- Buratai demands N472.8bn budget for army
By Lawrence Olaoye and Christiana Ekpa
The Federal Government is seeking approval of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approval of $6.8 million loan from African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance inclusive service delivery and livelihood empowerment integrated program for rebuilding of the devastated North-east region.
This is even as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai has requested for the sum of N472.8 billion for the army to fight insurgency in the 2019 fiscal year.
Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed told newsmen after FEC meeting at the Presidential Villa Abuja yesterday that she has presented a memo towards this effect, explained that there was a previous facility which included coverage of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States, and some specific institutions were beneficiaries.
She added “But there is a federal science and technology college in Lassa, Borno State that was one of the beneficiaries. But because of insurgency, it suffered severely. It could not be carried out because of the activities of insurgents.
“Now, what we are trying to do is to go back to the projects, to this particular institution to make sure we are able to rehabilitate the institution and also undertake a complete skill, training and educational project that will mitigate against the challenges that the institution has had. The facility is a concessionary loan. It has an interest rate of one per cent and it is payable over a 30-year period and it has five years moratorium.”
Also yesterday, the Federal Executive Council, FEC approved the sum of N5.59 billion to further boosts its N-Power Social Investments Program.
Briefing newsmen after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udoma, said the money was to fund a new project tagged ‘Knowledge Mutli-track Youth Empowerment Program.’
He explained that the new empowerment scheme aims to train and impart digital literacy and skills on 12,000 young unemployed or underemployed as well citizen entrepreneurs of Nigerian origin within the 18-25 years age bracket at the cost of N250,000.
They will also be given trade devices and tools worth N207,000 after their nine-month training course.
According to him, the skills acquisition training will be grouped into mobile, computing devices; and each beneficiary will be empowered to train five other youths and engage them in his shop, thus indirectly engaging 60,000 others.
Contract for the training and provision of working tools/devices was awarded to Softcam Nigeria Limited, at a total sum of N5.595 billion.
“It will enable beneficiaries build and imbibe technical proficiency such as assembling, repairs, maintenance as well as technology skills and digital literacy across a wide range of electronic brands, products and technology which can be grouped into three areas – mobile devices, computing devices and commonly used electronic devices, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds.
“It is a programme that is open to all unemployed youths across the six geopolitical zones”, said Udoma.
Meanwhile, the FEC approved for commissioning 20 completed ecological projects across the country, funded from the Ecological Funds to the tune of N15.3 billion, according to presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina.
He said that since the inception of the Buhari presidency, a total of 166 ecological projects had been awarded, with 93 completed and handed over to communities, while “20 are ready right now, mostly erosion control works”.
The latest 20 projects include three in Bauchi State; two in Yobe State; one in Ekiti; one in Kano; one in Nasarawa; one in Benue; one in Borno; seven in Abuja; one in Jigawa and two in Kebbi State.
Minister of State for Solid Minerals, Bawa Bwari, announced a FEC approval of a contract of N486.94million for procurement of equipment to prospect for minerals across the country. It is to be based in National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency in Kaduna.
Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Abubakar, announced augmentation of contract for construction of the headquarters of the Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja. The project was first awarded in 2012 at a cost of N3.8billion. The augmentation now brings the final contract sum to N6.1bn Buratai, said the Nigerian government must spend money in order to effectively tackle security challenges in the country.
Buratai who stated this yesterday at the budget defence with the House of Representatives Committee on Army, lamented that the Nigerian Army had for years grappled with paucity of funds but however, remained resilient and dedicated to the discharge of its constitutional roles, explaining that, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning proposed a N32.4 billion budget for the army, which is not adequate.
“If you really want to stamp out insecurity, you must be able to spend more. We would have ended these insurgency long ago, if not for issues of funding”
Buratai prayed the committee, to approve the sum of N350.9 billion for the Nigerian Army personnel emoluments in the 2019 Budget.
He equally prayed that, the sum of N43.6 billion be approved for the 2019 Nigerian Army overhead, while the sum of N78.5 billion should be approved for the Nigerian Army 2019 capital budget.
The army boss equally urged the committee to to prevail on the ministry of budget and national planning to exempt the Nigerian Army from the existing budget envelope system in view of the ongoing structural changes.
He explained that, the Nigerian Army was able to cope with the financial concerns due to the relative peace and peaceful environment across the country adding that “this was prior to the emergence of insecurity and other hostile activities of violence non-state actors” The army chief stressed that, due to the spread of violence across the country, the Nigerian Army had expanded from five to eight Divisions.
He further said that Nigerian Army was currently engaged in war against insurgency in the North East and other criminal elements in the North West as well as in the North Central.
Giving details of implementation of the 2018 budget, Buratai disclosed that as part of efforts to rid the country of terrorist activities, the Nigerian Army established, the Nigerian Army Special Forces Command, the Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare, Land Forces Simulation Center and the Nigerian Army Aviation, among others.
He said the envelope system was not conducive for the army due to the volatile security environment and massive engagement of troops in virtually all the States of the federation.
He reiterated that the Nigerian Army was committed to securing the territorial integrity of the country from any form of violation.
He said that the clearance operation will rid Nigeria of remnants of Boko Haram terrorists and other groups, are currently on going.
According to him, the Army Chief stated that, the Nigerian Army, launched the Habin Kunama 3 in Zamfara State.
He added that, timely implementation of the 2019 Budget will enhance the fulfilments of the constitutional roles of the Nigerian Army.
Responding, chairman of the House committee on army, Hon. Riman Shawulu said they will set up a subcommittee to interface with the Senate to look into the 2019 budget proposal.