The Federal Government and the Senate Committee on Army yesterday disagreed on the place of funding and equipping of the Nigeria Army and the worsening insecurity being witnessed across the country.
The disagreement came to the fore at a meeting between the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, representatives of the Nigeria Army and members of the Senate Committee on Army.
While the lawmakers said that poor funding for the security forces was largely responsible for the growing insecurity, Ahmed said the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning had always prioritised funding for the security forces.
It was gathered that the session was meant to enable the committee interact with the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Lucky Irabor and the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, but the two top military chiefs were unable to attend the meeting due to the security meeting holding at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
They, however, sent their representatives to engage with the lawmakers. Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Sen. Ali Ndume (APC/Borno South) said the meeting was convened for the three parties to discuss the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria and what immediate and long term solutions could be applied to resolving the security challenges. Ndume said he had toured various military formations and that the general complaint by the field commanders of the Nigeria Army was that troops were apparently overwhelmed by the security challenges due to poor funding and inadequate provision of equipment for their operations. Ndume said that given the serious security situation confronting the nation, the most critical thing to do is to find solutions before it became too late.
According to him, the insecurity, which was limited to the North East a few years ago, has now become so widespread that no region is spared the menace today. “Insecurity in our nation is now like a cancer.
Security and welfare of the citizens is the primary purpose of government, but all of us agree that never in the history of this country have we been confronted with the kind of security challenges that we have today.
“The army is overwhelmed, not because they don’t have the capacity or the ability, but because they don’t have the equipment they need to do the job. It has become so bad that the Nigeria Army is rationing ammunition.
We have been having conflicting figures on the budget for security. When we confront the Nigeria Army and ask: ‘Why are you not performing? They will tell us: We don’t have weapons; we are only managing with what we have’. So that is why we invited you to ask: What is going on?
“It has gotten so bad that citizens have resorted to negotiating with criminals in order to live in peace. In Shiroro, Niger State, residents have entered into negotiations with criminals to allow them to exist. In Nigeria of today, we are having a government within a government and all this are happening because of insecurity,” he said.
However, the minister presented a counter argument, inferring that funding might not be the real challenge, but utilisation of available resources.
The Federal Government, Ahmed said, had expended over N203.49 billion on the Nigeria Army since 2019. This captures the sums of money budgeted and released almost a hundred percent covering capital expenditure, overhead costs and extra budgetary releases that were made to the Nigeria Army following special requests and presidential approvals.
“Apart from the fact that we try our best efforts to fund what is provided for in the budget almost a hundred percent, there have also been a lot of instances where the security services go to the President, get special approvals and we still provide the funds.
“So, perhaps what we are providing is not enough, but the fact is that we provide what is budgeted for them. Maybe what we’ll in the end do is to take stock of the real needs of the Nigeria Army. We have an opportunity in the supplementary budget that is coming so we can address some of these things.
“The point I just want to emphasise is that the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has been responsible and responsive to providing funds for the Nigeria Army. We are limited, of course, by the fiscal space, but we have been releasing what is appropriated in the budget.
But we need to sit down and see how we can rearrange the cost of governance so we decide on where to shift our emphasis because of competing demands from other sectors,” she said. The meeting later went into a closed door session and journalists were excused from further coverage of the proceedings.