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$1bn security loan: Agbakoba hails lawmakers, scores military high


Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has lauded the approval by the National Assembly of President Goodluck Jonathan’s request to borrow $1 billion for security purpodses, saying it was a welcome development because the country’s Military needs the money to adequately tackle current security threat posed by the Islamist sect, Boko Haram in the North eastern part of the country.

President Jonathan had written to the National Assembly shortly before its annual recess in July, requesting an external loan of $1billion to tackle security challenges in the northeast. The request had sparked controversy, particular from opposition legislators who at the time argued that the deployment of previous huge budgets of the Ministry of Defence had not been justified.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Ahmed Makarfi while presenting the report last week, stated that the security situation in the northeast states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe has continued to deteriorate despite the imposition of state of emergency, emphasising that there was need to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of the Armed forces and other security agencies to enable them forcefully confront the current security threat.

Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna State before he was elected senator for Kaduna North Senatorial District  in April 2007 under the platform of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), noted that the loan facility request was not a cash advance but supply of military hardware to be paid over the period of seven years.

According to him, helicopters were crucial for decisive victory against terror, adding that quick victory cannot be accomplished without helicopters because of the terrain and the nature of the operations to be undertaken.

“The number of helicopters in the fleet of the Nigeria Air Force is inadequate for effective deployment. The following factors contribute to this- lack of adequate funds for maintenance, recent burning of two helicopters by the insurgents at Maiduguri and no new helicopter had been added to the fleet since 1998,” he said.

Agbakoba, who however, expressed reservation on the judicious utilisation of the approved funds, tasked the Ministry of Defence to be good stewards in implementing the funds for the purpose for which it was approved.

He said: “The President has gone through a due process by applying to borrow money to fight Boko Haram. That is about N300 billion for Military procurement. Our challenge has not been passing budget but implementation. I hope it will be implemented. There are ways Nigerians could monitor its implementation. We have the public procurement acts. I would assume that the appropriation would go to the public procurement acts. I will also like to urge that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala publish what they spend and how the funds would be utilised. Let the Ministry of Defence or whoever spends it give a public account on how it was utilised. That will now assure us the money has not been wasted. We must focus on how it is spent,” he said.  

He said what Nigerians have been saying to the President was that Boko Haram ought to be degraded long ago and that Nigerians were happy the message was coming through.

“You don’t mess around with a group of terrorists. We are happy that the Nigerian Military is beginning to get the result in spite of the argument whether its leader (Abubakar Shekau) is dead or not. We are happy that the Military is beginning to put its house in order and hopefully, Boko Haram would be a thing of the past,” he said.

Agbakoba, who blamed the Nigerian government for giving the insurgents the chance to have the legality to hoist their flag in parts of the country and declared it a caliphate, told BD SUNDAY that “Our response should be to totally degrade them such that any group in the country would be afraid to raise a terrorist group in the future. That is what the government should do. “Government was soft on the enemy and I don’t know why they were soft. Now they are hard, we should all be happy rather than start asking questions on the motives of government’s current action. We want Boko Haram out of our system,” he emphasised.  

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of Finance, had also last Tuesday said the Federal Government has acquired new military equipment to confront insurgency in the North-East.

The minister, who was speaking with journalists after presenting relief materials to victims of Boko Haram attacks at the National Youths Service Corpse (NYSC) Orientation Camp in Girei, Adamawa State, said new military hardware purchased by the Federal Government had arrived the country, expressing optimism that the Islamic sect would soon be crushed as the money being invested in the fight is translating into victory.

But Femi Falana, lawyer and human rights activist,  has vowed to enter another legal round with the Federal Government over what he called ‘lack of will’ to arrest and prosecute financial backers of Boko Haram Islamic sect as alleged by Australian hostage negotiator, Stephen Davis.

The Australian, who reportedly spent four months negotiating with the insurgents on behalf of the Nigerian government to free the 275 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, had alleged that the sect was being funded by prominent politicians via the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The Australian indicted former Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Azubuike Ihejirika; Ali Modu Sherif, a former Borno State governor, and a senior official of the CBN who recently left the bank as sponsors of the sect.

Falana told BD SUNDAY that his legal firm, Falana and Falana, has filed a suit against President Jonathan-led government on Monday, September 22, 2014 over its failure to deal with the sect’s political sponsors as demanded by Nigerians.

“Nigerians are already insisting that investigation be conducted. The dead line I gave to government has expired on the 18th of September 2014 and we are already in court,” he said, vowing that Nigerians must get to the root of the sponsorship and finance of the dreaded Islamic sect responsible for deaths of over 13, 000 Nigerians since the beginning of its campaign in 2011.

He also faulted the judgment delivered in Abuja recently by the General Court Martial which tried the group of 18 soldiers for mutinous acts which occurred at Maiduguri, Borno State on May 14, 2014 in which five of the soldiers were discharged and acquitted, one jailed for 28 days while 12 others were convicted and sentenced to death.

“The convicts were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, mutiny, attempt to commit murder, insubordination to a particular order and false accusation. While mutiny cannot be condoned by the armed forces because it strikes at the foundation of discipline in the military, it ought to be pointed out that the 18 soldiers were erroneously charged under section 52(1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Fortunately, the General Officer Commanding whose car was shot at was not killed. Hence, the soldiers were charged with attempted murder which does not attract the death penalty. In the circumstance, the 12 convicts should have been charged under section 52(2) of the Armed Forces Act which provides for life imprisonment. In the case of the Akure 27, the convicted soldiers were equally charged with mutiny but convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment,” he said.

He explained that, before the incident, the soldiers at the Maimalari cantonment had complained of insufficient ammunition, food and allowances, adding that the visit of the GOC was said to have coincided with the arrival of the corpses of soldiers killed in an ambush in Chibok on the night of May 13, 2014.