One of the signatures of most African countries including Nigeria is easy access to national resources by those in government. That is why the National Economic Council (NEC) with state governors in attendance took a decision to dip hands into Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account without involving the National Assembly. This time, the sum of US$1 billion is to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram insurgents. But no one has told Nigerians how the NEC arrived at the sum of US$ 1 billion.
Undoubtedly, Nigerians want peace and not war because no nation has benefitted from a prolonged warfare. A thorough analysis of Nigeria’s domestic environment considering all implications is strategic as it would enhance one’s understanding of the security challenges the nation is currently facing. Given the nature of security challenges in Nigeria namely, insurgency, militancy, kidnapping, herdsmen attacks, sea robbery, and armed robbery amongst others, any government is likely to make security decisions that are perceived by citizens as those designed to perpetuate itself in power. That is why some observers have professed that the sum of US$1 billion from the Excess Crude Account is to be used by the current regime to elongate its tenure in office beyond 2019.
When the Federal Government came on air to inform Nigerians in 2015 that “Boko Haram is technically defeated,” this writer laughed quietly. This writer’s reaction was inspired by the fact that the “technical” defeat of Boko Haram is not the complete story. There are still more stories to be told as the nation moves in time towards 2019 and beyond. One would have expected the FG that came into power thirty one months ago in the midst of complex national security challenges to come up with a defence policy. And thereafter, articulate a defence procurement policy that is transparently crafted to ease acquisition process and perhaps, give a boost to the “Made in Nigeria” initiative. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Without a defence procurement policy, the FG wants to “purchase security equipment, procure intelligence, and logistics and all what is required to finally put an end to the scourge of insurgency.” But can the FG give a timeline as to when the insurgency will end after getting the sum of US$ 1 billion? The FG cannot provide an answer to this question. Since there is no defence policy outlining plans on how the nation wants to tackle all present-day security challenges on land and at sea, that is why Nigerians demand justification for the use of US$1 billion as insurgency funds.
This writer sees a social demand arising from concerns of citizens over the impact which US$1 billion worth of defence equipment would have on human lives. If this amount was to be spent on national security, Nigerians are saying it should not be only on defence. Defence, is just a single component of national security. What about other components of national security namely, education, health, transportation, agriculture, and housing amongst others, which need urgent FG intervention?
Importantly, there should be an acceptable criteria to guide the disposition of such huge public funds on a rational and socially optimal basis. After all, the US$ 1 billion belongs to all Nigerians. That is why Nigerians are interrogating the sudden approval of the huge sum of money because the previous US$ 2.1 billion released for the purchase of arms to fight insurgents was distributed like petty cash to highly connected individuals who are cronies to those in the immediate past regime. Regrettably, the US$ 2.1 billion is yet to be accounted for.
Beyond the debate, are we certain that this new release of fund to fight insurgency will be the game changer? If Nigeria spends US$ 1 billion to re-equip and re-train the military and other security agencies, will there be peace? Or, is the release of US$1 billion the beginning of further releases? These are posers that need to be answered because if Nigeria whose economy is fragile spends “too much” on defence, it is likely to be seen as wasting its resources. And if “too little” was disbursed, the country may be regarded as insecure. The drawback for the former is a lower standard of living for its citizens as reflected in the 2016 report of the United Nations in which Nigeria ranks low in global human growth with a position of 152 out of 193. And for the latter, it may be a loss of authority.
The defence of Nigeria against all forms of internal and external threats is also an economic activity that involves the commitment of resources to the fulfilment of a purpose. Even Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, believes that since defence is for a common good, then it is a necessity that should be done efficiently. Had it been that Nigeria is an industrialized nation, resources committed to defence would have diffused significantly to the productive sector of the economy to satisfy social needs. The resources are directed as inputs to improve manpower, logistics, and to build technical as well as managerial competences. The output will be reflected in military capabilities embodied in warships, aircraft, armoured tanks and other defence equipment aptly supported by logistics, administrative and training elements.
In sum, this writer believes that the FG in concert with all stakeholders needs to articulate a new defence policy from which defence procurement policy will take its root. Nigeria needs a national defence policy that would equip the nation’s military and other security agencies in order to make them more efficient. Nigerians want their nation to be defended against all forms of security challenges. If these policies are not in place, Nigerians will continue to interrogate every move of the FG to spend funds on defence. Season’s greetings to all my esteemed readers. Stay blessed till we meet again in this column in 2018.