Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed has shed light on the approval of $1 billion by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to fight insecurity nationwide.
He said the money was approved to assist the military in tackling serious security challenges, including the Boko Haram insurgency, illegal oil bunkering, kidnaping and cattle rustling.
Mohammed took exception to the criticisms of the approval by the opposition, saying that they were unnecessary, uninformed and in bad faith.
To the minister, $1 billion is not too much for the military to fight insecurity. Security of lives and property is at the core of the government’s existence, he said.
He said while Boko Haram had been largely degraded, as claimed by the critics, fighting such an asymmetric war is costlier than fighting a conventional war.
The minister reminded the critics that the war against terror had never been fought with budgetary provisions.
Mohammed spoke with reporters in Lagos on the motivation for approving the cash and its anticipated impact on the capacity of the military to frontally confront the multi-dimensional security challenges.
Justifying the financial assistance to the military, the minister said it had played a dominant role in in resolving the various security problems across the federation.
Mohammed said: “The annual budgetary allocation to the military is not commensurate with the internal security challenges we face, for which we have had to continuously rely on the military to assist the police and the Civil Defence Corps. When insurgents take over a chunk of our nation’s territory, we turn to the military. When the farmers/herders clash escalates, we turn to the military.
“When kidnappers up their game, we turn to the military; when illegal bunkerers and pipeline vandals are seeking to overwhelm our oil production and export, we turn to the military; when ethno-religious clashes occur, we turn to the military. But when it is time to give the military the resources it needs to function, we say it is a waste of scarce resources; we come up with spurious reasons to deny the military its due.”
“The scriptures say to whom much is given, much is expected. That also presupposes that to whom much is expected, much is given. The Nigeria Governors Forum acted wisely in approving the withdrawal of 1 billion dollars from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight Boko Haram and other security challenges in the country.”
Mohammed said: “The aircraft being used for the war, including fighter jets and helicopters, altogether, consume 64,021.08 litres of fuel per day. With the aircraft flying a total of about 30 sorties a day, and at N275 per litre, it costs a total of N15,153,428.25 daily to fuel the aircraft.
“The spares for the aircraft from January to November 2017 cost N20,019,513,739.88, while consumables for the aircraft, and here I am talking of engine oil, and plugs amounted to N3,863,600 monthly and N46,363,200.00 yearly. What about the cost of ammunition? Just for 42 days, from 5th November to 17 December, the cost of ammunition was over 5 million dollars.
“Since we are using the Air Force as a reference point here, what about the cost of acquiring Air Force platforms? For example, the 12 Super Tuscano aircraft recently approved for sale to Nigeria by the US Government costs a whopping 490 million dollars, yet this is government to government contract, and the costs of spares, munitions and other consumables are not included.
“The costs stated above are for the air force alone and restricted to operations in the Northeast alone. We have not even talked of the army or the navy, which are also fully involved in tackling internal security challenges. Nor have we included the operating cost of the Nigerian Air Force in the Niger Delta to curb pipeline vandalism, in the Northwest to contain cattle rustlers, in the Northcentral to curtail herdsmen and farmers clashes or kidnapping, armed robberies and separatism in other parts of the country.”
Noting that the opposition has the right to offer constructive criticism, Mohammed said that such a right was not a liberty to distort facts, engage in crass sensationalism and play politics with national security.
He chided those viewing the security fund from the prism of partisanship for wrong perception, pointing out that the military, as a national institution, serves all Nigerians, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity or political party.
Mohammed said if the military had been better equipped to tackle Boko Haram in the early days of the insurgency, thousands of lives, including service men’s, could have been saved and the war would have ended long time ago.
He added: “If the funds meant to equip the military have not been diverted into private pockets, there may be no need today to withdraw any money from the ECA for that purpose.”
The minister praised the NGF for approving the withdrawal of the money, describing its action as an act of patriotism.
He added: “Their action, which is not unprecedented, is right. Those who have imputed ulterior motives to the NGF’s action are wrong. Their action amounts to a disservice to our service men and women. Just because some people, under a different political dispensation, squirrelled away money meant to equip the military in the past does not mean the military should be left to its own devices, or that every allocation to the military will suffer the same fate.
“Ours is a disciplined government that does not allow allocated funds to end up in private pockets or spent on prayers. We will always empower the military and other security agencies to be better able to carry out their tough tasks. The controversy over the approval of 1billion dollars by the NGF is absolutely unnecessary and unhelpful.”