NEC), had at a meeting in Abuja last December, resolved that $1 billion be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to boost the fight against insurgency.
The proposal to withdraw the $1 billion from the ECA account was however flayed by some individuals and groups who argued that only the National Assembly could make appropriations to the security agencies.
But Dan-Ali disclosed Wednesday that the military had “operationalised” a division in Sokoto, a brigade in Katsina and Zamfara states as well as a quick response group drawn from the Nigeria Air Force to boost the manpower that would take care of the security situation in that area.
Recall also that a former Defence Minister, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), last month berated the federal government over the current spate of insecurity in the country, alleging that the military was colluding with herdsmen to kill innocent civilians in some parts of the country.
However, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose has queried Buhari’s approval of the fund, describing the approval as “pooling of public funds for the purpose of funding President Buhari’s re-election as well as the coming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.”
He has also stated that “It will be illegal and against the principle of federalism that operates in Nigeria for the president, who is the head of just one of the federating units, to approve the spending of funds belonging to the three tiers of government without the consent of the heads of other federating units.”
In a statement, Fayose asked: “When did the National Assembly approve the spending of the $1 billion, or can the president spend $1 billion belonging to Nigerians without the approval of the National Assembly?”
He noted that Nigerians require explanations from the Federal Government as to where the $1 billion will be sourced, stressing the president lacks power to unilaterally spend money from the ECA.
Fayose, according to the statement signed by his spokesperson, Lere Olayinka, also queried “which insurgency are they buying arms worth N370 billion to fight, is it the same Boko Haram that they told Nigerians they had completely defeated?
“Since they said they had defeated Boko Haram, and later told Nigerians that they had ceasefire agreement with the insurgents, what else do they need a whopping $1 billion (over N370 billion) for, if not to fund the 2019 elections?
In the same vein, opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the National Assembly to commence constitutional legislative actions against the President for what it termed gross misconduct in unilaterally approving the release of the said $1billion which it said was done without allowing for the application of legislative instrument.
Consequently, it called on Nigerians to reject and resist the development, alleging it was an attempt by the Presidency to take the money from the national coffers to finance Buhari’s interests in the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s national convention and 2019 campaign.
The party however demanded an independent investigation into the processes of release and utilization of all special funds for war against insurgency in the last three years.
According to a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, its investigation revealed that the Presidency willfully sidestepped 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 also claimed that 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.
But the The Federal Government in defence of the approved fund has described the criticisms trailing the exercise as unnecessary and unhelpful.
According to The Minister of Information, Culture and and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed the entire approved fund was not merely to fight Boko Haram in the North East alone but also to tackle kidnapping, cattle rustling, illegal oil bunkering and other crimes across the country.
He said the Nigerian Governor’s Forum acted wisely in approving the fund from the Excess Crude Account based on the need to properly fund security operations in the country to adequately respond to threats by Boko Haram and other criminals.
The minister who made this disclosure while speaking with journalists in Lagos expressed dismay that an action intended to make the country safer had been subjected to attacks by people with ulterior motives.
He added that it was wrong to sacrifice the issue of security on the altar of politics, saying opponents of the fund were taking politics too far.
Mohammed said asymmetrical wars were very expensive to fight, adding that even though Boko Haram had been degraded, there was the need to properly fund military operations to enable it confront insurgents’ threats.
“There has been an unnecessary, uninformed and highly-partisan criticism of the one billion dollars which was recently approved by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) for the military to tackle the security challenges facing the country, including Boko Haram, illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping and cattle rustling.
“I said unnecessary and uninformed because everyone knows the role the military is playing in helping to tackle the numerous security crisis facing the states, much less the war against Boko Haram.
“The fact that Boko Haram has been largely degraded does not mean the war is over. As we have said times without number, asymmetric wars like the one against Boko Haram do not end with an armistice.
“It is, therefore, curious that some of those who have criticised the one-billion-dollar approval have hinged their argument on the fact that the Boko Haram has been degraded”, he said.
In the same vein, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has stated that there is no amount spent on the protection of lives and properties that is too much even as it demanded transparency and accountability in its spending.
According to a statement signed by its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, “The mainstay of the Buhari-led government is hinged on fighting corruption and improving security in the country and it could be said that a lot has been achieved such as the notable gains represented in the release of the Dapchi Girls and the release of some of the previously captured Chibok Girls by Boko Haram insurgents.
“In spite of the imperative of funding the military and other security agencies, we hasten to charge the federal government on the manner with which the allocated funds are expended in terms of tracking every single dime to ensure that they are used for the purpose for which they meant. The transparency and accountability of the processes must be impeccable and seen to be above board by best standards.
“The sordid experience in the recent past where the immediate past government diverted funds meant for the fight against insurgency diverted to private pockets remain livid and fresh that such corrupt acts must not re-occur as this is totally unacceptable”.
Considering the spate of insecurity in the land, the preponderance of opinions is that the federal government should commended for its resolve to checkmate the menace, especially as the election year approaches.
However, the position of those against it may not be wished away as their opposition is borne out the fact that due process should be followed. They are also of the position that government should justify the spending by ensuring that the fund is not used to fund the ‘Pro-Buhari agenda’ for 2019.
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