BY CHARLES KUMOLU
”You are no doubt cognisant of the on-going and serious security challenges which the nation is facing, as typified by the Boko Haram terrorist threat. This is an issue that we have discussed at various times. I would like to bring to your attention, the urgent need to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of our Armed Forces and Security services to enable them more forcefully confront this serious threat.
“For this reason, I seek the concurrence of the National Assembly for external borrowing of not more than $1 billion, including government to government arrangements for this upgrade.”
It was on this note that President Goodluck Jonathan kick-started the $1 billion anti-terrorism loan question.
Expectedly the move has attracted knocks for the Federal Government even though the proposed fund is being solicited to prosecute the battle against a common enemy.
Human rights activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo, in his objection, said: ‘’I am totally opposed to the grant by the National Assembly of the request by the President for the approval of a $1billion loan to upgrade equipment and ‘re-energise’ the military to fight insurgency. The simple reason is that billions of naira have been made available in our budgets in the last few years for the same purpose, yet the insurgents continued to grow from strength to strength. This, therefore, raises the question of the prudence that has been employed in the past in spending the funds. In this regard, it is important that a thorough audit of previous allocations to that sector is carried out before further approval is made.’’
Indeed, this nationwide criticism trailing the proposal, has provoked posers as to whether there is need to borrow in order to finance the war on terror, since there is a conventional army with statutory responsibilities of quelling the internal aggression.
Another reason for the question, VanguardFeatures,VF, discovered, was the fact that budgetary allocation for defense in the last three years, constitutes the largest portion of Nigeria’s fiscal expenditure.
While the rationale behind the puzzle was not found to be in dispute as the citizens are entitled to have their say on how they are governed, VF however, discovered that the President’s proposal is in tandem with global precedents in the war on terror.
Consider this: The United States of America had since the September 11, 2001 terrorists attack in New York, voted considerable amount of financial resources towards defeating terrorism.
A 2006 CIA report to that effect, stressed that: “The struggle against international terrorism is different from any other war in our history. We will not triumph solely or even primarily through military might. We must fight terrorist networks, and all those who support their efforts to spread fear around the world, using every instrument of national power, diplomatic, economic, law enforcement, financial, information, intelligence, and military.’’
The piece titled: “National Strategy for Combating Terrorism”, further said: ‘’Our economic strength will help failing states and assist weak countries in ridding themselves of terrorism.’’
Also writing in a piece, Drew DeSilver observed that U.S. spends over $16 billion annually on counter-terrorism.
”Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence, according to The Post. The 2013 budget request was about twice the size of the estimated 2001 budget,” the report stated.
Since these reports among others, re-emphasized on the nexus between terrorism and proper funding, some are still in consternation as to why criticisms have trailed the President’s move.
President of Civil Society Alliance, CSA, Dr. Daniel Nengak regretted that the President’s request is not getting the envisaged public approval.
‘’It saddens the heart when important national issues are trivialised. The statistics are there to make anyone appreciate the dire situation we are in. No fewer than 13,000 people have been killed since the insurgency began in 2009 with the Human Rights Watch documenting about 2,500 deaths in 2014. We have an enemy that targets everyone, yet some people are constituting stumbling block to solution. The nation is currently confronting an asymmetric warfare which requires extra ordinary weapons, if the war must be won,’’ he added.
Nengak’s position does not exist in isolation, as the spokesperson of Northern Delegates to the National Conference, Mr. Anthony Sani, punctured arguments against the proposed loan.
Sani told VF thus: ‘’Even though past budget allocations for purposes of containing national security challenges have not yielded the desired results by way of putting an end to the mindless killing of innocent Nigerians,it would not be apposite for Nigerians not to allow the government take the loans purportedly meant to upgrade the volume and quality of our security apparatus for performance.’’
Dismissing fears regarding the timing of the request, Sani who is the immidiate Spokesperson of Arewa Consultative Forum,AFC, said: ‘’We are aware of the suspicion in some quarters that the timing for the loan suggests it could be abused,but as things stand in the country today,any thing purportedly aimed at improving ways to rein in the security challenges across the country would be welcome because Nigerians are truly fed up with the prevailing insecurity.’’
He nonetheless cautioned thus: ‘’At this juncture, however,one would wish to say that the capacity and capability to contain the security challenges seem to go beyond money to include the political will needed to bring the people of this country together and inspire them to unleash their energy against a common monster. Surely, a divided people by way of ethnic nationalism,religious bigotry and regionalism cannot reasonably be expected to bring the situation under control.’’