Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has given approval for the release of $1 billion to fight the rising spate of insecurity across the country.
The Minister of Defence, Col. Mansur Dan-Ali, who disclosed this Wednesday after a meeting of the president with security chiefs at the State House, told journalists that the president approved the use of the money for the purchase of military equipment.
Dan-Ali did not say when the president gave instructions for the release of the money.
“What I can add, after all that I have said, is to inform you that of recent, our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, gave approval for the purchase of more equipment for the military, worth $1 billion,” he said.
The minister, who emphasised that the money had earlier been approved by governors, described Wednesday’s meeting as “a normal meeting of security agencies in the country,” adding: “We discussed the current activities that affected most of the states in the federation like Taraba, Zamfara and other states.â€
The National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on December 15, 2017, had given the federal government the nod to withdraw $1 billion from the $2.31 billion balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight insurgency in the North-east.
This NEC decision generated a wide range of criticisms from both the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some of the governors, notably Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose at the time.
The National Assembly also joined the fray, saying it must be consulted before such withdrawal could be made. Since then, nothing had been heard about the money until the Defence minister disclosed Wednesday that the president recently gave an approval for its use.
At the December 15 NEC meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the State House, NEC approved the use of the money for the purchase of security equipment, procurement of intelligence and logistics, among others.
Briefing journalists at the end of the December 15 NEC meeting, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said: “The NEC also resolved through the Chairman of the Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, to support the efforts of the federal government in the area of security.
â€œPleased with the achievements that have been made till date in the fight against insurgency, particularly in the North-east, the governors of Nigeria through their chairman announced at the NEC meeting that the governors have given permission to the federal government to spend the sum of $1billion in the fight of insurgency.
â€œThis money is supposed to be taken from the Excess Crude Account. As you know, the issue of security, particularly as regards the North-east, is a very comprehensive response by federal forces.
â€œSo, we expect that the contribution of the states to these efforts will cover the whole array of activities required to secure the country and counter-insurgency. We expect that the amount will include but not limited to the purchase of equipment, procuring intelligence and logistics and all things required to ensure that we finally put an end to the scourge of insurgence.”
Dan-Ali, who said Wednesdayâ€™s meeting resolved to deploy military operations in Zamfara and Katsina States, also disclosed that another military division had taken off in Sokoto.
He added that the strength of military personnel in the country had equally increased.
He said efforts were being made to rescue Leah Sharibu, one of the abducted Dapchi girls who has remained in the captivity of Boko Haram because she refused to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
He added: “Well, as usual, we have operationalised a division in Sokoto. There will be a Brigade in Katsina and another Brigade in Zamfara that will take care of security situation in that area. Of course, the strength of security personnel has increased including the Air Force additional quick response group. They have added enough manpower in that area.
On Leah Sharibu, he said: â€œWell, we are making all available efforts to see that the girl is returned safely.”