Costly War Without End

0

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Kingsley Nwezeh write that the 10-year insurgency war in the North-east of Nigeria has become intractable due a convergence of business interests from virtually all the stakeholders

A couple of incidents have happened in quick succession in the last few days to bring home the grim reality of the devastating conflict in parts of Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba and Adamawa states. First, was the forbidding evidence of the beheading of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN) in Michika local government area of Adamawa State, Reverend Lawan Andimi by Boko Haram because the clergy refused to be converted to Islam. A few weeks earlier, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a faction of the Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram that broke away in 2016 released a video of the beheading of 11 Christians captured in Borno State.

News also broke of Leah Sharibu, the only Christian girl of the 110 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on February 19, 2018 from the Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC) in DapchiYunusari local government area of Yobe State, still in captivity, has given birth to a baby boy for a Boko Haram commander.

Last week, reaction on the increasingly worrisome insecurity in the country came from the highest quarters of governance with President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President, Ahmad Lawan making succinct comments. While, the Senate President admitted the inevitability to adopt another approach to security issues, Buhari drew condemnation from citizens who were riled by his admission of ignorance of the worsening security situation. This led to calls for the president’s resignation championed by Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe. Other responses focused on the heads of the various arms of the security services, insisting that they had nothing else to offer, therefore they should be asked to go and other persons given the opportunity to tackle challenges.

However, the Federal Government has insisted that Boko Haram has been “technically” defeated. The President maintained this stance at the recent Armed Forces emblem launch in Abuja. He said “the Boko Haram terrorists have been substantially defeated and degraded to the extent that they are only daring soft targets.”

Going by the calamitous, decade-long insurgency war in the North-east of Nigeria, it would be appropriate to say that war is business and business is war. The business of war is costly in terms of lives lost, destroyed infrastructure and military equipment.

By United Nations estimates, 27,000 people have been killed since the beginning of hostilities in the North-east by terrorist groups, Boko Haram, which has since broadened its callous activities through the breakaway faction called Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP).

The casualties range from civilians, military and para-military personnel, aid workers, travelers, clerics, school children among others. The level of devastation carried out by these mutinous armies is mind-boggling. In many parts of the North-east any institution representing advancement in western cultures like schools, churches (and in some cases mosques), private residences, government offices, banks and telecommunication infrastructure were destroyed; whole towns were razed to the ground.

Government, international donor agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders have sunk billions if not trillions of Naira in procurement of arms, management of humanitarian crisis notably Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs) camps and logistics supplies among other headlines for expenditure.

The immediate past Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, once said 100,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram began a campaign of violence in the geo-political zone.

The United Nations said 130,000 people have been displaced and seeking refuge in Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) following rising insecurity in recent months.

An earlier statistics released by the UN said the Lake Chad Basin region was grappling with a complex humanitarian emergency.

“Over 2.7 million people have been displaced, including over 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North-eastern Nigeria, over 541,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Chad and Niger accounting for 240,000 refugees in the four countries,” it said.

War as Business

But the truth remains that the war has become intractable due a convergence of business interests from virtually all the stakeholders. Since 2015, the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan engaged mercenaries from South Africa and Russia in the war against Boko Haram terrorists. Hundreds of them were allegedly being paid $400 cash daily. There is also the involvement of thousands of suppliers of military hardware, uniform, food and beverage.

Making an unsubstantiated indictment of some security chiefs for complicity in the war, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu told journalists that some service chiefs in the country were making money from the war against Boko Haram insurgents. He challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to lack of weapons and welfare to soldiers in the warfront despite huge sums of money budgeted to that effect. According to him, “The Boko Haram war is now a money-making venture for some government officials and top army officers. If Boko Haram is not completely defeated now by this regime, it will be a disaster for Nigeria in the future.”

Another security expenditure which has been widely criticised because it is mostly expended at the discretion of state governors is a monthly allowance allocated to the 36 states for funding security operations. Running into billions of Naira disbursement of the funds is not accountable to any agency. Profiling security votes in 29 states in a 2018 report by Transparency International (TI) titled ‘Camouflaged Cash’, it was revealed that Nigeria spent an average of $580 million (N208.8 billion) yearly on security votes. The monthly fund runs into billions of naira and varies based on the level of security required by the individual state.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has admitted that its planes consumed an average of 1.9 million litres of aviation fuel each month to fight and prosecute insurgency in the North-East.

The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Sadiq Abubakar, an Air Marshal, made the disclosure at the NAF Logistics Seminar in Lagos. The seminar was tagged, ‘Repositioning NAF logistics for Efficient Employment of Air Power in response to Contemporary National Security Imperatives.’ He said, “The main fighter air plane we use consumes 2500 liters/hour and we fly at least two air planes at a time. At that consumption rate, the two consume 5000 liters every hour and we run two missions. So, we are talking of about 10,000 liters just for one aircraft time. We have so many other airplanes like the Alpha jets which consume 2400 liters/hour. They also fly in formation and that means about 4800 liters. There are other air planes that fly on daily basis.”

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, an indigene of Borno State, declared recently that systemic corruption is prolonging the war against insurgency.

“You can’t separate the growing insecurity from corruption. The surest path to peace in our country is to take care of the menace of corruption. If we succeed in stemming corruption, we will berth a working system,” he said.

Banks/NGOs

Magu also berated banks for allowing terror sponsors to use the banks as a conduit for channeling funds for their nefarious activities. He said the commission would come down hard on bankers who collaborate with terror sponsors.

In a renewed bid to track the movement of laundered funds in the banking system used to finance terrorism, the EFCC recently declared that it would commence an investigation into the financial dealings of some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) operating the North-east.

A military source had recently raised posers about the upfront payment of hotel accommodation for upwards of 10 years by some NGOs operating in Borno State, making it difficult for travelers to secure accommodation in Maiduguri, Borno State capital.

The source had also questioned the genuine desire on the part of the organisations to see the end of the insurgency.

Speaking at a meeting with banks’ compliance officers in Maiduguri, Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, queried the rationale behind a single NGO keeping 40 bank accounts.

He warned that banks should comply with the Money Laundering Act by reporting to the anti-graft agency, any person or persons moving cash above the allowed threshold.

“Nobody should carry cash above the threshold of N10 million for corporate organisations and N5 million for individuals. Anything above the threshold must be routed through financial institutions,” he said.

 Magu said EFCC would soon commence the profiling of Non-Governmental Organisations with a view to monitoring their financial activities.

He said, “We must profile all the NGOs in the North-east. I don’t know why an NGO will open more than 40 bank accounts.

“We are going to ask your various banks to give us statements of accounts for each and every NGO.

“The issue of money laundering, terrorist financing and leakage of information will be eliminated by the commission with the help of bankers across the country.”

Funding Insurgency: N6trillion Budget in 13 years

In the 2018 Budget, the military proposed N38 billion for the purchase of ammunition, jet fighters, armoured tanks, landing ships, patrol vehicles and boats among others.

Going by the record of appropriations since 2008, a total of N6 trillion was expended on the military by the end of 2018 fiscal year.

A significant part of this budget was concentrated on the war against insurgency.

The huge defence allocation represents 10.51 per cent of the N58.001 trillion appropriated in the past 11 years.
The sum of N2.945 trillion or 40 per cent nearly half of  the budget was spent between 2012 and 2014.

Additionally, President Muhammadu Buhari spent N2.5 trillion or more of the 11 years defence budget since coming to power in 2015.

Between 2008 and 2017, the Ministry of Defence budgeted N191.5billion in 2008, N223.1billion in 2009, N232.3billion in 2010, N348.3 billion in 2011and N332.2 in 2012.

The defence budget in 2013 stood at N364.4billion; 2014, N349.7; 2015, N273.8; 2015, N375.5; 2016, N443.1; 2017, N465.5 billion; 2018, N567 billion; 2019, N435,62 billion and N878,458,607,427 in 2020 (military/intelligence agencies), the second highest budget of the year.

The budgets cover personnel, overhead, recurrent and capital votes.

Capital budget within the period under review was also on the increase from 2008 to 2020: N46.8, N39.4, N38.2, N35.9, N64, N35.4, N36.7, N130.9, N140, N145 and N99,869,263,767 billion.

There was also an increase in the recurrent expenditure within the same period, an indication of resources expended on procurement of arms and recruitment of more personnel within the period.

North East Development Commission

An interventionist agency, North East Development Commission (NEDC) was given a take-off grant of N55 billion in May 2019. So far, N36 billion was deposited in the account of the commission.

The Secretary General of the North-East Development Association, Abubakar Bitako, said recently that the people of the North-east were not feeling the impact of the commission.

“We want to see things taking place. We want to see the NEDC helping the people. We don’t have only Boko Haram problem in the North-East. We have farmers and herders’ clashes mostly in Adamawa and Taraba states.

“We want to see foodstuffs shared to the people. We want bedding provided for our people. We want our people to have access to hospitals and schools.

 “They were inaugurated on May 8, 2019. From 8th May to now, N10billion was released to them and subsequently, N26bn was also released in the 2019 budget. So if you add N10billion to N26billion that is N36billion”.

UN/Donor Agencies

The United Nations has also recently granted a $9 million to help fund thousands of displaced people in the North-east. The fund includes $2 million in support of UN humanitarian air service for frontline responders in the region.

There are also contributions from many NGOs operating in that area.

Another agency known as the North East Nigeria Recovery and Peace Building Assessment (RPBA) announced that the impact of the conflict in the region cost $9 billion. The team also said it would need $6 billion to perform recovery efforts in the crisis torn area.

Dr. Mariam Masha, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), named Borno State as having the  worse loss estimated at $6 billion. She said damage to housing in the region could be as much as $3 billion, not counting damages to livestock. Next in the ranking of devastation, in the estimation of the RPBA are Yobe and Adamawa states. According to her, at least, 20,000 lives have been lost, while no less than 1.8 million people were displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Quick Facts

*Recently, Chairman of Christian Association of Nigerian in Adamawa State was beheaded by persons suspected to be members of Boko Haram, 10 persons were earlier beheaded by the Islamic State West Africa Province, while it was also revealed that Leah Sharibu, the only Christian girl remaining in captivity among school girls abducted in Dapchi, Yobe state by Boko Haram has given birth to a baby boy for a Boko Haram commander. These incidents, again, brought to live the ugly reality of the existence of Boko Haram.

*Efforts to stem the tide of insurgency, first, in Borno State became a full blown war in 2009

*At least 27,000 have been killed from the activities of Boko Haram insurgents. The immediate past Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, once said 100,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram began a campaign of violence in the geo-political zone

*The number of Internally Displaced Persons are not less than 1.8 million. The UN believes over 2.7 million people have been displaced, including over 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North-eastern Nigeria, over 541,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Chad and Niger accounting for 240,000 refugees in the four countries

*Going by the record of appropriations since 2008, a total of N6 trillion has been expended on the military by the end of 2018 fiscal year

*Military capital budget has consistently gone up. Between 2008 and 2017, the Ministry of Defence budgeted N191.5billion in 2008, N223.1billion in 2009, N232.3billion in 2010, N348.3 billion in 2011and N332.2 in 2012. The defence budget in 2013 stood at N364.4billion; 2014, N349.7; 2015, N273.8; 2015, N375.5; 2016, N443.1; 2017, N465.5 billion; 2018, N567 billion; 2019, N435,62 billion and N878,458,607,427 in 2020 (military/intelligence agencies), the second highest budget of the year N812,169.263,769 billion

*North East Development Commission (NEDC) take-off fund was given a take-off grant of N55bn. So far, N36billion released

*Profiling security votes in 29 states in a 2018 report by Transparency International (TI) titled ‘Camouflaged Cash’, it was revealed that Nigeria spent an average of $580 million (N208.8 billion) yearly on security votes

*Stakeholders say impact of funding not felt

*The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has admitted that its planes consumed an average of 1.9 million litres of aviation fuel each month to fight and prosecute insurgency in the North-East

*One NGO operating in North-east owns 50 bank accounts. The EFCC believes that banks are being used as conduit by terror sponsors

*UN grant to aid displaced people stands at $9million

* Hundreds of mercenaries were allegedly being paid $400 cash daily. There is also the involvement of thousands of suppliers of military hardware, uniform, food and beverage