News Column

Boko Haram - 2015 Threatens FG's U.S.$1 Billion Loan Proposal

July 21, 2014

Marcel Mbamalu and Seye Olumide

NATIONAL Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum and Spokesperson of the Northern delegates Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, and the President of the Aka Ikenga, Goddy Uwazurike, Saturday urged Nigerians, including the opposition political party to support the Presidency in its fight against terror.

The duo spoke against the backdrop of criticisms trailing President Goodluck Jonathan's request for Senate's approval of $1 billion foreign loan to prosecute the war against terror.

Critics of the idea, including members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), have continued to kick against the move urging the Senate to discountenance the request. The social media has been avid when the issue came to public limelight on Wednesday.

Using that (the social media) as platform, stalwart of the APC and former spokesperson of one of the legacy political parties that formed the mega opposition party called on all Nigerians to rise against the move and prevail on the Senate to throw out the proposal. He specifically referred to the defence budget in the last three years, which he argued, if well utilised, would have been enough to manage the present crisis and tackle the Boko Haram sect to a standstill.

"Truly, there is no justification for this proposal. Indeed, the National Assembly will show whether it is a compliant organ of government or not with its treatment of this proposal,' the APC stalwart said. "First, it was Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI), the finance minister, who raised some concerns about the huge disbursements to the military in the last three years without the concomitant complement of better security for Nigerians. She reasoned that, for the military to complain about lack of equipment is not just ludicrous but utterly preposterous... as a politician, I am worried because when you have an impending election, you do not encourage more money to be thrown around so vaguely.

"The gale of impeachments going around costs good money. House of assembly members must be settled before they append their signatures on any impeachment paper, not so?

Nigeria had raised military expenditure to a staggering $2.327 billion (N372.3 billion) in 2012 alone; the figure for defence budget in 2011 was N348 billion; 2013 saw the Nigerian government spending N348.91 billion, while it would have at least spent N306 billion on the Army, Air Force and Navy by the end of this year (2014).

The Guardian reliably gathered that, while the opposition is not against any genuine strategy to defeat terrorism, it is worried that 2015 could be the driving force, as the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could leverage funds there from.

Although Senior Special Adviser to the President on Public Affairs, Mr. Doyin Okupe, did not reply text messages seeking his reaction on issues of security and to respond to some of the issues raised, sources within the Presidency had explained that the proposed loan would not come in the form of cash.

In SMS exchanges last night, Chief Uwazurike, president of the Aka Ikenga, an Igbo socio-cultural group, and Mr. Sani of the ACF corroborated this and urged Nigerians and the opposition party to discountenance whatever the suspicions were and help the President fight terror. Urging those opposed to the proposed loan to, instead, follow the money for proper accounting, Uwazurike said: "This money is not cash; it is by book balance. On the previous budget provision, a discreet investigation will reveal the truth on whether money was released and what happened to it.

"Opposition has the duty of asking the hard-hitting questions aimed at keeping the government on its toes. But it is not wise to bicker in the battlefield in the face of the enemy. Let us win the war first and do recrimination later.

"I can understand this request, because various reasons were given by critics for the poor performance of the troops against Boko Haram. One of them is that our weapons are antiquated. You cannot get better arms unless you are ready to spend. If you are still credit worthy, you can borrow; if you have the money you pay.'

Agreeing with Uwazurike's position, Sani, who also speaks for delegates of northern extraction at the ongoing national conference (Confab), explained that the "Northern Delegates Forum would not stand on the way of any actions which the government needs to put an end to killing of innocent Nigerians by the insurgents. This is because the government uses either force or dialogue to bring the situation under control.

"So, if the government, in its wisdom believes the loan will improve the volume and quality of our armed forces to a level that they can rein in activities of the insurgents, so be it. The government needs all the support it can get from Nigerians. This is because matter of national security is a collective responsibility, which should not be left to government alone."

However, concerning the criticism trailing the proposal, Sani reasoned that, as long as the security challenges have not been reined in by government, despite huge budgets for the past three years, Nigerians and not oppositions alone, are bound to thump down the government as having not done enough to contain the insurgency.

"But that cannot make anybody or group to stand on the way of any further actions by government to put an end to the killing of innocent Nigerians, however costly," the ACF scribe warned.

Chieftain of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, dismissed the argument presented by critics of the proposal, saying, "it is only security agents that can determine whether, or not, there is need for such loan.

According to Adebanjo, "it amounts to nonsense trying to make politics out of a delicate and sensitive issue like this, where the security of the nation is at stake, and nobody is doing anything about it.

"We have come to a stage where whatever that is needed to be done to address the issue should be done without necessarily bringing in politics."

He noted that the insurgency has gone beyond party or political sentiments. "If the security people said that is what they need to address the crisis, to buy new equipment, politics should not be introduced into the security matter, because insecurity does not differentiate political parties; it is a matter that affects everybody."

Another delegate at the ongoing National Conference, Yinka Odumakin, posited: "We should first of all try to know how the money will be spent. But to outrightly condemn it, based on party sentiments, may be too dangerous for the wellbeing of the country.

According to him, "there is the need to find out whether the budget for defence has been exhausted; but, notwithstanding, the fact is that, if the arms and ammunition our security has are outdated ones that could not withstand what the Boko Haram people are using, then there is the need to upgrade what we have to address the situation.

"Report has it that it was during the regime of former president, Shehu Shagari that Nigeria bought modern war equipment; during the military regime nothing was purchased. The ones we have are outdated and could not withstand what the enemies are using. We should also have at the back of our mind that this is not a conventional war; it is, therefore, necessary to upgrade our arms and ammunition."

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Source: AllAfrica

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