The cost of prosecuting the war against Boko Haram is rising. Do we need to pay more to be safer?
It is becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of some of the decisions being taken by the current administration. At a period Nigerians were told that Boko Haram has been â€œtechnically defeatedâ€, governors of the 36 states last week announced that they have given approval for the federal government to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight the insurgency. The message that this sends most poignantly is that Boko Haram is far from being defeated, technically or otherwise. Nigerians need to be told the truth.
Ordinarily, a war on terror is usually long-drawn and notwithstanding any subterfuge to the contrary, it would seem that the military operation against Boko Haram is entering a more indeterminable stage. That is what this â€˜Christmas giftâ€™ from the governors to finance the anti-terrorism fight in the North-east means. But there are so many questions begging for answers, both in the decision and the manner in which it was taken. Where does this charity of a billion dollar fit into the federal government defence and security budget for 2017 that is currently being implemented as well as that of 2018 that is under consideration at the National Assembly?
We pose the question against the background that the casualty figures from Boko Haram direct attacks have reduced significantly in the past two years while the insurgents have been reduced to using suicide bombers to hit soft targets, aside occasional ambush of soldiers. That leads us to other questions. What exactly are the new threats that warrant this scale of expenditure? Besides, where in the constitution is it written that the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by the Vice-President, can make this kind of extra budgetary commitment on behalf of the three tiers of government?
Moreover, the funds in the excess crude account ought to be subject to normal appropriation procedures both by the National Assembly for the federal government and the houses of assembly for the states. Did the governors who â€˜donatedâ€™ this money get the mandate of their respective state assemblies before signing away their shares of the statutory allocations from the federation account? Were the authorities of the 774 local governments also consulted or did the governors, as usual, just take it for granted that they do not matter? Assuming, without conceding that there are urgent needs by the military, how did the NEC arrive at the sum of $1 billion?
In dissociating himself from the decision which suggests that there was no agreement among the governors, Mr Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State described it as a ploy to divert the money for political ends before adding that â€œNigerians deserve proper explanations from the federal government on the rationale behind spending such huge sum of money to fight an already defeated Boko Haram.â€
While we endorse Fayoseâ€™s call for transparency on the specific operations that the military will use the money for, we do not subscribe to political speculations that are not backed by any evidence. But we must also note that when in July 2014 the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan proposed borrowing the same sum of $1 billion to fight the insurgency, leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that was then in opposition were quick to dismiss the proposal. Jonathan, according to the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was seeking the money â€œto buy the election and pay for the intimidation of the opposition and electorateâ€ and ultimately â€œto build a casket for democracy.â€
We must commend our military for the critical role they have played in the fight against Boko Haram and in making sacrifices on behalf of the nation. We also believe they should be given all the support they need in the bid to rid the nation of terrorism. However, it is still our considered view that throwing money at the Boko Haram insurgency without reliable and result-oriented strategies did not work in the past and will likely not work today. What is even more curious is that the total money in the excess crude account is only $2.317. Yet the governors have no qualms about giving away close to 50 per cent after a meeting lasting only a few hours.
There must be something in the wisdom of those who superintend over the Nigerian state that passeth all human understanding!
The funds in the excess crude account ought to be subject to normal appropriation procedures both by the National Assembly for the federal government and the houses of assembly for the states