President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday approved the release of $1 billion for the procurement of equipment for the military to prosecute the fight against insecurity in the country.Buhari gave the approval at a meeting he held with the heads of the nation’s security agencies as the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) failed to convene yesterday.
Those who attended the closed-door security meeting summoned by the president 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.
Dan-Ali 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.
The National Economic Council (NEC), at its meeting in Abuja last year December, had resolved that $1 billion be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to boost the fight against insurgency by the military.
The proposal to withdraw the $1 billion from the ECA account was flayed by some Nigerians who argued that only the National Assembly could make appropriations to the security agencies.
The minister of defence told journalists yesterday 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.
According to him, concerted efforts are being made by government to secure the safe release of one of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls, Leah Sharibu, still being held by the Boko Haram terrorists.The presidency did not give any official reason for the cancellation of the FEC meeting which holds every Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The FEC is presided over by the president or vice president , with members of the cabinet, including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF) and ministers in attendance.
This is the fourth time the council meeting would not hold since the inception of the Buhari’s administration in 2015.The first time the meeting was put off was on August 23, 2017. It did not hold because a committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo submitted a report to Buhari on Babachir Lawal, the then suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who was accused of corruption. The president had just returned from a 103-day medical vacation in the United Kingdom (UK).
On September 6, 2017, the Buhari administration failed to hold FEC meeting because the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said there was no enough time to prepare documents. This was owing to a two-day public holiday declared for the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations. The last time the meeting was put off was on February 28, 2018.
Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose has queried Buhari’s approval of the $1 billion for the procurement of security equipment.He described the approval as “pooling of public funds for the purpose of funding President Buhari’s reelection as well as the coming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.”
The governor demanded to know whether or not the $1 billion is from ECA. “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?
“Nigerians require explanations from the Federal Government as to where the $1 billion will be sourced because the president lacks power to unilaterally spend money from the ECA not even when there is a pending suit by Ekiti State local council chairmen, challenging the powers of the 36 state governors to purportedly execute the constitutional duty of the Federal Government without their consent.”
Fayose said “another question the Federal Government must answer is: 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?
“Also, up till now, the government is yet to give satisfactory explanations as to the abduction and return of the Dapchi schoolgirls. With the hurried approval of $1 billion, is it not being reinforced that the Boko Haram insurgency has become a source of looting public funds by this government?
“It is on record that Transparency International (TI) once said in its report that some top military officials in the country were feeding fat from the war against Boko Haram by creating fake contracts and laundering the proceeds in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere.”
The governor reiterated his challenge to the Federal Government to make available to Nigerians, how the money released by international donors for the fight against Boko Haram was spent.
“Like I have maintained, they are building a very huge financial war chest towards the 2019 elections and our treasury is daily being looted to achieve this. One of such means is the $1 billion approved by the president, purportedly for the procurement of arms to fight a Boko Haram insurgency they claimed to have defeated.”
In a related development, the Nigerian Army plans to embark on research and development for the evolution of locally made military equipment that would assist the nation in contending the challenges of insecurity.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, who spoke on the strategy yesterday said the emerging security challenges in the country had underscored such a development.Buratai spoke at the opening of the 2018 Nigerian Army Research and Development Conference holding at the Command Army Records, Lokoja, Kogi State.
According to Buratai, Nigeria cannot afford to continue to depend solely on the developed nations for all its military equipment in view of the attendant funding constraints, diplomatic and bureaucratic bottlenecks.The Chief of Army Staff who spoke through the Chief of Training and Operations, Nigerian Army Headquarters, Maj. Gen. David Ahmadu said the conference being coordinated by the Headquarters, Training and Doctrines (TRADOC) of the Nigerian Army was to afford participants an opportunity to brainstorm and contribute ideas that would improve on military research and development.