Nigerian Government has described the criticisms trailing the approval of $1bn for the fight against insurgency and other violent crimes in the country as unnecessary and unhelpful.
Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a news conference in Lagos, said the Nigerian Governor’s Forum acted wisely in approving the fund from the Excess Crude Account based on the need to properly fund security operations in the country to adequately respond to threats by Boko Haram and other criminals.
Mohammed pointed out that the approved fund was not to fight Boko Haram in the North East alone but also to tackle kidnapping, cattle rustling, illegal oil bunkering and other crimes.
He expressed dismay that an action intended to make the country safer had been subjected to attacks by people with ulterior motives.
“There has been an unnecessary, uninformed and highly-partisan criticism of the one billion dollars which was recently approved by the Nigeria Governors Forum for the military to tackle the security challenges facing the country, including Boko Haram, illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping and cattle rustling.
“I said unnecessary and uninformed because everyone knows the role the military is playing in helping to tackle the numerous security crisis facing the states, much less the war against Boko Haram.
“The fact that Boko Haram has been largely degraded does not mean the war is over. As we have said times without number, asymmetric wars like the one against Boko Haram do not end with an armistice.
“It is, therefore, curious that some of those who have criticised the $1bn approval have hinged their argument on the fact that the Boko Haram has been degraded.
“Perhaps also, the critics do not know that fighting an asymmetric war is costlier than fighting a conventional war. In any case, wars, especially the war against terror, are never fought with budgetary provisions.
“It is common knowledge that 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 escalate, 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 Nigeria Governors Forum acted wisely in approving the withdrawal of one billion dollars from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram and other security challenges in the country.
“The one billion dollars is not too much to fight our security challenges. Afterall, security of lives and property is at the core of the existence of any government, and the NGF understands this quite well, going by its action in approving the withdrawal from the ECA”, he said.
Further justifying the approval, the Mohammed said military operations in the North East cost the country a lot of money.
He said the aircraft being used for the war, including fighter jets and helicopters altogether consumed 64,021.08 litres of fuel per day amounting to N15.153m daily to fuel the aircraft.
The minister said that spares for the aircraft from January to November 2017 cost a total of N20,019m while consumables for the aircraft, and here I am talking of engine oil, plugs etc, amounted to N 3.86m monthly.
Mohammed said that between November 5th to December 17th, the amount spent on ammunition was over $5m.
“Since we are using the air force as a reference point here, what about the cost of acquiring air force platforms? For example, the twelve Super Tuscano aircraft recently approved for sale to Nigeria by the US Government costs a whopping $490m, yet this is Government to Government contract and the costs of spares, ammunition and other consumables are not included.
“The costs stated above are for the air force alone and restricted to operations in the North East alone.
“We have not even talked of the army or the navy, which are also fully involved in tackling internal security challenges in the country. Neither have we included the operating cost of the Nigerian Air Force in the Niger Delta to curb pipeline vandalism, in the North West to contain cattle rustlers, in the North Central to curtail herdsmen and farmers clashes or kidnappings, armed robberies and separatism in other parts of the country,” the minister said.
Mohammed said there was nothing wrong in the opposition offering constructive criticism as democracy allowed freedom of expression.
He, however, said freedom of expression was not a licence for anyone to distort facts, engage in crass sensationalism or bring partisanship to every issue, especially that concerned security of the nation.
The minister said those who viewed this one billion-dollar approval by the NGF from the prism of partisanship were wrong, cautioning that the military was arguably undoubtedly the most national of the country’s institutions and hence should not be dragged into partisanship.