Paul Obi in Abuja
As expected, a crisis appears to be brewing between the presidency and the National Assembly following the unilateral decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to approve $1 billion for the purchase of arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
The $1 billion which is to be taken from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), has been declared illegal by the National Assembly, Governors Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Opponents to the withdrawal had argued that considering that the ECA is jointly owned by the three tiers of governments, removal of $1 billion would amount to an illegality and unconstitutional act, as such withdrawal has to be approved by the National Assembly.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, had on Wednesday told journalists at the Presidential Villa that Buhari had already approved the $1 billion for arms purchase to combat the insurgency in the North-east.
Dan-Ali said: â€œI can inform you that of recent, our leader, President Buhari, gave approval for the purchase of more equipment for the military worth $1 billion.â€
But speaking on the sidelines of the second procurement awareness seminar organised by the Directorate of Procurement, Army Headquarters, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Army, Hon. Rimande Shawulu, vehemently warned that there would be trouble and deep consequences if the president approves any money for arms procurement without the stipulated constitutional approval by the National Assembly.
Shawulu argued that Buhari lacks the constitutional powers to approve money for arms procurement without the mandate of the legislature, adding that any such violation was bound to lead to a collision between the two arms of government.
Shawulu, who represents Donga/Ussa/Takum/Special Area Constituency of Taraba State, observed that there would be serious trouble if any money goes out for such purpose without approval from the parliament.
Shawulu said: â€œThe fact of the matter is that there are processes for money coming into the Federation Account and for the money being used.
â€œAnd the point too that we must note is that a lot of times, pronouncements are policy statements and the policy statements are not just executed, itâ€™s not as if as at THURSday, when the announcement was made, the federation account was debited. No, it doesnâ€™t happen that way.
â€œWhen the president says heâ€™s going to spend money, thereâ€™s a process that is followed before the money is spent. So I want you to understand that, itâ€™s not as if money has gone out.
â€œHowever, if money has gone out without parliamentary approval, thatâ€™s is a problem, itâ€™s a very serious problem if money went out without parliamentary approval.â€
Speaking earlier at the event, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, explained that the operational capability of the Nigerian Army today depends on the availability of requisite hardware, highly trained personnel and other essential resources.
According to Buratai, â€œthe Nigerian Army has no doubt taken robust steps and emplaced policies in enhancing its procurement plans and processes with a view to meeting its overarching constitutional roles.â€
He stressed that the theme for this yearâ€™s seminar, â€˜Optimising the Operational Capabilities of the Nigerian Army through an Effective Procurement System,â€™ was quite apt and incisive in view of the need to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian Army towards meeting the present growing security challenges.
â€œThe security challenges facing our dear country manifest in the forms of terrorism, insurgency, separatist movements and banditry among others.
â€œOur operational commitments and improving our procurement methods as well as processes in line with the provisions of the Public Procurement (PPA) Act 2007.
â€œThis seminar, therefore, provides a veritable platform for us to familiarise and educate ourselves sufficiently on the procurement matters that would enable the Nigerian Army compete successfully in the opportunities that arise from the implementation of the national budget,â€ Buratai stated.
The Director of Procurement, Army Headquarters, Brigadier General E. T. Essien, added that said the seminar was convened in line with the army training directive 2018.
Essien informed the gathering that â€œthe objective of the seminar was to develop the capacity of the Nigerian Army personnel on procurement procedures in accordance with the PPA 2007.â€