$1 billion dollar for fighting defeated insurgents
(FILES) This picture taken on April 30, 2013 shows Nigerian troops patrolling in the streets of the remote northeast town of Baga, Borno State. Nigeria's military said on May 16, 2013 that it was ready to launch air strikes against Boko Haram Islamists as several thousand troops moved to the remote northeast to retake territory seized by the insurgents. A force of "several thousand" soldiers along with fighter jets and helicopter gunships have been deployed for the offensive in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa state, he added. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEIPIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images
We were taken aback by the announcement, last week, that the National Economic Council has approved $1 billion to be spent by the federal government from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast region – the same Boko Haram the government and the army repeatedly assured it had defeated technically, had been dislodged from their stronghold of Sambisa forest and which no longer controls an inch of Nigeria’s territory but whose remnant and fleeing members could only attack soft targets. The excess crude account had a balance of only $2.317 billion as at December 13, 2017. The natural question to ask therefore since there was no specifics or breakdown of how the money is to be spent is; why devote a whole $1 billion dollars (N360 billion) to fighting a defeated and fleeing enemy?
Also, for added measure, the Chairman of the governor’s forum, Abdulaziz Yari, told the media the governors of the 36 states of Nigeria approved the withdrawal even though Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose has denied ever agreeing to such plan. Regardless, many questions beg for answers. First, the money in the Excess Crude Account belong to the three tiers of government (the federal, state and local governments) and by extension the entire citizenry. The federal and state governments or more appropriately, their executives alone cannot decide on what to do with it to the exclusion of the local governments and especially the representatives of the people. It is not some personal money; therefore the governors have no right to grant permission to the federal government to use it for whatever purpose without due process. Secondly, when have the National Economic Council and the Governor’s forum become a legislative institution with the power of the purse when there is a legitimate National Assembly in place and constitutionally assigned to perform that function? This is impunity that must not be allowed to pass.
Besides, the government is proposing to spend another N422 billion (the second highest in the proposed budget) for Defence in the 2018 budget. This is separate from the $1 billion approved by the NEC and governor’s forum.
What is more, there are several interventions being undertaken in the Northeast both by government and the private sector including the Presidential Initiative in the North East (PINE), whose money the sacked Secretary to the Federal Government helped himself and his associates generously to, the Northeast Development Agency, private sector led Northeast fund, interventions by national and international Non-Governmental Organisations, the dedicated focus by the World Bank as requested by the president; all targeted at rebuilding the region.
The lack of clarity and accountability in the release and utilisation of funds to prosecute the war on insurgency is beginning to expose the farce that is the war on terror. It appears, like many informed analysts and watchers of events in Nigeria have been insinuating, that there’s a huge industry sustaining the war on Boko Haram and ensuring the war never ends.
We demand that the National Assembly refuse and insist on the government not touching any funds from the Excess Crude Account without its approval. Before such approval is granted, the government must come clean on the state of the war on terror, the particular items and programmes it needs funds for and also exhaustively account for all previous funds approved for the war. Just like the government has been regaling us with tales of how the previous administration used the funds meant for buying weapons to prosecute the 2015 elections, we may not be surprise to learn, after the tenure of this administration, that similar or worse practices were perpetrated under this administration.
It is time the National Assembly act to prevent a few individuals from continually looting of the commonwealth in the name of fighting a non-existent war on terror.
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