President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the purchase of equipment worth $1bn for the military.

The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, stated this in an interview with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting that Buhari had with security chiefs at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday.

“What I can add after all that I have said is to inform you that of recent, our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, gave approval for the purchase of more equipment for the military, worth $1bn,” the minister said.

Although Dan-Ali did not disclose the source of the money, the National Economic Council, chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, had in December 2017 approved the withdrawal of $1bn from the Excess Crude Account to fight insecurity.

The minister described the meeting with the President as a “normal meeting of security agencies in the country.”

He said issues concerning security situation in some states, including Taraba and Zamfara, were discussed.

On what to expect after the deployment of troops in Zamfara, Dan-Ali said, “We have operationalised a division in Sokoto. There will be a Brigade in Katsina and another Brigade in Zamfara that will take care of security situation in the areas.

“Of course, the strength of security personnel has increased, including the air force additional quick response group; they have added enough manpower in that area.”

He said efforts were being intensified to secure the release of Leah Sharibu, the Dapchi schoolgirl still being held by Boko Haram because she allegedly refused to renounce Christianity.

However, the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council did not hold on Wednesday.

As of the time of filing this report, no official reason was given for the cancellation of the meeting which usually holds every Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Buhari presides over the FEC that has Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; all ministers and some presidential aides as members.

BBOG, CD, CDHR, others knock Buhari

The #BringBackOurGirls movement on Wednesday deplored the approval of $1bn by the President, noting that the nation had not got any value for the huge amount spent so far on fighting insurgency in the North-East.

The BBOG spokesman, Sesugh Akume, described the fight against insurgency as “a money-making scheme,” wondering why the government needed to spend additional $1bn to fight the insurgents it claimed to have defeated.

He said, “The whole thing is a money-making scheme; our movement did an analysis of the money spent on fighting insurgency since 2011 and it has been within that range and we have not had value for the money we have spent.

“The government claimed to have defeated Boko Haram, so what are we spending $1bn on?”

Also, two civil society organisations, the Campaign for Democracy and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, said the approval of $1bn could extend the insurgency, calling on Nigerians to demand the monitoring of the fund.

The CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “This money from the Excess Crude Account is accrued for special purposes. This is one of the reasons why the Boko Haram insurgents cannot be defeated yet; because there are funds to cater to them. This is why the abduction of schoolgirls in Dapchi area of Yobe State took place in February.

“With this huge money, we are creating an avenue for the insurgents to wax stronger. We have to monitor how that money is spent. What we are witnessing is the negligence of the security agencies, more money is not needed.”

Also, the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “While we agree that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to use every means available to end the Boko Haram insurgency, allocation of funds must be constitutionally followed.

“The government must also ensure that the funds are judiciously used. One of the pitfalls of the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan was that allocation for weapons ended up in private hands. This must not go the same way.”

A security expert, Lt. Olusola Oremade (retd.) also criticised the approval, describing it as unreasonable.

“The approval of the $1bn to fight terrorism is unreasonable; it is a waste of money. No reasonable government would want to expend such money. We have those who knew the insurgents personally, why can’t they liaise with them to track down the insurgents?”

But a security analyst, Ben Okezie, believed that no amount was too much to spend on security.

“Security costs money and knowing that the value of our currency has plummeted, we don’t know whether the money would be enough.

“We have been fighting insurgency for over 10 years. Did you know many aircraft have gone down and how many armoured cars that have been destroyed and other artillery that need to be replaced? The welfare of the troops is also there, so it is justified to spend the money. Security costs money.”

Fayose says fund meant for re-election

The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has queried the approval of $1bn for the procurement of security equipment.

The governor described the action as a “pooling of public funds for the ac of funding President Buhari’s re-election, as well as the coming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.”

Fayose, who demanded to know if the $1bn was from the Excess Crude Account, said, “It will be illegal and against the principle of federalism that operates in Nigeria for the President, who is the head of just one of the federating units, to approve spending of fund belonging to the three tiers of government without the consent of heads of other federating units.”

Fayose spoke on Wednesday in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka.

He said, “When did the National Assembly approve the spending of the $1bn? Or can the President spend $1bn belonging to Nigerians without the approval of the National Assembly?”

Fayose queried the use of the money after the Federal Government said it had defeated Boko Haram.

He said, “The question the Federal Government must answer is; which insurgency are they buying arms worth N370bn to fight? Is it the same Boko Haram that they told Nigerians that they have completely defeated?

“Since they said they have defeated Boko Haram, and later told Nigerians that they have a ceasefire agreement with the insurgents, what else do they need $1bn (over N370bn) for, if not to fund the 2019 elections?

“Also, up till now, the government has yet to give satisfactory explanations as to the abduction and return of Dapchi schoolgirls.

“With the hurried approval of $1bn, is it not being reinforced that the Boko Haram insurgency has become a source of looting public fund by this government?

“It is on record that Transparency International once said in its report that some top military officials in the country were feeding fat from the war against Boko Haram by creating fake contracts and laundering the proceeds in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere.”

[PUNCH]

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