Boko Haram: Outrage over Jonathan’s $1b loan request
APC, Tinubu, lawyers to lawmakers: say no
Minister defends plan
There is outrage over the proposal by President Goodluck Jonathan to secure the National Assembly’s nod to obtain a $1billion loan to buy arms and ammunition to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram.
Minister of State for Defence Musiliu Obanikoro, said at the weekend during his tour of Naval formation in Delta and Bayelsa states, said major military equipment had not been procured by successive governments in 25 years – to justify the need for the loan.
Obanikoro, accompanied by the Commanding Officer, NNS Delta, Navy Captain Musa Gemu, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Naval Engineering School, Rear Admiral Sidi H Usman and Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Peter Agba, said the war against terrorism would soon be won.
On the state of the military, the minister said: “So far so good, but in real terms and given the goals that we have set for ourselves as a nation, there is the need for more investment. No doubt about that.
“Funding will forever remain an issue. I schooled in the U.S. Anywhere, funding is a problem in terms of the military. It is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. I recognise the fact that if you have a responsibility to somebody, the person must be equipped to carry out such responsibility.
“The Federal Government has resolved that within the limited resources available, the military is properly kitted to deal with the challenges confronting the country for now and the future.
“The president is committed to that and he has taken practical steps. As I speak to you today, some of the acquisition we are doing to beef up military capacity have not been done in the last 25 years. That, to me, is what progress is all about.”
Speaking in Yola, Obanikoro said: “It is not true that the military is not well motivated. We must recognise and appreciate the effort of President Goodluck Jonathan since he came on board.
“I can tell you that in the last 25 years, we have not made major acquisitions in terms of platforms for the Navy, amunition and equipment generally for the military.
“It is Jonathan that has started doing that now and it is as a result of neglect that we are suffering today. But that we are also trying to overcome with this new acquisition.
“There is no doubt that we have both men and women who can deliver under any situation and they are acclaimed worldwide to be among the best. If they can solve issues outside, why will they not be able to solve issues at home.”
The pattern of Defence Budget in the last 25 years showed a sharp increase, but most of the funds reportedly went to personnel and overhead costs.
This year’s budget has the highest allocation to Defence N968.127 billion out of total budget of N4.962 trillion.
The capital budget has always been spent on buildings, uniforms, some ammunition and vehicle spares parts.
It was learnt that there was a little improvement in 2012 when the Navy bought two offshore patrol vessels and six coastal patrol boats and some spares.
It was gathered that in the same year, the Air Force acquired 12 Augusta 109 helicopters and some uniforms, reactivated C-130 and G222 Alpha Jets.
A military source said: “The military budgets over the years were not meant for massive equipment. They were meant for administration, logistics,training and day-to-day running of the establishment.
“Nobody envisaged a war of this magnitude. This matter should not be unnecessarily sensationalised or politicised. These are facts Nigerians should be made to know.
The source spoke on the telephone and pleaded not to be quoted.
In an article in 2012, which drew the ire of the Presidency, a former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, gave an insight into the nation’s defence budget.
He said: “Military spending the world over averages about 2.5 per cent of GDP, with the USA being the highest spender – about $700billion, which is about 5 per cent of GDP. In Africa, the leading military spender is Algeria, ranked 29th in the world, with 3.8 per cent of GDP, followed by Egypt (41st, 2.1 per cent), Angola (42nd, 4.2 per cent), and South Africa (43rd, 1.3 per cent). Nigeria is ranked 57th in the world then earmarking $1.724billion – about 0.9 per cent of our GDP on defence. Even a smaller country like Morocco, ranked 48th with 3.4 per cent of GDP out-spends us! In contrast, countries at near state-of-war like Lebanon (58th, 4.1 per cent) and Sudan (56th, 4.1 per cent) are in our neighbourhood in terms of defence outlays.
“Our current budget for defence has climbed slightly to just over 1 per cent of GDP.”
From N1.2 billion in 1988, the defence budget moved to N968.127 billion in this year’s budget.
The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday urged the National Assembly not to give its go-ahead for the President to take the loan.
It urged the government to account for the “missing” $20 billion oil money, saying “massive corruption and lack of accountability is behind the government request for loan”.
To APC national leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, “the loan is dubious”, “Nigerians must reject it,” he said.
Lagos lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) urged the National Assembly to reject the President’s request, saying there was no justification for the loan.
The activist recalled that between 2010 and 2013, over N3 trillion was budgeted for defence.
“Under the Appropriation Bill signed into law on May 23, 20 per cent of the entire federal budget i.e the sum of N968.127 billion out of N4.962 trillion, was earmarked for defence,” Falana said.
He advised the Senate to find out what happened to the defence budget in the middle of the year to warrant a supplementary budget of N160 billion.
Other senior lawyers urged the National Assembly to scrutinise the request.
Joseph Nwobike and Sebastine Hon (both Senior Advocates of Nigeria) said, the legislature should monitor the application of the funds – if it gives the go-ahead.
Nwobike said in view of the growing insecurity in the country, no amount was too much to spend on a secured environment for the people.
Hon urged the National Assembly to extract, undertaking from the President to assure the country that the money would actually be spent for the purpose for which it was being sought.
Nwobike said:”With the growing security challenges in the country; insurgency in the Northeast, as well as oil theft and sea piracy and other maritime crimes in the southern part of the country, I think there is a need for the government to acquire sophisticated military hardware and training for our military to be able to combat these crimes.
“We should not ground in the argument about whether money had been spent in the past or not. What we should be concerned with is how to tackle these challenges, which are not only threatening the fabric of our nation, but also interfering with our economic life.
“In other words, we all know how much Nigeria has lost since this insurgency, oil theft and other maritime crimes started. What we have lost in a year is more than $10billion. So if we spend $1b to equip our military so that they can stop or nip in the bud, this escalating criminality, I think is a welcome development.”
“The only thing that I will ask the National Assembly to do in approving the loan is to improve on their oversight function, such that they will be able to monitor in great details, where the money will be spent, what it will be spent on, and the benefit capital, which the money will be able to generate in the area of security of lives and property in the country,” Nwobike said.
Hon said : “The question that will arise is, what has been the effect of the spending on the military so far? Is it that it has not been fully utilised or there are some extraordinary measures requiring external borrowing, in addition to what has been budgeted for to take care of the military?
“I think as the Commander-in-Chief, he is the person wearing the shoes and he knows where they are pinching him.
“The National Assembly should extract an undertaking from the President to the effect that if this amount is approved, he will tackle the insurgency that is ravaging our country.
“The National Assembly should audit the military in view of the fact that there have been allegations flying here and there that substandard equipment are being supplied to soldiers fighting the insurgents and that heavy money has been misappropriated or taken away outrightly.
“So, I advise that there should be probity and accountability to make Nigerians appreciate the imperative for looking for additional funds,” Hon said.
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