– AGBAJE, FALANA, NWAOKOBIA, KEYAMO EXPLODE
Outrage has continued to trail President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for a $1 billion (N160 billion) loan to fight Boko Haram. The president, on July 15, 2014, forwarded a letter to the National Assembly asking lawmakers to urgently approve a $1 billion external loan for the Federal Government to confront Boko Haram.
He (Jonathan) explained in the letter that the loan was urgently needed to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of the armed forces and security services in order to enable them confront the insurgents more effectively.
Since the news hit town, Nigerians have been speaking against the move describing it as outrageous and insensitive and also questioning what happened to the N968.127 billion allocated to defence on account of the Boko Haram insurgency in the N4.6 trillion 2014 budget provisions.
Lagos lawyer and human right activist, Chris Nwaokobia described the request for that huge loan as too reckless. He wants the National Assembly to disregard the request and also probe the use of funds allocated to the Ministry of Defence for the past years. “The demand is benumbing considering the reckless misappropriation of the over N3 trillion appropriated on defense so far by the Jonathan regime. It is also baffling to conjecture the sudden volte face by a regime whose spin doctors lampooned the Borno State governor for saying that the Haramists were better equipped and better motivated, sadly and shamelessly the demand of $1 billion as loan from the international community by the regime confirms the earlier disputed position thus putting a lie to government’s position on the Boko Haram insurgency. The National Assembly should turn
down the request, and begin a wholistic investigation into what this profligate government has done with its humongous defence budget since 2011, as it appears the scourge of the Haramists has opened a new door for stealing, sleaze and fleece”.
The All Progressives Congress, through it’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed insisted the request for a loan to combat terrorism is uncalled for, considering the amount spent in that direction in the past five years. In a press statement released on Sunday, July 20, 2014, the party said ”That argument is hollow. In the first instance, trillions of naira have been allocated yearly in the past few years for security and defence, yet the fight against the insurgents rages on with deadly consequences. Second, the only reason the school girls have remained in captivity is the sheer cluelessness and incompetence on the part of the Jonathan administration, which waited for all of 19 days before even admitting that the girls were kidnapped in the first instance”.
”Therefore, putting more money in the hands of an incompetent and massively corrupt administration can only encourage more incompetence and corruption. That is why we are asking the National Assembly to put national interest above all other considerations by taking a dispassionate, non-partisan look at the president’s request”. ”What we are saying in essence is that the National Assembly must summon security and military chiefs to explain how the huge funds allocated to security sector in the past has been spent, before more funds can be pumped into the sector.
They must be asked what happened to the military equipment said to have been procured in recent years. They must also inquire from the administration why it should be borrowing $1 billion when it is yet to account for the missing $20 billion oil money, plus the daily stealing of 300,000 bpd and unravel the massive frauds that have hallmarked the tenure of this administration (pension fraud, oil subsidy scam, Malabu fraud, etc). If after all the scrutiny, the National Assembly still feels it must approve the loan, so be it, but it (National Assembly) must know that its own integrity and credibility are on the line,” the party stated.
The party also reminded Nigerians that the Nigerian civil war, which lasted three years, was prosecuted by the government without resorting to any external borrowing, due to competent and transparent management of the nation’s economy.
On his part, lawyer and human right activist, Mr. Fred Agbaje said: “It is provocative and unreasonable. Has the president accounted for the previous security votes, more so, when the previous security votes were never judiciously spent. Hence the rise in Boko Haram activities and subsequent superiority in the Boko Haram fire power. The National Assembly would massively be letting Nigerians down, if they accede to the president’s request. Such money should be channelled towards our ill-equipped hospitals, universities and similar institutions.”
Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), also shared the same thought on the matter. “The request by President Jonathan for a loan of $1 billion to fight the menace of the Boko Haram sect should be rejected in its entirety. Between 2010 and 2013, over N3tn was budgeted for defence, the sum of N968.127bn out of N4.962tn was earmarked for defence. The senate should find out what happened to the defence budget”.
Barrister Festus Keyamo, who issued a statement said, “I am totally opposed to the grant by the National Assembly of the request by the president for the approval of a $1billion loan to upgrade equipment and ‘re-energise’ the military to fight insurgency. The simple reason is that billions of naira have been made available in our budgets in the last few years for the same purpose, yet the insurgents continued to grow from strength to strength. This, therefore, raises the question of the prudence that has been employed in the past in spending the funds. In this regard, it is important that a thorough audit of previous allocations to that sector is carried out before further approval is made”.
Over the years, the menace of Boko Haram has continued to spread across the northern parts of Nigeria and the government has not been able to combat this spread. The people are even afraid the insurgents may visit other parts of the country what with the bombing of Nyanya in Abuja recently. The development that attracted international condemnation is the abduction of over 200 school girls in Chibok, Borno state by the insurgents.
There have been protests around the world for the release of these girls with no positive result.
The Federal Government clarified on Thursday, July 18, 2014, that the one billion dollar loan it is seeking is not only to prosecute the war against insurgency but to adequately equip the armed forces.
Mr. Mike Omeri, the Coordinator, National Information Centre, made the clarification, maintaining that the loan is not only to fight insurgency but to re-inforce the military. “It is not out of place for a country to re-enforce its military capability and it (loan) should not be mistaken that the resources of Nigeria has finished. The loan being sought is not just to prosecute Boko Haram war, it is to re-enforce the armed forces.’’
– FOLUSO SAMUEL