The excuse of inadequate funding as one of the reasons for the protraction of the counter-insurgency war in the Northeast and other pockets of insurrections across the country has remained a source of concern, writes OKODILI NDIDI

How much can be given to the military that can be said to be sufficient? The Nigerian Army got N1 trillion in 28 months and yet troops in the frontline have continued to complain of inadequate weapons to fight.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, while appearing before the Senate Committee on Army, said the Army got N1,008.84 trillion as budget releases between January 2019 and the first quarter of 2021.

Briefing the Committee chaired by Senator Ali Ndume, the Finance Minister also revealed that apart from the budgetary provisions, there were instances where the Service Chiefs get special approvals for the fund from the President.

The minister gave a breakdown of the N1,008.84 trillion that was disbursed to the Army in the past two years as: N129.69 billion (Capital Expenditure); N39.76 billion (Overhead Cost); N681.79billion (Personnel Cost); and N157.6 billion (Special Releases). On capital funding, the Minister said: “In 2019, what was budgeted for the Nigerian Army was N19.6 billion, adding that N12.84 billion was released, representing 64.37 per cent.

She revealed further that in 2020, the total capital budget for the Nigerian Army was N34.37 billion “and this amount was released 100 per cent”.

According to her, “in 2021 (that is this current year), the total budget for the Nigerian Army is N29 billion as of April. We have released N17.98 billion of that, which is 68.92 per cent. It means we are on course to also release 100 per cent.

“There was outside-of-budget spending because the need was higher than what was provided for in the budget. There was a total provision of N64.5 billion for procurement of military equipment that was provided for through special approval of Mr. President.

“In terms of overhead cost, in 2019, what was budgeted as was N15.64 billion out of which we released N14.299 billion representing 91.01 per cent.

“In 2020, what was budgeted for overhead was N20.634 billion and N20.471 billion was released, representing 99.21 per cent.

“In 2021, which is the current year, the total budget for the year is N20.63 billion and three months releases that we have done so far on overhead totalling N4.99 billion representing 96.75 per cent of the prorated budget for the three months because the year is still running.”

On personnel cost, she said: “In 2019, what was budgeted as Personnel Cost for the Nigerian Army was N192.155 billion but because of the adjustment that we have had to make for the minimum wage, the releases were 122.91 per cent over the budget at N237.42 billion.”

Despite this, the Army is still asking for more funds to be allocated to it in the proposed supplementary budget that will soon be presented to the National Assembly.

Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru said troops lacked weapon to defeat the terrorists.

According to the Army Chief, it is difficult to curb banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, secession threats and other forms of criminality without the required weapons and hardware.

Attahiru appealed to the Senate to consider the financial need of the Army, which he termed critical while appropriating funds.

According to him, “to finally defeat the current security threats, the Nigerian Army requires equipment, weapons, armoured fighting vehicles, platforms and other combat enablers.

“I urge you to as a matter of urgency, consider these critical needs as you legislate and appropriate funds. I will be counting on your support so that we can efficiently perform our constitutional roles and defeat all our threats”.

The country is on the verge of submitting to terrorists’ threat. There are increased and brazen cases of mass abduction and murder of students and travellers. The bandits are becoming more emboldened in the daily attacks. Security and Police Formations have come under attack across the country by ‘unknown gunmen’, with feeble or no resistance at all.

Policemen and soldiers are killed in their numbers daily in what appears to be Nigeria’s worst case of insecurity, yet there are not enough weapons to stop these merchants of death.

Ndume has called for more funding for the Army to prosecute the war against Boko Haram and other terror groups.

During a recent visit to the Chief of Army Staff, Ndume said the Senate is not interested in probing how previous funds released for the purchase of arms were managed but was looking forward to ways of sourcing more money for the military.

He added that the concern of the Senate was how to adequately motivate the Military to win the terror war as soon as possible.

A security expert and a former State Director of the Department of State Security (DSS), Peter Ejiofor, blamed the woes of the Nigerian Military on underfunding and misappropriation of funds.ADVERTISEMENT

According to him, the military needs adequate funds but more should be done to ensure that available funds are put to good use.

He said: “It is a combination of both underfunding and diversion of funds. You can agree that security generally according to our Constitution, is the primary purpose of government. So we must give our security priority, even if you give one N1 trillion in the last 28 months, what does it translate to in terms of the security challenges we have today.

“There was a time I did a study and discovered that over 70% of the military budget is on recurrent and not on capital expenditure, the money that would have been used to purchase equipment and that only that in that budget, how much is released, so you can make a budget for N1 trillion and at the end of it, only N500 billion is released, the records are there. So it’s coupled with underfunding, lack of release of funds and again corruption. The little ones that they have are not judiciously used.

“Government is a continuum, if anyone comes and takes over, he gets a handover note and to say this is what we have. The Chief of Army Staff (Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru) was at the National Assembly and was even rude to the Senate that he cannot answer their question that they should go and call the former Chief of Army Staff (Turkur Buratai), as if he didn’t take over from the former Chief of Army Staff and what did the former Chief do, he was the same person being rewarded with ambassadorial appointments, that means that the government was satisfied with what he was doing.

“What is the National Assembly doing, they have now called for a supplementary budget for the military, do they follow up to say, as their oversight function to find out how this money is spent? Well, they want to tell you that it cannot be audited, it is for security, but you get an appropriation for security and say that it cannot be audited, where on earth does that happen. You have a lot of challenges.

“There are areas you can say that are classified, you can go and google and see the military strength of each country. The military of every country is determined by the armament and equipment they have, so what’s the secret about that? But there are some areas like the intelligence services and the SSS, there are many things they can do that does not come to the public domain. But what is wrong that we come out open about these things.

“Okay, when the money was released by the National Assembly for us to purchase aircraft, didn’t you know that they paid for twelve Tucano aircraft and that they were taking delivery of those aircraft? What’s the secret about that? We are just lazy and not only being lazy, but we are also corrupt.

“The National Assembly, on the other side, will be asking for money to pass a budget. And when the budget is passed, they will be looking for contracts from the military. So before you know it, all these monies are diverted, both the National Assembly and the Executive, everybody is looking for money at the detriment of the welfare and the security of the people, that is where we are now.

“The way out is that we have said that there should be increased funding for security but not just increasing the funding, it must be monitored to see that they are judiciously used and how do you do that, there should be periodic review of spending and the equipment purchased if they’re serious, not going to ask for money. When you go there, most of the contracts are being done by representatives of National Assembly members and when they want to buy, they buy substandard equipment.

“What is wrong if we have drones that will show us, yes, these bandits move in large numbers, they don’t hide their movement, they move in in groups. They move in motorcycles and vehicles, if you see that they are coming out from somewhere, of course, our military will wait for them, open fire and there will be casualty but when you allow them to kidnap people, they will begin to demand ransom, is that the way out?

“There should be strict monitoring of spending to ensure that they comply with the requirements because, in the budget, they specify what they want to buy, so why are you hiding what you’ve bought when you have told them what you wanted to buy. I know of one Agency that used their money to buy 16 items, with the money given to them and another agency that was given the same amount of money could only buy two items, so how do you reconcile that.

“Now how much was spent on buying cameras for Abuja and Lagos about $400 million? Is any of these cameras working? Is anyone talking about it? So, we can’t be moving round in a vicious circle and expect to make any progress.”

Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry dubbed those querying how funds released for arms were expended ignorant.

It insisted that the monies so far approved for arms purchase were put to good use.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Musa Istifanus, stated that the $1 billion released by the Federal Government to procure arms was expended on the purpose it was approved.

He said the contractual agreement with the suppliers, the United States of America, was that the products would arrive three years after payment was made.

According to him, “those that were raising dust about the funds were doing so out of sheer ignorance of how the funds were used for the purpose it was raised. The Nigerian Government had spent N1 billion dollars in acquiring weapons for the war it is facing.

“Some ignorant people say they have not seen any weapon. I know where the weapons are. They are yet to come.

“We paid $496millon to the American government and it is getting to three years now, the Super Tucanos are yet to arrive. Last week, we received an email that it will come by 21st of July.”

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