The Federal Government last night justified the approval by the National Economic Council of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account for the fight against insecurity even as it, for the first time gave reasons for its assertion that the Boko Haram insurgency has been defeated.
The Federal Government’s claims conveyed by the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed during an exclusive interview came as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and some other political stakeholders faulted the resolution of the NEC on the drawing of the money. The PDP in its reaction had alleged that it was unnecessary for the Federal Government to get $1 billion to fight a war the government had in the past claimed to have won. The PDP in its reaction articulated by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan had also alleged that the funds were some surreptitious purposes claiming that the era of lies and propaganda were over.
The claims of the PDP were further articulated by leading human rights lawyer, Barrister Mike Ozekhome who said that lies have an expiry date and also by Senator Mao Ohabunwa, PDP Abia North who faulted the decision by NEC saying that only the National Assembly could release money for the Federal Government. The All Progressives Congress, APC National Publicity Secretary could not be reached as he did not pick calls to his registered phone line. Mohammed in his reaction blamed the PDP alleging that the PDP is now rebranding itself with the stolen money that was originally meant to fight Boko Haram noting that in one day, “the PDP under Jonathan in one day distributed $269 million cash and N100 billion which was supposed to be money meant to fight Boko Haram.” Saying that the PDP does not know when to keep quiet, he said: “the sad thing about PDP is that they do not know when not to talk. If they were smart they would know when not to talk,” Mohammed said.
He further stated...
“If not for their rapacious corruption Boko Haram would not have metamorphosed into the monster that it became before we came in. If only they had approached governance with honesty transparency, and sense of purpose Boko Haram would not have raged between 2009 and 2015, it was their inept handling of Boko Haram and their corruption that put us in this mess. “They seem not to understand that the biggest challenge to any government and the primary responsibility of any government is law and order and security. It is because of the fact that we have been able to contain Boko Haram that they were able to hold their national convention in Abuja.
“During their time they were not able to celebrate the National Day openly. Under their watch, Boko Haram not only occupied 27 local governments in Borno State, but was also active in almost ten states. Not that alone, they used to stroll to the federal capital, and three times they went to bomb the United Nations, the Police headquarters and under their watch, the Thisday newspaper was bombed and under their watch, about 200 Chibok girls were abducted.” Defending the December 2015 declaration by the Federal Government that Boko Haram had been defeated, Mohammed said:
“Why do we say that we have decimated Boko Haram? It is not propaganda. Since we came in 30 months, there has been no single bomb explosion in the Federal Capital, and that is not a mean feat! It is because they don’t understand what security means, they don’t even understand what terrorism means,” he added. “It does not lie in the mouth of the PDP to even criticise the government, and it was their corruption that led us to where we are today. They are spending the same money which they stole, and they are using the money to rebrand themselves, they have no moral justification whatsoever,” the minister fumed yesterday.
The PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ologbondiyan, said the party was alarmed by the subtle plot by the ruling APC administration to secure approvals without recourse to due process, and for purposes of fighting the same insurgents, it earlier claimed to have defeated. “The PDP wondered why the APC-led federal government had to recourse to the National Economic Council (NEC) while avoiding the direct constitutional appropriation channel of the National Assembly for funding of items already provided for in the federal budget if it actually has nothing to hide. “The PDP supports the fight against insurgency.
We hold our officers and men confronting the terrorists and securing our territorial integrity in high esteem, but we are concerned about the manipulative tendencies connected with the approvals as well as the veracity of claimed purpose of the fund,” the statement read in part. While urging the APC-led government to avail Nigerians more information about the intended use of the funds, the party said “Nigerians would recall that the federal government had claimed that it has since defeated the insurgents. If it would take a billion dollar from a nation’s savings to kill what they long claimed dead, then we challenge the APC government to come clean and tell Nigerians the whole truth.
“The era of lies and propaganda is long gone, and Nigerians now know the truth. The federal government must be held accountable and stopped from any move to fritter away our national savings,” even as it called on “The National Assembly to interrogate this proposed disbursement and subject it to a thorough but rapid interrogation.” The party further enjoined the Buhari administration to tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians, saying “By accepting the $1bn for fighting insurgency, the APC-led federal government has admitted that it lied when it announced that it had defeated the insurgents.
They should, therefore, apologize to Nigerians for giving them a false sense of security, resulting in their vulnerability to attacks by terrorists.” The party vowed to inflict heavy defeat on the ruling party come 2019, noting that Nigerians are waiting earnestly for the next general election to make their decision.
Chief Ozekhome on his part said: “My take on this is that lies have expiry date, and when that date comes, the truth will overtake lies. This government demonised the government of Goodluck Jonathan as having failed to degrade Boko Haram, whereas Boko Haram was so degraded that elections held peacefully in the entire six States of the North East. The height of this alleged non- defeat of the Boko Haram is one of the major planks on which they won the elections. “Now, the same government is suddenly asking for $1 billion which is about N365 billion, enough for one of the States in Nigeria, to fight the same Boko Haram. “There are two scenarios here: One, the government has been lying that Boko Haram has been degraded because we have all seen in the last one and half year that Boko Haram has become more vicious, more potent, more daring and more courageous.
“Secondly, money is being quietly taken to prepare for 2019 elections using Boko Haram as an alibi.” Senator Ohabunwa on his part flayed the NEC saying the action was illegal. He said, “Only the National Assembly can appropriate funds for the Federal government. The National Executive Council NEC has no such powers; any money that is not appropriated as prescribed by the act of the National Assembly is illegal.” On his part, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, APC, Kaduna North who noted that no amount to fight would be too much said: “Insurgency in Nigeria is a national calamity. It has cost the nation time, lives and unquantifiable resources.
Any amount to be voted to fight it and remedy our polity of that insecurity is justified. Senator Hunkuyi, however, took issues with the denomination of the currency used in the withdrawal. “The method of funding or sources of funding is yet another issue. It must be stated that the official currency of budget and expenditure in Nigeria is and remains the Nigerian currency which is the Naira.
“While I am not yet in full picture of the source of the funds or areas of expenditure for the funds to cover, I await to be better informed on the sources of funding before making further comments.”