On November 21, 2023, the country’s Service Chiefs appeared before the House of Representatives at plenary on a sectoral debate for Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Present at the plenary were the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogala; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar; and Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun.
In their submissions, the security heads took turn to grouse about lack and delay of the justice system to deal with the suspected terrorists; inadequate and delay in release of funding; rising cost of aviation fuel; porous borders and manpower disposition; as well as renewal of main and support facilities.
In the responses of the Service Chiefs to the House, two points were very pressing to us: and they were: The central grouse about poor funding and failed justice administration. Hear the CDS: “I have been in the North East; there were a lot of Boko Haram elements that have been captured. We have kept them for five to six years. We the Armed Forces can arrest but cannot prosecute. Some of them have been found wanting, but no prosecution. We are keeping them for this lengthy period. Everyone is accusing the Armed Forces of keeping them against their human rights, but we cannot prosecute.
“Another aspect of the judiciary is that you use all your efforts to make an arrest, you hand them over, and before you enter your vehicle, the man has been released on bail. Now you have risked yourself in doing that. By the time he is released, he goes to tell the people the person that arrested him. Now your family members or you are at risk.
“We have the issue in the South South, the last ship was arrested 10 years ago; the ship went and changed its name, changed its colour and came back again. By the time they handed over the ship and before you know it, it was released. We must have a special court to look into it. That is why we arrest and destroy them because the longer we keep them, it becomes a problem.”
The CDS revealed that about 140,000 terrorists have surrendered and are awaiting disarmament. While claiming that there was no single territory currently being occupied by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, Musa dropped another shocker, alleging that the Military was always under pressure to release detained terrorists.
The truth be told, the CDS’s exposure was a serious indictment on the judiciary and Nigeria Police Force.
Of course with the connivance of the “black sheep” in the Military, still, the Police and judiciary shoulder the highest blame as they enjoy the constitutional rights to prosecute and punish the arrested insurgents respectively. This is certainly the undoing of the two sectors and the main reason insecurity is still unabated! With the two as willing tools, and their co-criminals in various Military formations, insurgency has been commercialised and since become racket – real time business venture for the wicked, ruthless, heartless and unpatriotic elements in both Military, Police Force and judiciary.
Although, this angle is not the focus of this commentary, yet, the CDS’s affirmation of the points which many security concerned Nigerians have made are pivotal, very relevant to the conversation and require serious attention, urgent and deliberate actions by the powers that be, in particular, the Federal Government, if we’re ready to end the long, criminal and scandalous insurgency, especially in some Northern parts of the country.
Now to the lamentations on poor funding. We’re bold to assert that the real issue and question is not only about meagre upkeep, rather, what has become of the votes released for security and getting arms to wage war against insurgents over the years?
The immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari in his war against corruption immediately after assuming office late May 2015 set up an investigative committee to unravel the arms purchase scandal credited to the administration of his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The committee in its report submitted in December 2015 on arms procurement said the total extra budgetary interventions it collated was N643.8 billion, while the foreign currency component was $2.2 billion. The amount was excluding grants from the state governments and funds collected by the Directorate of State Services and the Police. The committee said it observed 513 contracts awarded at $8,356,525,184.32; N2,189,265,724,404.55 and 54,000.00 euros. Sadly, out of the whole, the committee related that 53 were failed contracts and they amounted to: $2,378,939,066.27 and N13,729,342,329.87 respectively.
Again, the committee reported that N3.850 billion was paid to a single company by a former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd), shockingly without documented evidence of contractual agreements or fulfilment of tax obligations to the Federal Government! Dasuki also awarded fake contracts amounting to: N2,219,188,609.50; $1,671,742,613.58 and 9,905,477.00 euros. Whereas, the same contracts were supposed to be for the purchase of four Alpha Jets, 12 helicopters, bombs and ammunition, but the contracts were never executed! No equipment or inventory was supplied to the Nigerian Air Force! Following the scam, Sambo was on trial over a $2.2 billion arms purchase scandal during Buhari’s administration.
On March 7, 2016, the late Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, was remanded at the Kuje Maximum Prison as he was arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over fraud. This was related to the diversion of N3.9 billion meant for the purchase of arms for the Nigerian Military. Badeh was docked on a 10-count charge, bothering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption. He was caught for using funds allocated to the Nigerian Air Force to purchase a mansion in Abuja. A former Chief of Air Staff, Adesola Amosu, was also indicted for diversion of arms funds.
As of September, 2022, the Federal Government has spent over N6 trillion on security in the last 11 years. Records showed that much of the huge sum was spent by former President Buhari’s administration. But what do we have to show for this? More spending, less results.
Still counting, President Bola Tinubu recently signed a N2.18 trillion supplementary budget for the 2023 fiscal year. Inside it, the sum of N575.6 billion special funding was budgeted to boost the war against insecurity. Out of the sum, a total of N184.25 billion was earmarked for the purchase of military equipment, arms and ammunition.
As established earlier, the question is beyond the votes released, whether adequate or not, but more importantly is: What has been achieved with them? The unfortunate experience about Nigeria is that our case is like “manning a cat to watch over fried fish”.
Nonetheless, as much as we appreciate the all-important demands of the Service Chiefs, we put it back to them that their predecessors have contributed immensely to the present security mess Nigeria has plunged since 2009 to date. We also hold that the present Service Chiefs have been part of the system and hardly could disprove financial recklessness of their ex-superiors. There must be a definite end to the ravaging insecurity in this land!
On this, there is wisdom in the words of advice given by the South West Zonal Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, Femi Olaniyi, while reacting to the signing into law of the Defence Corporation Bill by President Tinubu. Speaking on the document sponsored by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson (APC-Ikorodu Federal Constituency) Olaniyi, after lauding Tinubu for his assent to the Bill, counselled: “It doesn’t however end there, we need good supervision so that the intention of those who sponsored it will not be defeated. If it will be well supervised, it will be a plus for the nation to locally produce military equipment. This is apt and if well managed, the nation will be empowered to fight against insurgencies and other security challenges. It will boost the morale of our troops and combatants. With good equipment, our military men will not shy away from their responsibilities. This is a good thing but it doesn’t end here.” Taking his advice home, Olaniyi advocated for constituting a committee that would oversee all allocations to the Corporation, so as to ensure that public funds were spent for the purpose they were meant for. This is apt and awesome!
Olaniyi is a politician and from the opposition camp for that matter. Still, we totally and strongly align with his position and his pragmatic solutions. There is similarity in Olaniyi’s advisory words and current the CAS’s admonition to the fresh winged pilots last week. That, just like Abubakar was counselling on justifying the huge investment on the new pilots, so also is that all the vital stakeholders must work diligently to actualise the objectives of the new law. We therefore offer that: to properly and adequately address the questions arising from security funding – to tackle all forms of insecurity in this country, the conversation should be taken beyond the votes, but how judicious the custodians of the allocations have been able to, or will utilise them. In other words, transparency, accountability, probity, discipline and real spirit of patriotism must be brought to bear from all players in handling and managing the insecurity challenges stirring the country at face.