The announcement last week by the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, after the meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) whose members are drawn from Nigeria’s 36 state governors and is chaired by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, that Nigerian governors have agreed in principle to approve the withdrawal of $1 billion dollars from the Excess Crude Account have elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians. The money is meant for the funding of the Nigerian military operations in the North East against the dreaded Boko Haram sect which has waged an 8 year insurgency war against the Nigerian state. The plan by the governors which is yet to be approved has drawn knocks from the Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party with both of them going ahead to make wild claims that the All Progressives Congress led Federal government intends to use the money to rig the 2019 elections in it’s favour.
It is tragic that Nigeria is arguably one of the few countries in the world where we play politics with everything including security matters. Despite, the fierce criticism of and strong opposition to many of his policies, American President Donald Trump was given an $8 billion dollars increase in his military budget proposals for 2017 from $692 billion dollars which he proposed in the budget to $700 billion dollars with approval coming from both sides of the aisles in Congress. Ironically, this budget approval and increase, the highest in 8 years, was given to a President whose foreign policies are geared more towards isolationism than internationalism.
That is why i am stupefied by the attempt by Governor Fayose and the PDP to politicize the attempt to increase military spending at a time when the media is awash with news reports of the resurgence of the Boko Haram sect with attacks on several villages and towns in Borno State in recent times. The resurgence in Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria especially when it is known to have abated significantly since the inception of the Muhammadu Buhari administration which made the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to declare that it had been technically defeated in 2016 could be due to a multiplicity of factors. One of them is the collapse of the ISIS Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Do not forget that Boko Haram has pledged loyalty to ISIS and even changed it’s official nomenclature to ISIS West Africa, so it is possible that defeated ISIS fighters and Commanders in the Middle East have relocated to West Africa with their money, and armaments: first, as a safe haven and second to give support to their demented comrades in West Africa.
President Muhammadu Buhari has spent far less money on fighting Boko Haram than his immediate predecessor, Former President Goodluck Jonathan. According to Premium Times, an online news medium, famed for it’s investigative style of reporting news stories, in a news report on the 25th of September, 2014 claimed that the Goodluck Jonathan administration had spent N1trillion naira ($6 billion dollars at N160=$1dollar exchange rate then) on fighting Boko Haram. This is besides the $1 billion dollars loan to fight Boko Haram which it secured approval from the Nigerian Senate in 2014, the alleged N2.2 billion naira given to Pastors and Imams for prayers against Boko Haram and the famous $2.1 billion dollars “Dasukigate” which was distributed to the top echelons of the PDP and their associates in order to facilitate Dr Jonathan’s reelection in 2015. All these figures amount to a total of $9.1 billion dollars and N2.2 billion naira and this is not even inclusive of the annual Defence budget during Dr Jonathan’s five years in power. Are you therefore surprised that many serving and retired military officers are currently on trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for fraud running into several billions of dollars? This money was originally meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition for the military in the fight against Boko Haram. Buhari’s budget spending on Defence (for 2 years) including the proposed $1billion dollars to fight Boko Haram does not in any way come close to Dr Jonathan’s $9.1 billion dollars (exclusive of his annual Defence Budget for 5 years) as it is an open secret that Buhari came to power in a time of economic recession with record-low oil prices internationally, depleted foreign reserves, and an almost empty treasury including a very low balance in the Excess Crude Account so there is no way he could have spent more than Jonathan who ruled in a time of great economic prosperity with oil prices at a record high of $140 billion dollars a barrel.
The fears by some that the $1billon dollars would be embezzled by senior military officers again is unfounded as President Buhari has set up institutional mechanisms to combat this ugly trend which began in the Jonathan era. The recent sack and replacement of some military commanders and soldiers in the theatre of war in the North East bears eloquent testimony of Buhari’s resolve to rid the military of corrupt elements.
The military solution to the Boko Haram insurgency which Buhari and the military are pursuing is brilliant and deserves commendation. The long-term plan is to corral civilians inside forrtified garrison towns-effectively ceding the countryside to the haramists. The Nigerian military does not have the number and the logistics to effectively police the entire North East due to it’s large size, sweltering heat and unfavourable weather conditions, and numerous deserts which serve as entry and exit pathways for the haramists to Nigeria from neighbouring countries. Sambisa Forest alone is 5,000 square kilometers which makes it bigger than the whole of Lagos State which is 3,000 square kilometers. Yet, this is just a forest and not even a town in Borno State! I leave it to you to imagine the sizes of the towns and villages in Borno and the entire North East.
Finally, no amount of money is too much to spend in securing the lives and properties of the citizenry which is the primary purpose of government. Money cannot buy life but it can prevent the loss of lives. I urge all Nigerians to join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari and the military in defeating Boko Haram technically, militarily and pursuing these forces of evil to the gates of hell.