The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) views with alarm the recent request by President Goodluck Jonathan to the National Assembly for approval of a whopping $1 Billion to aid security forces fighting terrorists in the volatile North East. Alongside all civil society organizations who have kept a close watch on the Federal Government’s efforts and spending on the war against terror in the North East, we are disturbed that this request will end up plunging Nigeria into a needless situation of indebtedness, without precipitating substantially positive results for the ongoing war against the insurgents in the North East.
We oppose any attempt by government to use the insurgency as an alibi to plunge Nigeria into further debt, knowing the implications of such for future generation of Nigerians, especially when unsustainable debts are incurred for purposes that do not impact on the welfare of the ordinary Nigerian.
However, our most compelling reason for disagreeing with this move for a loan ostensibly meant to fight Boko Haram is that so much money has gone into defense expenditures since 2011 without commensurate results in terms of security and stability in the areas the military has been operating in. This is why we hasten to ask: what has become of all of the monies budgeted for defence expenditures since 2009? Conservative estimates put Nigeria’s annual defence budget at $6 billion. The Nigerian public is however loathe to think that majority of these funds are usually diverted by top-ranking government and military officials for personal use.
The result is that the Nigerian military, which used to have the myth of invincibility across Africa and the world, has been serially demystified by the sheer audacity of the Boko Haram insurgents. Now, the images assailing the minds of traumatized Nigerians is that of Nigerian soldiers who are not able to hold their own in many of the encounters with Boko Haram agents of death.
Not so long ago, flustered by his increasingly role as chief mourner of dead citizens mowed down by the unending blood spilling, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima declared that the Boko Haram insurgents were better armed and motivated than the military.
There is no doubt that in the area of armament, Nigerian soldiers risking their lives in combat against the insurgents are poorly armed and equipped for this difficult job. Recent standoffs between the military and the insurgents in places like Damboa, where we hear that the sect has hoisted its flag, point to the challenge of poor armament our security forces are faced with.
It is for this reason the TMG believes there is a need to revisit Nigeria’s defence spending to see if state resources have actually been deployed to put the Nigerian military in a state of combat readiness were utilized for that purpose.
For the period the militancy in the Niger Delta lasted, the ready excuse used to explain away daring onslaughts of the militants was the geography of the oil bearing region, made of interminable creeks crossing the length and breadth of the Delta. In the case of Boko Haram however, there are no creeks which the enemies of the state could use in beating a retreat after launching attacks. The operation against the insurgents in the North East is an affair on land, with some measure of air surveillance.
Naturally, the first point to begin the scrutiny of the military is in the area of defence spending, which has been on the rise since 2009 in response to the escalation of the conflict in the North East. However, the spike in defence spending has not translated to better security on the ground, leaving many citizens with the worrisome status of being refugees in their own country due to the raging conflict. In 2010 for example, figures from the Nigerian Budget Office showed that the Ministry of Defence got N232 billion. Interestingly too, that particular year 192 billion of the amount went into recurrent expenditure, while capital projects took about N40 billion. The few provisions that could be said to have had an impact with respect to equipping troops included such ventures as the “development for land, sea and air application,” which took N40 million of the year’s budget.
The 2010 budget of the ministry also talked of providing “a production line for riffles with similar characteristics as the AK 47 riffle.” Beyond these few and far in between provisions for actual hardware needed in this time of the war against terrorists, majority of the budgets went into paying for personnel costs and other related overheads. In 2013, N297 billion was budgeted for the ministry, while the sum of N340 billion was proposed in 2014. The worry is that all of these huge sums have not translated into the sorely needed peace Nigerians would have expected.
With all of these funds budgeted that have not translated to much for the men fighting on the ground, and security in the North East generally, we contend that the extra $1billion being sought would amount to throwing money at a problem to which previous monies thrown have not yielded commendable results. TMG opposes this request in its entirety; we call on the National Assembly to reject this proposal, and urgently begin to setting up of a framework to demand accountability from the military. We make bold to say that the monies being expended belong to the Nigerian people, who have always demanded accountability and transparency in the way the common wealth is being managed by those so placed to do so.
TMG strongly believes that there is a nexus between the high youth unemployment in Nigeria and violent crimes that have continued to undermine our nation’s stability. In the North East especially, there is an army of teeming unemployed youths who are being recruited and brainwashed by the terrorists and used as cannon fodders in Boko Haram’s campaign of hate. One crucial soft power strategy to stop Boko Haram is dependent on blocking their recruitment of jobless young people by getting these mainly impressionable youths into gainful employment.
TMG strongly believes this strategy will deprive the terrorists the human beings they have been co-opting into their campaign of mindless violence and hate. In this regard, TMG is calling for an immediate declaration of a State of Emergency to address the unemployment situation in Nigeria. An emergency declaration would allow government to take drastic measures, which would include the mobilisation pof public and private resources to begin to get our young people back to work.
We are certain that within the context of the insurgency in the North East, such an emergency pronouncement and its ancillary follow up, would provide a viable lifeline for many youths who currently have no option, except the one being dangled before them by terrorists.
Getting young Nigerians back to work across the country will not only further boost Nigeria’s rebased economy, it will deprive groups with nefarious tendencies the manpower the need to perpetrate unwholesome activities like political violence and other sundry crimes. This is an even more crucial point to make as the 2015 general elections loom,
We therefore insist that borrowing of any kind for funding of the war against terror is not in the interest of Nigerians. We reject the $1billion loan request on this basis.