February 8, 2023

CISLAC, TI demand accountability over defence budgetary allocations

…organize 1-day seminar for CSOs, media

…Nigeria military has performed- Prof Onuoha

NASS oversight on military weak- Col Lawal

By Gabriel Ewepu

ADMIST heightened insecurity across the country with few days to the 2023 polls, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, and Transparency International, TI, Wednesday, demanded for accountability over defence budgetary allocation in providing security for Nigerians.

The demand was contained in an opening address by the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, at a One-Day Defence and Security Anti-Corruption Training for CSOs and Media with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, held in Abuja.

Rafsanjani explained essence of the training, which he said was designed to enhance knowledge on probable areas within the defence and security sector budgetary processes, expenditures, gender inclusion in recruitment and decision making, and effective oversight of the sector.

He said: “In this period of elections, as patriotic citizens of this great nation, we must set agenda for aspiring political leaders to commit to transparent and accountable security systems that will advance protection of lives and properties, which is a priority in governance, as provided for by the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

“We must not sit and fold our arms while a corrupt few embezzle monies meant for the welfare of security personnel, procurement of arms and ammunition while the challenges of insecurity continue to threaten our very existence.

“Many people have been killed, manned, kidnapped, robbed of their loved ones, properties, and sources of livelihood. Banditry, terrorism and kidnapping for outrageous ransom has become a norm in Nigeria while road travellers and train stations users have become the soft target.

“The cartel behind this ordeal are highly placed persons in society and their collaboration with security personnel who are in the business of trading arms and ammunitions is very worrisome particularly considering the level of impunity that goes with it.

“As heated as the polity is today, this is the right time to demand commitments from those seeking various leadership offices. We must as a matter of urgency begin to question the actions and in-actions of government and to demand accountability for budgetary allocations meant for defence and security. It is time that the quest for reform in our defence and security institutions transcends from mere words to an all-inclusive participation particularly in formulation and effective implementation of policies for the actualisation of the transformation that citizens desire in our defence and security sector.

“We must not fail to acknowledge the disciplinary actions taken by the leadership of the defence and security sector against erring officers who would rather undermine, than uphold the ethics and values of our security institutions.

“Nevertheless, there is still so much more to be done structurally such as wrong and prolonged deployment of personnel in battlefield, lack of transparency and accountability in fund management, procurement and project implementation, personnel recruitment process, personnel welfare, substandard kits and equipment, among others.

“CISLAC and its partners will continue to push for greater accountability and integrity in our defence and security sector because it will require a multi-stakeholder engagement in line with the principles of democratic and participatory governance, to achieve the level of reform we desire.”

Meanwhile, one of the resource persons at the training, Prof Freeman Onuoha of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, pointed out that the concerns expressed by Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations including the huge amount of money spent on security when compared to the current insecurity experienced across the country, and there is the need to ask questions for the sake of transparency and accountability.

However, he said CSOs and media are to serve as watchdogs in terms of monitoring and tracking of defence budgets in order for Nigerians to know the utilization of the allocations running into over N2 trillion for the period of five years.

Onuoha also rated the current performance of the military based on regions where there have been protracted security issues.

“It is very difficult and challenging to assign marks to the performance of the military. In some places the military has played important role they could score ‘A’, and as somebody who has traversed the Lake Chad region recently, going through Chad including Munguno, I think honestly, the military has performed even more than a ‘B’ grade as it stands now in the North East.

“If it comes to the North West and North Central I will not give them ‘B’ grade in terms of dealing with banditry; when it comes to the South East I will give the military a ‘C’ grade when it comes to the number of military checkpoints it is not accountable to security provisioning”, he said.

However, he noted that most of these security challenges actually should be for the police, “Of course the police is nowhere to be found and the military is now performing police role and incidentally and unexpectedly we are being forced to assess the military on performance of police role rather its role, which is defence and combat.”

However, Head, Research, Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development, SCDDD, Col Ademola Lawal, (retd), pointed that the civil authority has a great role to play in ensuring budgetary allocations are utilized. He also said the Minister of Defence is the person the questions on tracking, monitoring, accountability and achievements should be forwarded to because he is in charge of administration of the military.

According to him, the heightened insecurity has dropped in the North East since 2021-2022 and the military is getting their hearts together.

However, he said the call by the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Gen Lucky Irabor, for veterans and retired officers should return to assist the military is wrong, and queried on how they are going to command and order them since they are seniors in the military before they retired.

Rather, he counseled that private military companies should be engaged by outsourcing military operations to them as practiced in the US, South Africa, Syria, Russia, and others. They are experienced people who are in these private military companies.

He said: “The National Assembly should do their oversight function properly and in order to do that you must have a vibrant civil society that will actually continue to press on the National Assembly to do the needful.

“Once they have that pressure of course, they will act as I can tell you that oversight function is very, very weak right now.

“There is a theory we call principal agency theory, where the principal is unable to control or manage his agent, the agent becomes liberty to do his own will, and I have given an example of a lot of military installations, promotions and all those kind of things without oversight function.

He added that there are internal control, checks and balance in the military classes. Of course, within the military is a hierarchy. And of course, they have their professionalism and they have their own standards which they abide by very, very strongly. You cannot fault them for that. But when it comes to utilization and resource allocation for them to do their work that is where the challenges begin.

He also said the 2023 budgetary allocation to the defence sector is not enough but adequate.