Nigeria plans to lend its neighbours a hand in the anti-Boko Haram war, it was learnt at the weekednd.
The Federal Government requested for $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to bolster the military’s capacity to assist neighbouring countries, Defence Minister Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali said.
The conference of Ministers of Defence and Chiefs of Defence Staff of member-states of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) held in Chad recommended an inclusive plan to clear out Boko Haram insurgents from the region.
The Federal Government has got the approval of the National Economic Council (NEC) to spend $1billion from the ECA.
Gen. Dan-Ali said in Lagos that the approval of the money “is in order” because it was needed to “finish off the degraded Boko Haram”.
Gen. Dan-Ali was in Lagos for the retirement/graduation of 403 soldiers who underwent skills acquisition training at the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre (NAFRC), Oshodi, Lagos.
The retired soldiers are 281 from the Army, 17 from the Navy and 105 from the Air Force.
The Minister said: “Boko Haram has been really degraded. I just returned from Chad from the Conference of Ministers of Defence of the Multinational Joint Task Force.
“These are (the $1b) some of the initiatives we are looking forward to from the Federal Government so that this Boko Haram is finally degraded and finished off.”
It was gathered that a greater chunk of the money would be spent on the acquisition of military equipment and capacity building for the Nigerian troops and militaries of neighbouring countries.
The government was worried that Boko Haram had more firing power and expertise than the armed forces of some of our neighbouring countries.
A source said: “One of the reasons this Boko Haram insurgency became difficult to contain is because the armed forces of our neighbours lack capacity. They neither have the equipment nor the expertise to prosecute the war. That is why the terrorists always run to their countries when they cannot withstand the heat from Nigeria.
“Another problem is that they see the war as a Nigerian thing. But with the JTF, all the countries affected have come to realise the need to be ready. I can tell you that the $1b is to be used for state-of-the-art equipment and boost the capacity of the forces of these countries.”
Borno State Governor Kashim Shetima also defended the approval by the National Economic Council (NEC) of $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to battle Boko Haram.
The decision has been criticised in some circles, particularly because the government had declared Boko Haram degraded.
Shettima said the decision was in line with international best practices.
He argued that the best time to strengthen a country’s military is not when it is suffering defeat or weak but rather when it is in a position of strength either by winning a war or when there are no security challenges.
Shettima, whose state is the epicentre of the Boko Haram crisis, spoke in Kaduna yesterday in his capacity as Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum. He attended the Kaduna (Northern) centenary celebration on Saturday.
Shettima said: “First, I think it is really important for us not to play politics with national security because whatever ambition anyone might have for 2019, first, Nigeria has to be in continued existence before such ambition can make any sense. I was laughing when I read series of attacks on the Federal Government over that approval of one billion dollars. Some of these statements even said it was an irony for such an amount to be budgeted whereas the Federal Government has claimed to have decimated the Boko Haram. I think those saying this need to have a better understanding of what National Security entails. The fact that Boko Haram is incapacitated is even the more reason why we should strengthen our military because the best time to make your military strong is when you are in position of strength not when you are weak. Let me give you one example. According to the 2017 Global Peace Index, whichý ranked 163 countries according to their levels of safety and peacefulness, Switzerland is ranked amongst the first ten countries that are the safest and most peaceful in the world. Switzerland is spending 4.8 billion dollars to strengthen the capacity of its military. Mind you, Switzerland has a population of only 8.3 million and they don’t have Boko Haram, they don’t have ethnic militias, they don’t have rural armed bandits, they don’t have cattle rustlers, they don’t have kidnappers, they don’t have militancy and ethno-religious conflicts. Switzerland is not even vulnerable to external aggression of terrorists. The crime rate in Switzerland is one of the lowest on earth yet they are spending 4.8 billion dollars to make their military stronger than it already is.”
“As second example, still from the 2017 Global Peace Index, Denmark is the fifth most peacful and safest country in the world. Denmark has a population of only five million people but they are spending $3billion to strengthen their military. The entire country is less than any of our most populated states, like Kano and Lagos. Denmark doesn’t have one per cent of our kind of security challenges yet they are spending huge to raise their military.
”Gathering information is expensive. I know what it entails for information to be gathered before one single successful operation against a group of Boko Haram is carried out. ýI think those people saying all sorts of things should please not play politics with the security of this country.”
Shettima added: “The NEC that approved that fund had Governors from different political parties. As responsible leaders, governors know what security entails because every governor deals with one or more security issues. Before you hear of one security incident, many might have been averted through proactive intelligence gathering and actions and these cost money. ýThe President Buhari we all know will not preside over a situation where monies meant for arms will be shared or misappropriated by anyone for whatever reason. President Buhari has proved to be more than sincere in all his efforts so far, in fighting Boko Haram. I am on the ground.”
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike said a special cash should also be given to Niger Delta to battle insecurity and environmental degradation
Wike said while he would not condemn the release of a $1billion to tackle Boko Haram, the environmental and security challenges in the Niger Delta far outweighed the Boko Haram conflict.
Speaking during the Annual General Meeting of Okpo Club of Nigeria (Association of Ikwerre Lawyers) at the weekend in Port Harcourt, he said:
“Niger Delta environmental problems are as serious as the Boko Haram Insurgency. I am not saying that you should not fight Boko Haram.
“If you can get funds from the National Pool to tackle Boko Haram, then you should go to the pool to get funds to fight environmental problems in Ogoni and other Niger Delta communities.”
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “urgently explain to Nigerians why the government decided to withdraw $1 billion from the ECA to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, if his government is to avoid the intense secrecy and lack of accountability and oversight of the spending on Boko Haram that characterised the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.”
In a statement, SERAP Deputy Director Timothy Adewale, said: ”Nigerians should have some sense of what it is the government is doing in our name, especially against the background of the declaration by the authorities that the anti-insurgency war has ended and the Boko Haram terror group defeated, as well as the unresolved questions on how over $2bn was spent by former Jonathan’s administration to fight Boko Haram. The government also ought to tell Nigerians whether and how the legal requirements for approving the extra-budgetary allocations were met.”