Finance Minister, Dr. Mansur Muhtar weekend tasked the Nigerian Army to modernise and align its finance corps as a matter of necessity, to the reform objectives of the Federal Government and international best practices as minimum criteria for appraising the transformation agenda.
He gave the charge just as he noted that process improvements and the building of human resources capabilities through training are key ingredients in setting any agenda for transformation.
Muhtar who was speaking at the Nigerian Army finance corps biennial training conference in Abuja, stated that the army has a key role to play in governmentâ€™s efforts at ensuring the entrenchment of transparency, accountability and responsibility as a systemic culture in the management of financial operations and funds of the military.
Represented by the director, Human Resources, the minister said, â€œAs part of process improvements, financial operations and funds must be managed in the most efficient and cost effective manner. Military pensions for instance, should be accorded due priority. The not too distant images of military pensioners hanging around helplessly, homeless, and begging for alms are definitely not a noble image to behold.
â€œAfter dedicated military service to the nation, it is only proper and conscionable that those unsung heroes are at the least guaranteed comfort and peaceful enjoyment of the benefits of retirement. Salaries, allowances and emoluments of all serving officers and men should be similarly paid with promptness to boost morale and motivate members of the armed forcesâ€, he said.
Continuing he said, â€œIn the same spirit of accountability, the purchase of military equipment, accoutrement, hardware and ordinances must be in line with the prudential guidelines and accounting standards operable within the internal structure of the military. Efforts should be made towards strengthening the internal control mechanisms, and audit processes regarding each and every transactionâ€.
Earlier, Commander, Corps of Army Finance (CCAFA), Major-General Charles Airhiavbere disclosed that as a result of several challenges facing the nation, competing demands, and the global economic meltdown, the finance corps which is saddled with the responsibilities of managing all financial resources, deemed it fit to organise the training in order to enhance capacity.
â€œThe Nigerian Army transformation process cannot therefore be effectively appraised without evaluating the position of the finance corps. To this effect, the theme of this yearâ€™s conference: Appraising Transformation Agenda in the Nigerian Army: Imperatives for the Nigerian Army Finance Corps is carefully coined to showcase the finance corps contributionsâ€, Gen. Airhiavbere said.
In his contribution at the occasion following a general position that both the executive and the National Assembly were frustrating the empowerment of the Nigerian Army to be fully equipped in order to rise up to challenges assigned to it in internal security as well as peace support operations, Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Hon. Wale Oke, noted that contrary to that belief, the National Assembly has always budgeted adequately for the Nigerian Army.
A case in point, is the fact that in last yearâ€™s budget for the army, about N5billion was put in the budget to revive the Nigerian Army Engineers which is acclaimed for engineering feats, so that they can be employed to do engineering works like construction, rehabilitation and others.
The money was to be used to purchase equipment like bulldozers, cranes, heavy construction machinery and repair some existing equipment which have broken down to enable them take off.
â€œBut as we are here deliberating on the way forward, nothing has been said about the N5billion which is in the budgetâ€.
Speaking further, Hon. Oke said the Army finance corps, was also guilty of operating a secret or closed door policy as regards the money Nigeria regularly generates from the several United Nations Peacekeeping Operations it partakes in, pointing out that nobody knows where the money goes to.
He was, however, educated that money that comes from foreign peace support operations, does not get paid to the Nigerian Army or is being kept secretly by the finance corp rather, the United Nations pays it directly to the governmentâ€™s consolidated account of the Federal Government with the Central Bank of Nigeria. From there, government has the right to do what it likes with the money and that the army is not privy to what government does with the money.