Following rising insecurity across Nigeria, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters has disclosed that it would be needing no fewer than $2 billion dollars, an equivalent of N826 billion yearly to effectively prosecute the anti-terrorism fight and ensure return of normalcy to troubled regions.
It explained that the current money being budgeted for the military operations, including those projected in the Armed Forces Support Trust Fund Bill were insufficient to successfully fight insecurity and address other myriads of challenges seeking to tear apart the country.
The Director of Production, Defence Headquarters, Air Vice Marshall M. A. Yakubu, said that with the current inadequate funding, some soldiers at the battlefront against insurgency and other criminal act are already lobbying for redeployment over poor welfare.
He noted that with his antecedent in the military logistics department, it was important the government improved the allocations for the military in ensuring a motivated and committed military that was physically and mentally battle-ready.
Yakubu made the disclosure during the public hearing on the Armed Forces Support Trust Fund Bill organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Defence. The Bill seeks to improve the software, hardware, and training for the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
According to him, every year, how do we get our budget, capital budget specifically? An arbitrary envelope is simply thrown at us. This year, for example, your budget cap should be N20 billion. It does not take into consideration what are the actual needs.
“What do you need to meet those needs. Now that is one, secondly, we are all aware of the exchange rate fluctuations. We have run into problems where even working with approved budget envelopes, we have gone ahead to sign contracts for procurement of equipment and suddenly the exchange rate collapses on us and we are unable to fund it. We have found ourselves every year running back to the Federal government for interventions. This is not sustainable.
“The next thing I want to talk about is the cost of equipment. Talking from the point of view of an Airforce officer, who has been involved in procurement of equipment. Let me give you an example. The procurement of the 12 Super Tucano Aircraft cost approximately $500 million. Now this is a package. The United States would not sell equipment to you and just give you the equipment there. There must be support package for a minimum of three years. 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 airforce was about N44 billion per annum. Convert that at the current exchange rate. How many years do you need to gather 500 million dollars to buy just 12 aircraft? Look at the expanse of land we are required to cover? Nigeria is over 920, 000 square km. Every inch of the land needs to be covered by either surveillance or capability to attack. Where can you get that equipment to cover this land. Even the northeast alone, how much does it take to maintain even existing aircraft? Because of this, I sincerely believe that the sources we are considering for this Bill are grossly inadequate. Let us look at it.
“Last time 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 are imported. This will go nowhere. And it would not address the problem we are seeking to address unless we expand the sources. Nigerians I know are tired of being asked to pay for something.
“The level of poverty everybody appreciates is severe. However, nobody wants to sleep with only one eye closed. Everybody is scared of traveling 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 also called for the improvement in 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 dollars per annum in the next three years for a start, subsequently maybe 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 100 percent down payment to even start production. So you cannot sign a contract example with the US manufacturers and pay 15 percent mobilization 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. An example is the super Tucano. This one is from government to government. They insisted 100 payments within 30 days. No budgetary allocation would fund that,” he said.