By Udora Orizu
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday said the N100 billion proposed by the Armed Forces Support Trust Fund Bill would still be inadequate to combat the worsening insecurity bedevilling the country.
The Director of Production, Defence Headquarters, Air Vice Marshal M. A. Yakubu, said at the bill’s public hearing, organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Defence, that with the fluctuating exchange rates would be impossible sometimes to fund procurement of equipment already signed for, making them run back to the federal government for interventions.
He stated that the United States would not sell equipment without a support package for a minimum of three years.
He said: ”There must be training and other things. That total package came to that amount. How many years would it take you to budget? The maximum we have received from 2017 to date – we have received in capital allocation for the Air Force was about N44 billion per annum. Convert that at the current exchange rate. How many years do you need to gather $500 million to buy just 12 aircraft? Look at the expanse of land we are required to cover? Nigeria is over 920, 000 square kilometres. Every inch of the land needs to be covered by either surveillance or capability to attack.
”About two weeks ago, we had a brief discussion of what we intend to generate from this. We are estimating something in the range of N100 billion per annum. Convert that to dollars because virtually all the equipment is imported. This will go nowhere. And it would not address the problem we are seeking to address unless we expand the sources. Nobody wants to sleep with only one eye closed. Everybody is scared of travelling on the road because of insecurity. Therefore, I would urge that all stakeholders must educate citizens to understand the need to sacrifice because if we do not do that to address this problem sincerely speaking would continue to be a mirage.”
He called for the raising of the percentage of various areas that are expected to fund the trust fund.
“If we are not able to raise a minimum of $2 billion per annum in the next three years for a start, subsequently may be we can begin to taper down the percentages. But for a start, we need a bulk sum because many of these manufacturers of equipment require a 100 per cent down payment to even start production. So you cannot sign a contract example with the US manufacturers and pay 15 per cent mobilisation as required by the Procurement Act. Nobody would look at you. Their terms must be followed. Many times we are asked to pay 100 per cent.”
Also, the Director-General Defence Research and Development Bureau, Air Vice Marshal U. P. Uzezi, said research and development should be taken more seriously so that the required military hardware could be produced locally.
Responding to the stakeholders’ inputs, the Chairman of the Committee and the bill’s sponsor, Hon. Babajimi Benson, assured them that going forward, all concerns raised would be addressed.