…even as soldiers, civilians terror casualities rise
Olaleye Aluko, Olufemi Olaniyi, Chima Azubuike, Raphael Ede and Armstrong Bakam
The Ministry of Defence together with the Defence Headquarters, the army, navy and air force got over N238bn in 2018 and 2019 to fight insecurity and implement their programmes and operations, according to reports from the Budget Office of the Federation.
The reports, which are the 2018 and 2019 Budget Implementation Reports, culled by one of our correspondents from the website of the Budget Office on Thursday stated that the defence ministry, the DHQ and the three arms of the military budgeted over N316bn for its operations and programmes in the two years.
The Federal Government, however, released about N238bn which represents about 75 per cent of the appropriation.
Within the same period, the spate of the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and violence in the country has gone up, and at least 71 soldiers had been killed by terrorists and bandits between January and July, 2020 alone.
This casualty figure is summed from the official armed forces’ releases, while military sources believe that the casualty figure would be in hundreds.
Some of the military sources said the continual loss of troops to insurgents and bandits in the theatres of operation nationwide was forcing soldiers to embark on mass resignation, with the latest being on July 3 when no fewer than 356 soldiers in the North-East and other theatres disengaged from service, citing “loss of interest” as their reason.
The soldiers wrote to the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, on July 3, 2020, under Reference NA/COAS/001, quoting the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service soldiers/rating/airmen (Revised) 2017.
The approval of the voluntary disengagement of the 356 soldiers was contained in a 17-page circular from Buratai, AHQ DOAA/G1/300/92, signed by Brig Gen T.E Gagariga for the army chief.
According to the 2018 Budget Implementation Report, the Federal Government appropriated N157bn for capital projects and operations to the military and released N132bn.
Meanwhile, for the 2019 report, the government allocated a total of N159bn for the military’s capital projects and programmes; it later released N106.84bn.
These sums are different from the $1bn which the Federal Government approved from the Excess Crude Account to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East in December 2017.
The approval had been given at the 83rd National Economic Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after a meeting that was also attended by the Nigeria Governors Forum.
It is not clear yet how and when the military got the monies, although part of the money was reportedly used to pay for the Super Tucano aircraft still being expected from the United States of America.
The 2018 Budget Implementation Report said, “The mandate of the defence ministry is to provide administrative and support services, timely and effectively to enable the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to maintain the territorial integrity of the country.
“In order to prepare the Nigeria Armed Forces for combat on Land, Sea and Air, the government allocated a total of N157.72bn in the 2018 Budget to implement its capital projects and programmes.
“Out of this amount, N132.77 bn was released and cash-backed while N126.17bn was utilised as at the end of the fourth quarter of the year. For the navy, the sum of N27.45bn was allocated in the 2018 budget to implement its capital projects and programmes. Out of this amount, N23.78bn was released, cash-backed and utilised as at the end of the fiscal year.
“The Nigeria Air Force is charged with the responsibility of providing air defence to the nation and ensuring the integrity of the airspace by gaining and maintaining control of the nation’s airspace. To achieve this objective, a total of N44.65bn was allocated to this arm of the military to implement its capital projects and programmes. Out of this amount, N27.83bn was released, cash backed and utilised in the 2018 fiscal year.”
The report did not highlight the Nigerian Army.
Meanwhile, the 2019 Budget Implementation Report reads, “Under the 2019 budget, the defence sector was allocated a total of N159.13bn in the 2019 budget for the implementation of its capital projects and programmes.
“Out of this amount, N106.84bn was released and cash-backed, while N103.11bn was utilised as at December 31, 2019. The following agencies and projects were monitored; one of them is the Defence Corporation of Nigeria which is operated by the Nigerian Armed forces. The DICON is responsible for the production of defence equipment and civilian products such as artillery, explosives, munitions, small arms, Armoured vehicles, etc.
“To achieve this mandate, a total of N3.23bn was allocated in the 2019 appropriation to implement its capital projects and programmes. Out of this amount, N1.29bn was released, cash-backed and utilised.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume, said few days ago that the military needed more funding and equipment to combat the raging insecurity in the country.
..rising insurgency, banditry claim more lives
The Boko Haram terrorists and roaming bandits have intensified their fatal attacks since January 2020, killing many innocent persons, with the military appearing helpless to curtail the attacks.
Many soldiers have equally been killed by the bandits and terrorists, while some soldiers have reportedly resigned from service, citing loss of interest. These attacks have fuelled the calls for the President to sack the service chiefs so as to inject fresh ideas into the war against insecurity.
On Wednesday, Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province fighters executed five abducted humanitarian workers in Borno State.
The terrorists had in June abducted the workers, who were said to be working with international aid organisations.
The fighters made a video of the killings, which drew condemnation from the United Nations Mission in Nigeria with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, calling for an end to such brutal actions.
Action Against Hunger, a French-based organisation, also lamented the killing of its workers, saying they were “taken hostage by a non-state armed group in Borno State on June 8.”
Another agency, International Rescue Committee, confirmed that one of its employees was also among those killed.
It was not the first time the insurgents would kill abducted aid workers in the North-East, having murdered three nurses, Hauwa Liman, Saifura Ahmed and Alice Ngaddah, in September and October 2018.
On June 1, the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, worried by the festering banditry situation, decided to begin a military onslaught, Operation Accord, in the North-West and the North-Central regions.
The operation, the military said, was aimed at bombing targeted bandits’ camps and locations across nine states in the regions – Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Kano, Nasarawa and Benue.
Barely a week after the operation, 18 persons were on June 9 killed by bandits in fresh attacks on five communities in the Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State.
The bandits slaughtered the residents across Kadisau, Kabalawa, Kwakware, Unwuwar, Wahabi and Raudama areas.
According to the Nigeria Security Tracker report by the Council on Foreign Relations, killings and violence across the country have been alarming since the beginning of the year.
Why military chiefs may have to go – Retired generals, others
A retired Brigadier General and former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brig Gen Don Ikpomwen (retd.), said if the security situation in the country had not improved, nobody should criticise the National Assembly for asking the service chiefs to go.
The general, who is also a lawyer, said, “With the controversy going on now, because we cannot address this issue in a vacuum, the Senate has for the umpteenth time said the President should send the service chiefs away for reasons that the security situation in Nigeria has not improved since they have been there for about five years. It is left for you and Nigerians to decide whether that position is true or not.
“If it is true that the security situation has not improved, and if the military structure is one where the top should give way for the bottom to grow, and if it is true also that the laws and regulations of public service in this country remain that 60 years of age or 35 years in service – whichever comes first – is the rule, then we cannot justify anything beyond this rule.
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“If that be the case, I am very worried that anybody will disagree with what the Senate is saying about asking the service chiefs to go. I have many reasons for this; one of them is that the National Assembly is responsible for even regulating the powers of the President with regard to his operational use of the military and appointments.
“The National Assembly has a serious stake in it. I don’t see any justification in any argument saying that the National Assembly has no business with the appointments, deployments and removal of the topmost heads of the military. You cannot remove it from the National Assembly.
“I have no personal problem with any of the service chiefs. In fact, the Chief of the Army Staff is my personal friend; I respect him and he respects me. But we are talking about the lives of our people and safety of property in this country. We must take a serious look at the issue of absolute power in this respect.”
Another retired Brigadier-General, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “If the National Assembly in its wisdom has said the service chiefs have not managed the security situation well and the President said recently that the service chiefs did well but their best was not good enough, you would definitely be inclined to agree that the National Assembly is right.
“If the President said the best of the service chiefs was not good enough, one expected that something would follow. That kind of statement is not supposed to be said in a vacuum and abandoned there. It has serious implications and the issue of sit-tight service chiefs in the armed forces has very serious morale effects on troops and officers.
“Everyone joins the service to be able to grow and if you now clog the system for five, six, maybe 10 years. That is very serious for the system.”
The Special Adviser on Security to the Bauchi State Governor, Brigadier General Marcus Yake (retd.), also said the President had powers under the constitution to appoint whoever he feels as a service chief.
He said, “However, no matter the situation, at that level of command, those people (service chiefs) should not stay for that long in office. What have they done that they want to stay in office and finish? What good have they done that other people cannot do?”
Yake, who said the President might have his reasons for keeping them, added, “But for me, they (Service Chiefs) are long overdue in those offices they occupy.
He stated further, “Two years is very okay to make whatever impact and then you go. You set policies right, pursue them and that is okay but when you stay for such a long time, it gives room for so many things. Military has seniority; their overstaying has blocked the chances of so many people that should have been service chiefs in this country.”
“Normally, it is supposed to be a place where you go, do your bit, you leave and another person comes in and do their part.”
Yake said the most unfortunate thing was the clamour for them to go but that the President was not saying anything, which he said, could give room for doubts and suspicion.
Also, a retired general, Major General Obi Umahi, voiced his support for the call by the Senate that the current service chiefs should be changed.
Umahi said, “Usually in crisis situation, commanders are not allowed to stay so long in a theatre of operation because they are likely to loss initiatives. So, based on that and based on the fact that the security situation in Nigeria is worsening by the day; it is better to appoint new service chiefs who will come on board with fresh ideas and zeal to deal with the security situation.
“The longer these ones stay the further they get away from salutary advice from subordinates because the seniority gap between them and those who are in service will keep widening.”
He, however, described as unimaginable the exclusion of an Igbo in the national security architecture.
Also, a retired military officer, Col. Tony Nyiam, threw his weight behind the call by the Senate that the heads of military institutions in the country should resign for not performing.
Nyiam said, “It’s long overdue. In terms of the norm, officers have tenures when they are appointed as service chiefs and in this case, their tenures have been renewed again and again.
“In spite of the attempt by the President to say they can stay for as long as he wants, that contradicts the norms in the military all over the world.
“Even if you set this aside for officers, it should be for exemplary officers, but in this case, the evidence is so clear that these officers are not performing.
“All over the world, whenever commanders went to operations and they failed, they were usually removed, just like the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, did to Major Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, whom he removed as the Theatre Commander (of Operation Lafiya Dole). This COAS removed Adeniyi and the President has not removed his own non-performing chief of army staff.
“There are examples all over the world. The Chadian President removed his officers that he felt were not performing. Buhari ought to have removed them a long time ago. Buhari himself is showing a bad example. Even when the National Assembly is doing its job, the President is still sticking to them.”
A retired military general, A. K. Kwaskebe, however, said the senate lacked the powers to seek the removal of the service chiefs.
Kwaskebe, who is the chairman of PDP in Gombe State, said the appointment and removal of the service chiefs is the prerogative of the President.
“Is it the Senate that appointed them? It is the responsibility and prerogative of Mr President to appoint and remove service chiefs,” he said.
When asked if the service chiefs were performing, Kwaskebe added, “It is not an assessment (to be done) by me but the assessment of the man who appointed them.”,,