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Nigerian Armed Forces Support Fund Bill holds solution to Nigeria’s security challenge – Experts

Nigerian Armed Forces

Security experts have expressed the optimism that the bill for an Act to Provide Special Financial Support, Training and Modern Security Equipment for the Revamping of the Nigerian Armed Forces, cited as ‘Nigerian Armed Forces Support Fund Bill’ would help in tackling Nigeria’s multifarious security challenges.

They noted that when established, the Nigerian Armed Forces Support Fund would provide alternative source of funding for security activities, hence government has not been able to adequately fund security despite rising spate of insecurity.

Nigeria is facing grave security challenges ranging from activities of Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East, banditry in the North-West, Fulani herdsmen attacks in the North-Central and other parts of the country to violent crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping, assassinations, oil bunkering, cult activities and ritual killings.

Only last year, the United Nations (UN) Country Director to Nigeria, Edward Kallon lamented the spate of killings in Nigeria with over 1,400 people being killed as a result of kidnapping and banditry within a period of six months.

In the face of this unfortunate situation, government and security agencies seem to be helpless, blaming the situation on shortage of equipment and personnel which borders on funding, despite appreciable budgetary allocations to defence.

For instance, in the 2020 Budget, defence is allocated a total sum ofN878. 458 billion out of which the recurrent expenditure took N778. 589 billion representing 88.6percent while the capital expenditure stands at N99.869 billion, representing 11.3percent which is to be used for equipment and other infrastructure.

Informed by this precarious situation, the House of Representatives has passed for second reading the bill seeking to create a five-year funding plan for the Nigerian Armed Forces, outside the annual budgetary allocations to help in war against insecurity.

The bill is jointly sponsored by the Chairmen of House Committees on Defence, BabajimiBenson; Army, AbdulrazaqNamdas; Police Affairs, Bello Kumo; Air Force, Shehu Koko; Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; and National Security and Intelligence, ShabanSharada as well as Deputy Chairman, Committee on Defence, MakkiYalleman.

The draft bill proposed that the Support Fund would be derived from an amount constituting one percent of the total money accruing to the Federation Account and 0.5 percent of profit made from investment of the National Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF) by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

It shall also be obtained from an amount constituting one percent of Value Added Tax (VAT) remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR), any take-off grant and special intervention fund as may be provided by the Federal Government, states and local governments of the Federation and an amount constituting one percent of the air ticket contract, charter and cargo sales charge to be collected by the airlines and paid over to the support fund.

It would be as well gotten from aids, grant and all assistance from international agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sectors, money derived from investments made by the Support Fund and an amount accruing from Annual National Fundraising as may from time to time be conducted by the Board.

The Bill provided that all funds received by the fund shall not be spent until it is appropriated by the National Assembly while the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) shall be responsible for the collection of the funds and remittance to the Support Fund.

The objective of the Bill is to provide for efficient management and control of the support fund established under the Bill for the training and retraining of personnel of the Armed Forces, acquisition of modern and state-of-the-art equipment and other related facilities for the enhancement of the skills of personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces to make them more efficient and result-oriented in the handling of the fight against any form of insurgency and all external aggressions against the Nigerian State.

Specifically, the Support Fund shall be utilised: “For the purchase of modern and state-of-the-art military equipment and machineries for the Nigerian Armed Forces.

“For continuous training and acquisition of knowledge and skills by the personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces all over the world for improved proficiency in the use of modern operational equipment and machineries”, and “for such other purposes incidental or connected to the attainment of the objectives of this Bill”.

Speaking to the bill, Mike Ejiofor, a Security Consultant and retired Director with the Department of State Services (DSS) said, the Fund was going to assist the country in the fight against the dreaded Boko Haram and called on the international community to assist the government in the implementation of the bill when passed.

“We need it; we need to fund our security. Government have not been able to adequately fund security despite the huge security challenges we have. So, anything they can do to improve funding will be welcome like that Fund.

“As it is now, like any other sector, government cannot fund security. I welcome the development and also call on the international community to assist the government in the implementation of this bill when passed”, Ejiofor said.

Similarly, a Security Analyst, Ben Okezie told BDSUNDAY that the bill was a commendable idea as it was aimed at providing alternative means of funding for security in the country.

Okezie suggested that the Fund should not target only the military but include the Nigeria Police Force which is the country’s number one security agency while they should comprise journalists, civil societies, retired judges and retired security practitioners for accountability.

“The purpose of the bill should be to provide alternative means of funding for our number one security agency, that is the Police, because they have larger number and they have larger responsibility. When this thing is functional, Police will not say they are in need of ammunition and vehicles.

“The bill wants the Nigerian populace to assist and also augment what the Federal Government is giving which is good. It makes Nigerians to now have more hands to contribute to what is happening in the Police and how the Police is acting because Police is the security nearest to the people”, he added.

While leading debate on the bill before its passage for second reading, one of the sponsors, Benson (APC, Lagos), said no nation relies wholly on its annual budget for the armed forces to combat crimes and fight insecurity.

According to him, Nigeria is fighting a war and the Armed Forces did not have enough resources to prosecute the war, hence the alternative source of funding is expedient, considering the present security challenges in the country.

“Nigeria has witnessed diverse and unprecedented level of insecurity in the recent times in which the Nigerian Armed Forces have been fully involved.

In the last fifteen years, the Nigerian military have been involved in thirteen operations and four exercises. Coping with all these are, no doubt, an enormous task that requires a robust, well-trained, well-equipped and efficient Armed Forces.

Contributing, House Chief Whip, Mohammed Munguno said the armed forces need special funding to be able to fight the battle against terrorism, hence, “no nation on earth funds its security through budgetary allocation”, giving examples of Brazil and America.

He emphasised that it was not wrong going outside the annual budget to fund an important project or thinking outside the box to tackle areas of serious concerns.

Also, Nkeiruka Onyejocha, deputy Chief Whip, said the bill would change the narrative on the fight against insecurity and urged members to support and make it a reality because, security is everybody’s business.

 

James Kwen, Abuja