The Nigerian Governors Forum yesterday approved $1 billion (N362 billion) from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.
This is coming at a time the Nigerian authorities and military hierarchy severally declared that the anti-insurgency war has ended and the Boko Haram terror group defeated.
There was no official statement on what the $1 billion would be used for last night. Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki said they approved the fund to “support the effort” of the federal government in the anti-terror campaign.
However, multiple military and defence sources told Daily Trust last night that the money would be used in purchasing military hardware that includes anti-mine tanks and fighter jets.
The money was approved by the governors during a meeting of the National Economic Council presided by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Governor Obaseki said: “The NEC resolved, through the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, to support the efforts of the federal government in the area of security.”
He said the governors are “pleased with the achievements that have been made till date in the fight against insurgency particularly in the northeast,” and “have given permission to the federal government to spend the sum of $1 billion in the fight of the insurgency.”
What the money would be used for
A defence source told Daily Trust last night that based on his findings; the $1 billion would be used for multiple purposes.
“First, you should understand that at the twilight of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, he ordered for about 40 T72 tanks but only about 16 of them had arrived the shores of Nigeria because the contract was not paid in full.
“Therefore, this administration would most likely pay for the rest and I am sure they are doing this because they are tired of making noise; they said the whole money budgeted for arms by Jonathan were stolen and this is not true. They are coming to terms with reality because you can’t succeed in this kind of war with the blame game,” he said.
“Secondly, they would most likely buy more of the Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) tanks, similar to the 200 donated to Nigeria by Jordan because the challenges are becoming more severe.
“They would also buy fighter jets, especially for night operation because the ones we have on ground at present are in sorry state,” the source familiar with the issue, said.
He added: “I strongly feel there is a gap in the information given to the media yesterday because, if it is fighting Boko Haram, the tanks given by Jordan and other donors are enough to crush the terrorists.
“In February 2015, it was some of the 16 T72 tanks that arrived Nigeria that were used to clear Boko Haram enclaves in parts of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States to pave the way for the election,” he said.
The defence source, however, said these funds would not be used for 2019 campaigns as was done during Jonathan’s administrations.
“I would strongly advise President Buhari to keep a watch on how this money would be dispensed so that the error of the past would not be repeated,” he said.
Boko Haram still with us – Experts
Some retired military officers also said yesterday the governors’ approval for $1 billion for arms is government admittance that the terror group is still powerful.
Salihu Bakari, a retired army officer, said it was good that the civilian authorities admitted that the Boko Haram is still a national threat.
“I may sound naïve but this singular approval is an admittance of the obvious by our political leaders, that the Boko Haram is still deadly,” he said.
He said it was good news that the governors were probably briefed by Nigeria’s security chiefs on the security architecture of the country and therefore resolved to do the needful.
“I am sure that they were briefed and that was why they agreed that such huge money should be used. Constant procurement of arms by serious countries is a legitimate endeavour all over the world but I know we have been deceiving ourselves all this while in Nigeria.
“Remember, they said around this time in 2015 that the Boko Haram had been technically defeated. But here we are, two years after that claim, we are still battling to subdue them,” he said.
Arms purchase not the magic
Another retired officer who does not want his name mentioned said purchasing arms should not be an exclusive priority.
“I can tell you that most of the arms currently being used by Boko Haram in the northeast belonged to our troops. The terrorists stole them after attacks on army formations and ambushes.
“We must, therefore, put a strategy on the ground to stem this tide by renewing our approach to guerrilla warfare and arms handling,” the retired military chief said.
“And I am really not convinced that we are prioritising our actions. It is not just about arms procurement but intelligence gathering,” he said.
According to the officer, going by the recent deadly attacks in places like Mubi, Biu and other locations in Borno and Adamawa states, something is fundamentally wrong.
Another security expert, Ismail Aliyu, said he was not against arms procurement but Nigeria should get the right weapons. “Are they buying more arms because the ones donated to us by many countries are bad or what?” he asked.
“Come to look at it, a lot of donations have been made to Nigeria but nobody told us whether the consignments have arrived or not. I would have been comfortable if the governors said the money should be used to buy arms and stock the defence armoury but spending this much to fight the Boko Haram that they said they have been defeated leaves many questions unanswered,” he said.