By Godwin Etakibuebu
GOVERNOR Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, while briefing journalists at the Presidential Villa on Thursday 14, 2017, told Nigerians that the National Economic Council, NEC, had approved One Billion US Dollars, to be taken from the Excess Crude Account, to enable Mr. President fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. This is how he presented the matter.
“The governors of Nigeria through their chairman announced at the NEC meeting that the governors had given permission to the Federal Government to spend the sum of US$1 billion in the fight against insurgency”. He went further to explain which of the many accounts of the federation the money is being drawn from and the specifics of its utilisation.
“This money is supposed to be taken from the Excess Crude Account.” Explaining further, he said, “We expect that the amount will include but not limited to the purchase of equipment, procuring intelligence, logistics and all that is required to ensure that we finally put to an end the scourge of insurgency.” There are issues arising from this revelation.
One of the issues, and which is germane, is the legality of the NEC; though a creation of the Nigerian Constitution, in carrying out appropriation of fund for the usage of the Federal Government without going through the National Assembly [which is so invested by law with such powers and functions].
If the NEC is not legally backed by law to carry out functions relating to appropriation, what it therefore approved to the President can only remain a function in futility and nullity.
It is not in my place to delve into full details of the argument in this work as Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; the spokesperson for the 8th Senate, is already challenging NEC’s action. “Only the National Assembly, NASS, can appropriate funds for the Federal Government.
Recall that when President Goodluck Jonathan wanted funds to fight Boko Haram, he approached the NASS,” Senator Abaribe was quoted as saying.
By approving or “given permission to the Federal Government to spend the sum of US$1 billion in the fight of insurgency,” [using the exact words of the governors’ spokesperson] the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF; a very powerful and influential Association not known to the Nigerian Constitution, has gone deeper into its usual malfeasance, mostly of usurping the functions and powers of the NASS.
Another issue arising from the “abnormal appropriation” of US$1 Billion to the President is: why is the money been approved? According to the Governors, it is to enable the President prosecute the war against Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East. Which Boko Haram war are we still fighting in the North-East that the governors are “appropriating” money for? Nigerians need an answer to this question because facts about this Boko Haram war as related to us by the President is that we have won the war.
Maybe we need to review the report-card of the “last battle” of the war on Boko Haram insurgency presented to us by the President towards the end of December 2016.
The Nigerian Army, NA, hosted the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to a Guards Brigade Regimental Dinner on the night of Friday, December 29, 2016, and on that particular occasion, something significantly in the annals of Nigerian history happened. The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor, handed over to the President “spoils of war” captured from the last battle of the long war waged against Boko Haram in the North-East.
The two “spoils of war” handed over to the President that night were the “Flag of Boko Haram and the personal Koran of Abubakar Shekau” [the notorious leader of the insurgents] – a man that defied death in the hands of the Nigerian Military many times over, even till date.
These two items were captured at the “last battle in Sambisa forest”, so claimed the military and that appropriately brought the war against Boko Haram to a conclusive end. This must have prompted the President to announce the “technical defeat of Boko Haram”. Let us listen to the President at that moment of ecstasy in victory.
“I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the camp fell at about 1.35 pm on Friday and that the terrorists are on the run and no longer have a place to hide. The capture of the camp marked the official crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest’.
With these words, the President declared with finality that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated”. Whatever the interpretation and meaning of “technical defeat”, as spelt out by the President, became a non-issue to the world. Suffice to accept that Nigeria eventually defeated Boko Haram, though information filtering in from the North-East attested to a war that is far from being over, nobody told us anything to the contrary of the President’s affirmation.
In view of this, which Boko Haram would the President need a whopping sum of US$1 Billion to fight again, having defeated same on the night of Friday, December 29, 2016, according to his own statement? It is either this US$1 Billion is on transit to the land of stealing [which is very usual in Nigeria] or the war against Boko Haram never ended when someone said it was over.
Whichever way, somebody somewhere is telling us lies about the destination of the money or the end of Boko Haram war. And it is only President Muhammadu Buhari who can tell us the truth. Tell us sir, which way Nigeria, according to the late musician – Sony Okosun?
*Mr. Etakibuebu, a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos.