Increasing Nigeria’s defence budget to improve security
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria topped the list of countries with the highest defence spending at $5.8 billion. In the whole of Africa on the other hand, it was Algeria with its $9.7 billion spent for military purchases. Morocco followed, after Nigeria, with $5.4 billion. Overall, North Africa was the region allocating the largest budget to national defence on the continent. This is according to the data published by Statista in April 2022.
The need for many African countries to strengthen their military and security architectures resulted from the reoccurrence of internal conflicts. African countries need to spend huge portion of their budgets on the militaries in order to eradicate terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP which hold part of West Africa, and al-Shabaab, a jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa. The general increment of the total military expenditure, however, has not fully reflected in the position of Africa against other continents, as the continent accounts for only 2 per cent of the global military spending.
In recent years, Nigeria has increased its military spending/defence budget to enhance its military power and further improve security. According to the World Bank, in 2016, Nigeria approved a defence budget of $1.72 billion. The budget for the following year was $1.62 billion which showed a 5.92 per cent decline. In 2018, the military spending budget was $2.04 billion, a 26.02 per cent increase over the previous year’s figure. However, this declined by 8.95 per cent in 2019 when the military budget stood at $1.86 billion. But it increased to $2.4 billion in 2020 and the country increased its military spending by a massive 56 per cent in 2021, to reach $4.5 billion. This reveals that from 2016 to 2022, Nigeria spent over $19.9 billion in total on security alone.
The improvement in the country’s defence budget is slowly proving to be beneficial to the improvement of terrorism level in the country. Nigeria has moved from being at the third position of countries with the highest terrorism level, a position the country held for six years according to 2015 to 2020 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), to being at the sixth with an index score of 8.23 according to the 2022 GTI. This is, however, just a slight improvement and was still not enough to bring Nigeria out of the list of countries with very high terrorism level.
Also, according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, Nigeria ranked the 146th least peaceful country in World. Statista published that Nigeria is amongst countries in the world with the largest number of terror-related deaths. Other countries on the list are Afghanistan and Somalia. Within the African continent, the countries with the highest terrorist threat level are Nigeria, Somalia and DR Congo.
On an average, countries worldwide spend 2.2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Nigeria spent 0.43 per cent in 2016 and 2017, 0.51 per cent in 2018, 0.46 per cent in 2019 and 0.63 per cent in 2020 which is below the 2.2 per cent benchmark. Nigeria’s share of defence budget relative to GDP was the highest in 2020 because the rate of civilian killings by the Boko Haram skyrocketed which made the Federal Government take action by endeavouring to strengthen its security.
The civilian killings by Boko Haram hit the highest in June 2020, whereby 179 civilians were killed and hit the second highest for the year in November in which 130 civilians were killed, bringing the total fatalities for 2020 to 657 civilians, the highest since 2016, according to Statista. This also made the Federal Government allocate more fund to the defence budget for 2021.
A trend shows that immediately the country got transited to democratic rule in 1999, the political space got more broadened, giving room for various violent agitations, and these put more pressure on the Nigerian military. In the South-South region of Nigeria, there are militants’ agitations; in the South-East, there exists Biafran agitations for secession and call for a sovereign state; North-East, there is armed banditry which has stopped major and daily agricultural and other economic activities.
The terrorism level in the country is affecting Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) and the economy at large because it has halted agricultural activities in major parts of the country, where raw products are produced, that most of these companies benefit from. Many farmers in the north have had to abandon their farmlands due to terrorism and other insecurity challenges so it is hard to grow local products thereby pushing up the production costs of most FMCGs which in turn affected their revenues.
FCMGs such as Cadbury Nigeria posted the largest year-on-year decline in profit after tax. Its profit after tax (PAT) fell by 48 per cent to N482 million in 2021 compared to the previous year. Dangote Sugar’s PAT fell to N22.1 billion in 2021 as against N29.8 billion in 2021. UACN also saw its PAT fall by 76 per cent year-on-year N2.6 billion in 2021 as against N3.9 billion in 2020.
Need to improve military responses to insecurity
Since Nigeria’s challenges are mostly domestic, they highlight the importance of an integrated security response that encompasses expanding access to government services, social development, and job creation. In order for Nigeria to be the most effective military in the whole of Africa, it has to further increase its military spending to fight insecurity and terrorism.
Nigerian security forces have repeatedly been able to clear militant groups from territory, however, the inability to sustain a security presence creates a security vacuum that has enabled these militant groups to regroup and revive their predatory activities. Communities that are caught up in the middle of these shifting security frontlines are left in a vulnerable position.
For Nigeria to turn the corner vis-à-vis these militant groups, the government and security forces will need to be able to sustain an on-going and accountable security presence in these contested regions by increasing budget allocation to military and security outfits to sustain a security presence in outlying troubled areas.
The military, themselves, must also ensure its funds are used effectively to provide security to Nigerians. To avoid wasteful military spending and attain stable security in Nigeria, there must be transparency and accountability in military budgeting and procurement processes. There must be regular oversight functions from the Ministry of Finance and Budget Office and the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.