By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA-A group, Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative, GOPRI,has appealed to the National Assembly to increase allocation to the Nigerian Army in the 2020 Budget pending before it for passage.
In an open letter to the legislature, the organisation explained that its appeal was predicated on the need for the army to extensively and rapidly execute the war against terrorism and insurgency in the North East.
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The letter to the parliament through the Senate President,Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives,Femi Gbajabiamila and signed by its Executive Director, Amb. Melvin Ejeh,titled:”The 2020 Appropriation Bill and implications of Poor Allocation to Defence on Nigeria’s Security “,the group particularly explained that its case for the army was because the army had large share of the responsibility on terrorism war.
The group said,”From our critical and indepth analyses of the 2020 Defence allocation, we have found out that about 88 percent of the amount and 11 percent are to service recurrent and capital expenditure respectively.”
“We,without mincing words,consider this 11.3 percent to be negligible especially for a critical sector like Defence, expected to be injected into capital expenditure, comprising several equipment purchases, training, logistics and operations costs to sustain the operations where the military is deployed nationwide. Nigerian military needs to regain its place in the international peacekeeping arena by purchasing its contingent owned equipment needed for deployment. The reimbursement from these peacekeeping operations are also enormous foreign exchange earning for the country,” it added.
The letter,released to the media in Abuja,Monday,read in full:”Our open letter to you at this time is predicated on the 2020 Appropriation Bill, before the National Assembly which you head as Chairman. You would recall that the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces,President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR had on Tuesday, October 8, presented the 2020 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly to consider for passage. The N10.33 trillion Bill comprises N4.88 trillion recurrent expenditure and N2.14 trillion capital expenditure.
“Out of this amount,the entire Defence,comprising the Ministry of Defence, Defence Headquarters, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force,the Nigerian Navy and all the parastatals under the ministry,is allocated the sum of tN878,458,607,427.
“Of the total allocation, however, the recurrent expenditure stood at N778,589,343,660, representing 88.63 per cent while the capital expenditure is N99,869,263,767, representing 11.37 per cent. In the recurrent expenditure, however, the total personnel cost, comprising salaries, wages, allowances and others, is put at N722,383,830,531 billion, while the overhead cost for travels, transport, training, materials and services, is N56,205,513,129.
“The remaining N99bn capital expenditure would, therefore, be used for the purchase of defence equipment, sea boats, rehabilitation of dilapidated barracks across the six geo-political zones, procurement of ammunition, purchase of operational vehicles, logistical requirement among other things needed to fight insecurity and defend the Nigerian territory. This to say the least is nothing near a drop in the ocean considering the many operations and even training requirements of the armed forces of Nigeria.
“For example, the Nigerian Army, which got the highest allocation under the Defence Ministry, would get a total of N438.23 billion. While N424.03bn of the sum goes to recurrent expenditure, comprising N408.40bn for personnel cost, salaries, allowances, and wages, and N15.63bn for overhead cost, while only N14bn was budgeted for capital expenditure. A look at the Nigerian Air Force, which got the second highest share in the ministry has its total allocation as N137.87 billion.
“Out of this, N109.51 billion was for recurrent expenditure, comprising N8.85bn overhead cost and N100.66bn personnel cost (for salaries, wages, allowances, etc), while a paltry N28.36bn is budgeted for capital expenditure.
“The N28 billion is expected to be used for the purchase of defence equipment, procurement of various small arms and ammunition, purchase of various aircraft and their spares, support equipment and their spares, part payment for procurement of three thunder aircraft, part payment for periodic depot maintenance of four aircraft, among others.
“On its part, the Nigerian Navy, which got the third highest share of the ministry’s allocation, the total allocation was N131.69 billion out of which N114.50 billion was allocated for recurrent expenditure, comprising N106.76 billion personnel cost (salaries, wages, allowances, etc) and N7.74 billion overhead cost. Here, N17.19 billion was budgeted for capital expenditure, specifically for the procurement of helicopters, landing ship tank, hydro survey ship, inshore patrol craft, construction of barracks and the development of Naval War College, among others.
“In this submission, we have clearly seen that the chunk of the recurrent expenditure would go into personnel cost, comprising salaries, wages, allowances and social contributions, while such meagre amount goes into capital expenditure! This,we believe, may compel the security agencies to make part payments or unable to pay for some very vital security items they would have used to fight insecurity. This could further reverse the gains achieved so far in the ongoing war against insecurity in the country.
“Sir, there might also be need to recruit more personnel to deploy in to the conflict areas. This is because we have observed that the military is stretched by a number of security issues nationwide, ranging from terrorism and insurgency in the North-East to,armed cross-border banditry and kidnapping in the North West,herdsmen/farmers conflicts, pipeline vandalism as well as cruel oil theft bedeviling the country in the southern part of the country.
“While we strongly commend our dear President for his foresight arising from his sterling leadership qualities, we have equally observed that for us to continue to meet up with these responsibilities and other tasks being placed on the Nigerian military, there must therefore be the need for the legislature to increase or approve alternative sources of funding for the operations, logistics, equipment for peacekeeping, force generation and training activities of the military in particular, especially if this nation is willing to live in an atmosphere of relative peace that will attract investment and engender national development in our dear country.
“As we await the National Assembly, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives to do the needful as regards its passage to fulfill the purpose for which it was fashioned out,we are disheartened that the allocation for the Nigerian Armed Forces,is grossly insufficient for a nation facing complex and multidimensional insecurity concerns across the national space.
“It is disheartening to note that the entire budget of the entire Armed Forces is N878,458,607,427.This,we view from a positive dimension, is negligibly low for a military that is currently prosecuting a war and needed modern equipment and weaponry to achieve its objectives. Respected senators should please observe that there is no better time for the need of more and urgent funding than now.
“Allocating this amount to the military at the time Nigeria is still faced with war situation is grossly insufficient. For this,we appeal that the National Assembly should within its powers increase the current Defence budget or approve alternative means to fund our military, especially the Nigerian Army in this critical time. This is because the nation relies heavily on the Army for both internal and territorial security as well as international engagements.
“While we had a seen a slight increase over the 2017 budget and the 2018 and 2019 budgets attributable to rising costs, we wish to state categorically clear that there is an absolute need for turn around for greater improvement in Defence funding in Nigeria.
“Even as we will not also take away the fact that terrorism and insurgency which were on the fast rise in the country prior to 2015,has significantly been degraded to its lowest ebb,we observed that not acquiring the needed military tools to sustain the tempo and completely eradicate the terrorists,may spur our adversaries to spring a surprise to the nation and its people. Let’s not forget that the global challenges of insecurity has continued to be on the rise in several and other new dimensions.
“We have observed also that since the beginning of 2015, the activities of the violent non-state actors had exacerbated in various regions across Nigeria. And in direct response to these, the Nigerian Army for example had expanded from 5 Divisions to 8 Divisions, and is currently engaged in war against Boko Haram terrorists and internal security operations in virtually all the 36 states of the federation.
“With several initiatives, our records have shown that the Nigerian Army has established Nigerian Army Special Forces Command, Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare Command, Special Intelligence Command, Land Forces Simulation Centre, and Nigerian Army Aviation, vehicle manufacturing plant among others in its avowed determination to restore the country’s security situation. Similar innovations are listed in the Defence Headquears, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Airforce as well.
“There is no denying the fact that these commitments by the Armed forces have extended its core constitutional roles and have impacted significantly on human and material assets in the country and therefore the need for more and sustainable funding.
The “Defence Hq, in its commitment to securing the territorial integrity of Nigeria from any violation, has launched several unforeseen clearance operations to rid our country of the remnant of Boko Haram terrorists and other criminal groups that are currently ongoing.
“In view of this, we wish to most respectfully appeal to you to use your good office to ensure that the cap which is always put on the military spending is removed so that the military, face up to the country’s security crisis, because no development can take in our country without security.
“By this,we respectfully urge the National Assembly to among other things prevail on the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to exempt the Nigerian Military from the existing budget ceiling or the envelope allocation system in view of the ongoing innovations, structural changes, volatile security environment and massive engagement of troops in the 36 states.
“Recall that recent global terrorism index report indicate the attacks in Nigeria decreased by over 89 percent since the appointment of the current service chiefs. This feat,we view, is an indication that the country is winning the war. We must be very careful not to allow draw backs on the series of successes recorded against the insurgence.
“GOPRI is worried that the performance of the Defence budget has been poor due to deliberate withholding of funds from the Federal Ministry of Finance as well as the failure of funding defence related projects that will ensure our Armed Forces are well situated to discharge their duties effectively.
“We commend the Federal Government for its political will at waging war against insurgency because irrespective of the strategies that might be adopted, government must have the political will and commitment to sustain the fight.
“These are the more reasons why Instead of sitting at comfort to play or politicize the issue of National security, we write to appeal to you distinguish Senators and members of House of Reps to urgently take steps that will strengthen our Armed forces in order to face any challenges and project the Nigerian military as a great national power.
“We Strongly commend the Current Service chiefs who despite the meagre resources available to them, have been able to coordinate and are performing more exploits. Let’s not forget that without security there can be no development.”