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Insecurity: Outrage over NASS’ moves to approve more funds for military

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A cross section of Nigerians is not amused by the plan by the federal government and the National Assembly for extra security allocations this year.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan said yesterday that a supplementary budget to tackle the current security challenge across the country was on its way from the executive to the National Assembly.

Lawan told reporters in his home town of Gashua, Yobe State, that the supplementary budget would be tabled before the Senate and the House of Representatives later this month.

Buhari, in apparent confirmation of the plan, pledged that the security agencies, including the Police, would continue to be empowered to fight the pervading insecurity in different parts of the country.

The  move, coming soon after National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno’s controversial interview on the Hausa Service of BBC in which he said the President “has provided enormous resources for arms procurement but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered,” immediately sparked worries in different quarters.

The National Publicity Secretary of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Mr. Ken Robinson; leader of Arewa Youth Congress (AYC), Alhaji Shetima Yerima; Lagos lawyer, Mr. Bolaji Adejumo; an economist and former Vice-Chancellor, Crescent University, Abeokuta, Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella; a cleric, Bishop Kayode Williams; and a security expert, Dr. Charles Ajuwa, all wondered what has become of this year’s security funds.

Out of the total N13.08 trillion which the executive proposed last October to spend this year, the sum of N840.56 billion was earmarked for the Ministry of Defence alone.

This is N38 billion less than the amount proposed for 2020.

A total of N447.6 billion was budgeted for the police.

In his opinion, a security expert and Chief Executive Officer of Pro-Cover Incorporated, Dr. Charles Ajuwa, described the approval of more funds to the military as ‘another wasteful exercise’

He said: “All the funds that were deployed both by the immediate past administration and the current administration have gone to waste.

“We have seen recently how some military chiefs were indicted for diverting money meant to take care of troops fighting insurgency at the detriment of the personnel deployed to the theatre of war in various parts of the country, especially in the northern region.

“I feel that what the government needs to do is to ensure that these soldiers are taken care of to inspire military personnel to win the war against insurgency, banditry and kidnapping.

An economist and former vice-chancellor of Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Prof.  Sheriffdeen Tella, said given the porous security situation in the country, “the proper thing to do is to ensure that such fresh calls for funds should be approved, but this time around, the expenditure and allocation must be monitored to ensure that it is put into judicious use.

“It is also important for Mr President to ensure that the whereabouts of similar funds so approved for the outgoing military hierarchy are properly accounted for.

“I will also go a step further to tell Mr. President to put the appointment of the past service chiefs on hold with regards to their ambassadorial appointment until the moneys kept under their custody is properly accounted for.”

Ken Robinson told The Nation last night that funding alone would not solve the security crisis in the country “if the system is still bad.”

He said: “In a proper setting where there is transparency and accountability, nothing should be too much to secure and stem the tide of insecurity.

“Nigeria is under a mist and nobody can say what will happen next.

“Nothing should be spared in ensuring that Nigeria is secured, but it will not be out of place to say that funding is not the only thing needed.

“You could approve the money, but if the system is still bad, it would be like pouring water into basket.

“Several funds have been approved and released and we are not seeing the ammunition. Government should sit up and be more accountable in how they conduct our military operation and their funding.

“The National Assembly should be more proactive. The National Assembly is the people’s assembly and an independent arm of government, but unfortunately, we don’t see that happening again, especially of recent.

‘It seems to have become a part of the Federal Government of Nigeria and everything is being considered on partisan basis. They should play their oversight role.”

Shetima Yerima, Leader Arewa Youth Congress, said: “It is unfortunate that we don’t have a system that works properly.

“It is not a bad idea to earmark more money for them because we cannot just sit down and allow Nigerians to be killed on a daily basis.

“We have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Let us pray that the money given them will be used in the best interest of the country. We cannot just sit down and do nothing.”

Lagos lawyer, Mr. Bolaji Adejumo, agreed that money alone is not the solution to the security problems.

“Throwing money at every problem of insecurity is not the solution. What we need is a thinking leadership that is in tune with 21st Century security challenges and how they can be dealt with,” he said.

“Let the leaders put on their thinking cap and address the issue of small arms being brought through unlawful means into the country and it would go a long way in solving the problem of insecurity.

“And if they cannot do that, let there be approved for people to carry arms and that would reduce the monopoly of violence on the part of some persons.

“So, throwing money at problems is not the solution and cannot be a one size fits all approach to resolving widespread insecurity in Nigeria; it does not work, it has never worked and it would never work.

He added: “Motivation for military personnel is also critical in fighting insecurity. Hungry men cannot fight war successfully and this speaks to the need to provide troops with necessary incentives to motivate them to neutralise criminals rather than deploying money that would not be used to take proper care of troops.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Bishop Kayode Williams of Christ Vessels of Grace Church Inc., International said there must be deliberate efforts made to know the whereabouts of missing security funds.

According to him, the issue of security funds has led to a crisis of confidence of sorts and the Presidency will do well to address this in order to forestall a complete breach of trust.

Bishop Wiiliams, who also doubles as Director General, Prison Rehabilitation Mission International, who said the presidency takes the blame for the crisis of confidence, observed that “inasmuch as Nigerians wish to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s quest, I think the proper thing to do is to show clearly how past funds allocated for security were expended. Anything short of that is not acceptable.”

The Senate President had said yesterday that the legislative arm has been going the extra length to support the executive in resolving the security crisis.

He cited a recent meeting which himself and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had with Buhari on the security challenge and ways of tackling it.

He said: “I think the National Assembly has done quite a lot in that area working with the Executive arm of government and, recently, on Monday or so, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I met with Mr. President, and the centre of our discussion was the security of the country,” he was quoted as saying by his Special Assistant (Press), Ezrel Tabiowo,

Continuing, he said: “How do we engage the security of this country? It has been a nagging issue, but it is not an issue that cannot be solved.

“With the appointment of the new Service Chiefs, we have seen newer strategies and Mr. President and the National Assembly will be working to provide more resources in the supplementary budget which the presidency will submit sometime maybe this month to the National Assembly.

“We (National Assembly) are prepared to give every possible resource to our security agencies to fight and restore normalcy to every part of the country, whether it is insurgency, banditry, militancy or kidnapping.

“We believe that we need to have security before life can be better, because you can’t do anything or attract direct foreign investments, even farming becomes impossible in some states because of the level of insecurity.

“So, security is key. It is essential and a necessity that we have to restore normalcy in this area and, Mr. President gave the security chiefs six weeks to restore security in our rural areas, particularly because the rainy season will come pretty soon – maybe in the next two months and without security in the rural areas, there’ll be no farming.

“And when there’s no farming, our food security will be threatened and our security situation will be further complicated.”

Lawan deplored the agitations for secession in some parts of the country and blamed those he called disgruntled elite for the development.

He said the agitations were to serve the self- interest of the sponsors at the expense of the majority of Nigerians.

“Nigeria will continue to be one. What we need to emphasize always is equity, justice and fairness to all, for all,” he said.

“I think this is one way to go, probably the only way to go to ensure that everybody feels belonged.

“This administration has done quite a lot in that area. If you look at the spread of federal government projects across the country, you will agree with me that the federal government has not favoured any part of the country.

“I think the government is doing quite a lot to ensure that there’s that equitable distribution of projects across the country.

“I believe that the unity of this country will continue to be our major focus. From time to time you hear some people talking of maybe establishing their own country or secession.

“I believe that majority of Nigerians believe that they should stay together – and I mean the ordinary Nigerians. These are people who believe in the unity of this country.

“But the elites is where the problem is, the elites will tell you, no, we have to secede. I believe that we should be fair to the multitude of Nigerians – those ordinary people of Nigeria. What they require is leadership.

“We must give them leadership, a fair leadership. If we have any issues, we should be able to discuss the issues. We should not neglect people when they complain, but that is not likely to be the most popular position of the people from any part of the country.

“So, I believe that unity of this country is non-negotiable.”

Buhari pledges stronger security watch     

Speaking separately on Saturday on the security situation in the country, President Buhari pledged to ensure more empowerment of the security agencies, including the police, to enable them fight the pervading insecurity in different parts of the country.

He  was reacting to the March 29 armed attacks on four communities in Íshíelu Local Government  Area of Ebonyi State and the March 31 assault on former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, in Isuofia, Aguata Local Government Area  of Anambra State.

No fewer than 20 people, including three policemen attached to Soludo, were shot dead in both incidents.

Buhari, speaking through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said: “I strongly condemn the cowardly terrorist attack on an outstanding Nigerian, Professor Chukwuma Soludo.

“Our prayers are with him and the families of the security operatives who lost their lives trying to defend innocent citizens assembled for a peaceful meeting.

“We will continue to empower the police and the armed forces in their brave struggle against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.”

He said ongoing efforts to arrest arms proliferation in the country have been yielding considerable success.

“Already, many arms dealers have been arrested while a large number of illegal weapons have been recovered. The operation is intensifying,” he said.

On the attacks on Umuhuali, Akalaha, Amaezu and Obegu communities in Ebonyi State, Buhari directed law enforcement agencies to “fish out the attackers and make them face justice.”

The perpetrators of this ‘heinous attack’, he said, should not be spared.

He sent his sympathies to families and friends who have lost loved ones, and to every member of the communities in Ebonyi State traumatised by these despicable acts of wickedness.

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