Has the Nigerian government’s victory narrative on Boko Haram been altered? Perhaps. The nation’s 36 state governors have given President Muhammadu Buhari the all clear to spend $1 billion to prosecute the war against Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast of the country. The insurgency, now in its ninth year, has killed hundreds of people and displaced millions more. The money will be taken from an excess crude (oil) account. It holds foreign reserves from excess earnings from crude, and currently stands at $2.3 billion.
Though the federal government controls the account, through the central bank, it cannot draw from it unless the state governors say so. This they did last Thursday during a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) that Buhari presided over. Speaking to journalists at the end of the meeting, Edo atate governor Godwin Obaseki said: “We are pleased with the federal government achievements in the insurgency war and in that vein state governors have approved that the sum of $1 billion be taken from the excess crude account by the federal government to fight the insurgency war to its conclusion.” He then explained what the money would be used for: “The money will cover the whole array of needs which includes purchase of equipments, training for military personnel and logistics.”
It should be noted that, of recent there have been murmurings within the country’s military over funding of the counter insurgency campaign. There have been unofficial complaints that troops are “undersupplied and underpaid,with weapons, vehicles and other basic equipment often in disrepair or lacking”. Another allegation is that officers are helping themselves to supplies that already are inadequate.
In October, President Buhari removed the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) over an allegation that he inflated the value of ontracts for the upkeep of internally displaced persons camps around Maiduguri, the capital of the state of Borno which is the epicenter of the insurgency. And earlier this month, the military commander of the campaign against Boko Haram was replaced, after half a year in the post. His removal was believed to be connected to a series of “embarrassing” attacks on the military and civilians by the Islamists.
Most notable was last September’s dare-devil attack on an army convoy escorting a team of NNPC engineers and university experts to the Nigerian side of the Lake Chad area where oil exploration was ongoing. About a dozen soldiers and an equal number of civilians were killed in the ambush; four were captured. Boko Haram made a big show of their “victory” by putting the captives on camera and releasing the footage on Youtube.
For two years, the government has insisted that Boko Haram is all but defeated. The sect’s recent string of attacks have been acknowledged but only as the “last kicks of a dying man”. Does this request for a huge war chest?. Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project(SERP), a civil society group, mirrors this public concern in a reaction to the government’s fresh funding request to fight Boko Haram. It asked why the request if it was true the terror group had been defeated. It also accused the government of being less transparent about the counter insurgency campaign. It said, “As a government presumably pursuing a change agenda, Buhari’s (adminiatration) should do things differently from the Jonathan adminiatration… by proactively engaging the Nigerian people in an honest conversation about the fight against Boko Haram and the use of public funds so far invested to prosecute it.”
The previous PDP government led by President Goodluxk Jonathan reportedly spent over $2 bn in the fight against Boko Haram. However, much of the money ended up in private pockets while the morale of troops dipped, leading to desertions and military reverses. The military’s losses were Boko Haram’s gains. It is against this backdrop that Nigerians are asking for more openness about the manner and ways in which the counter insurgency is being executed. This way, we believe, the government will easily gain the confidence and support of the population. It is not that people don’t want money put in the campaign, but they also want to know what result it is bringing. They deserve to know.