Even as the military continues to engage the dreaded Boko Haram in fierce fighting leading to the death of uncountable Nigerians as well as destruction of several properties in North East Nigeria, clear indications emerged yesterday that the federal government is yet to release N1.6 billion needed to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of our Armed Forces and Security Services to enable them more forcefully to confront this serious threat.
Defense spokesman, Chris Olukolade on Tuesday gave the indication that the much needed funds have not been released while speaking on AIT Kakaaki. He said “When the funds are released we will make use of it”
Olukolade explained that the campaign for the release of the funds was not at the level of the military but at the level of our political leaders.
In his determination to win the war against insurgents in the country, President Jonathan had approved the release of more funds for the procurement of military equipment.
Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, stated that the purchase of more military hardware would help to boost the capacity of the Nigerian Armed Forces to tackle the current security challenges posed by members of the Boko Haram sect.
Obanikoro who spoke in Port Harcourt recently while on inspection tour of navy formations and facilities in Rivers State re-affirmed Federal Government’s commitment towards enhancing military capacity to deliver in the fight against terrorism.
He noted that in the last 25 years the Nigerian army had not experienced such an effort to boost its capacity.
“The fight against terrorism is not all about the President; it is not about you and me. It is about all of us and it is a war that we can only win if we stand together.
Obanikoro commended the commitment, dedication and the sacrifices the military have been making both now and in the past.
Obanikoro noted that the Nigerian military had shown resilience despite operational challenges, promising that President Jonathan would give more support to the military.
President Goodluck Jonathan had recently forwarded a letter to the National Assembly, asking the lawmakers to urgently approve a $1bn external loan for the Federal Government to confront the terrorist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
The letter dated July 15, 2014, was read on the floor of the Senate and that of the House of Representatives by the Senate President David Mark and Speaker Aminu Tambuwal respectively.
In the letter, Jonathan explained that the external loan was urgently needed to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of the Armed Forces and security services in order to enable them to confront the insurgents more forcefully.
The letter titled, “Tackling Ongoing Security Challenges: Need for Urgent Action”, read in part, “You are no doubt cognizant of the ongoing and serious security challenges which the nation is facing , as typified by the Boko Haram terrorist threat. This is an issue that we have discussed at various times.
“I would like to bring to your attention the urgent need to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of our Armed Forces and Security Services to enable them more forcefully confront this serious threat.
“For this reason, I seek the concurrence of the National Assembly for external borrowing of not more than $1bn, including government to government arrangements for this upgrade.”
The National Assembly which had in the N4.6tn 2014 Budget provisions, appropriated N968.127bn for Defense on account of the Boko Haram insurgency did not quite sanction the idea believing that there exist other better sources of funding.
The President had also inaugurated a support fund, promising Nigerians that the government would be victorious in the war against insurgency.
However, despite the promises and actions, the Boko Haram has waged a full scale insurgent war against Nigeria. Their commandos are armed with sophisticated weapons and superior morale, launching determined campaigns to cause massive causalities and even brazen enough to launch attacks on military commands that they know are being purposefully depleted of weapons to fight back.
According to sources, the equipment still used by the Nigerian military are not as sophisticated as expected and given the magnitude of the Boko Haram.
Their source of funding has become an issue and many Nigerians have stressed the need for the government to track the funding and stifle it.
A recent report by an Australian, Dr. Stephen Davis, negotiating with the Boko Haram on behalf of the Nigerian government, had fingered some Nigerians as financiers to the Boko Haram sect.
The Boko Haram terrorist group declared a town in Borno State, Gwoza, an Islamic caliphate and launched a major offensive against the military in Bama.
The government has dismissed the claims as untrue, but security experts and consultant alike have affirmed that the military’s effort would not yield much if the hazardous materials of the military and its cyber security remained in its infancy.
They called for an urgent need in equipping the military as the Boko Haram sect was beginning to change its tactics, moving from asymmetrical war to that of convention by believing or having the impetus to occupy a particular area, capture a particular area, hoist a flag and get repelled.
Arising from this the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) recently described military efforts as fruitless and unimpressive.
However, Olukayode has given some hope as he disclosed that the military will this week release a comprehensive report of the situation in Bama and other parts of the country.
This is even as he assured that the Nigerian army was professionalized and would not concede any part of this country to any group.
The Nigerian Army is currently battling Boko Haram insurgents in Bama, some 40 kilometers away from Maiduguri.
It was reported that the on-going fighting has led to the death of 59 people and several hundreds of civilians including the military have fled for safety.
A curfew has been declared from 7pm to 6 am and is to remain until further notice. This action, the army said, is to forestall a plot by Boko Haram militants to attack Maiduguri.
The situation is no doubt compounded by issues of finance and under equipment if they are realistic as the military has also been accused of connivance from the Cameroun end.
All the same, the military said it is currently collaborating with other agencies both within and at the borders to make available information on the insurgents, especially the release of the Chibok girls, a major underlying issue.
“The source of information to the military is not just military intelligence; we are in touch with other agencies even at the border. There is collaboration with other agencies; the campaign has been extended for the public to make available information. The citizens have been galvanized into accepting to make inputs into the fight” the defense spokesman said.
On the Chibok girls, he emphatically said “They have not been abandoned, but in terms of our operation, ours is to rescue them alive and bring them back”