Disturbed by the rising insecurity in Nigeria, the Senate Committee on Army, yesterday, summoned the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, Director General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze and Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen.Ibrahim Attahiru, to appear before it on Tuesday to give details of funds so far released to the military in fighting insurgency, banditry and related ills from 2019 till date.
The panel’s chairman, Senator Ali Ndume, who met with officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja, regretted the minister’s absence. He said: “Honestly, we are not happy that the Minister of Finance is not here (yesterday) despite the fact that she was duly invited and she knew the importance of the issue we invited her to discuss with us.
“There is nothing more important that she could be attending to than the serious problem of insecurity all over Nigeria at the moment. We were blaming the military but the soldiers are claiming that they have no equipment, arms and ammunition to work with because there was no money to buy them.
“We have invited the minister now to explain why her ministry was not funding the operations of the Army and she is not here. This is not acceptable.”
The Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the ministry, Aliyu Shinkafi, had told the committee that N75 billion was appropriated and released in 2019, while another N7 billion from the service-wide vote was also fully disbursed besides the N2.5 billion released in same year.
In 2020, N75 billion was appropriated but N74.99 billion was given out. In the current year, N100 billion had been appropriated with N19.4 billion paid out in the first quarter. Just yesterday, we released N19.95 billion for the second quarter.
“I believe that we are on course as far as releases are concerned,” Shinkafi added.
However, Ndume brandished a letter from the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) where he said the military authorities complained of shortfall in releases from the ministry.
“The letter from the Defence Headquarters on the funding of Operations Lafiya Dole is claiming that they have a shortfall of N50 billion in terms of releases and requested us to do a follow-up on the matter,” he stated.
The funding of military operations in Nigeria, especially in the fight against Boko Haram since 2009, is like an iron knot that has not been easy to untie. There has always been allegations that funds released are either inadequate, not received, pilfered or mismanaged.
This has largely accounted for why the performance of the country’s field operations has been dismal. The rag-tag Boko Haram are better equipped and motivated.Soldiers have died in their scores, some local government areas in the Northeastern states have been seized and captured and innocent civilians have died or displaced from their homes. President Buhari must wake up to his responsibilities immediately.