by Olusola Fabiyi, Adelani Adepegba, Everest Amaefule and Ade Adesomoju
A National Conference delegate, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, has asked the National Assembly to reject the request made by President Goodluck Jonathan, asking for the Assembly’s approval for a $1bn loan to aid the war against the Islamic sects, Boko Haram.
Falana said the President must explain what he had been doing with the budgets made for defence in the past few years.
He said, “The request made by President Jonathan for approval of the Senate for a loan of $1 bn to fight the menace of the Boko Haram sect should be rejected in its entirety. Between 2010 and 2013 over N3tn was budgeted for defence.
“Under the Appropriation Bill signed into law on May 23 this year, 20 per cent of the entire federal budget i.e. the sum of N968.127bn out of N4.962tn was earmarked for defence. The Senate should find out what happened to the defence budget in the middle of the year to warrant a supplementary budget of N160bn.”
Similarly, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Alli, said the request by the President had created a state of uncertainty as he had yet to be fully aware of all the parameters for the request.
He urged the National Assembly to be sure there was a need for it before approving it.
He said, “I am sure they should be sure that there is a need for it before they will approve it. One does not possess all the parameters for asking for the loan, so one is a bit in a quandary. One does not have all the factors that have been considered.
“But one wants to believe that the National Assembly will be given all the facts to do the correct thing.”
A security consultant, Ben Okezia, faulted the request by Jonathan, saying the Army already had a budget which was being used to fund its counter-terrorism campaign in the North-East.
According to him, the government should not attempt to hoodwink Nigerians. He said the number of Boko Haram insurgents were not up to 2000 and that not all of them were armed.
He therefore cautioned the National Assembly against approving the loan request, saying the government was not sending everyone in the Army to fight against Boko Haram and as such there was no need for the loan.
Okezie said, “What does he (Jonathan) want to buy with $1bn? Are they saying all the soldiers in the Army are going to fight against Boko Haram? The money is for 2015 elections.”
They know that APC will match them money for money.
But the Coordinator of National Information Centre, Mr. Mike Omeri, said the Federal Government would not spare resources to bring back the schoolgirls abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14.
Omeri was responding to a question from a journalist on whether the resources of the Federal Government had depleted in the fight against terrorism such that it now needed to borrow $1bn to prosecute the war.
The NUC coordinator said, “Even the United States goes for this kind of facility. For any country involved in such military expedition, not just the Boko Haram issue, but engaged in a number of military exercises, its stock will deplete. Every country must restock to reinforce its capability.
“That is not to say that the resource of Nigeria has finished and therefore we needed to go for loan. It is not cash that will be given to Nigeria. It is a long term facility.
“It is country-to-country kind of process because what the government is looking for is the approval of the National Assembly so that the President can negotiate for arms to consolidate, to reinforce the stock the armed forces have and to guarantee that we will win the war against insurgency and we have an effective and capable assets to prosecute any unforeseen issue. This happens to all countries. It is not exclusive to Nigeria.”
He added, “Once the country is engaged in any kind of activity of this nature, it sure will lead to depletion of resources. So, I don’t think the loan is because the resources are depleted. For the amount so far spent, I am not in a position to say so.
“We are still prosecuting the war. So, it will be preposterous to begin to calculate cost. Don’t forget, our citizens have been abducted. And so whatever we need to do that we must do to get our citizens back, we will do it. The country will do it.”
Jonathan had on Wednesday forwarded a letter to the National Assembly, asking the lawmakers to urgently approve a $1bn external loan for the Federal Government to confront the Boko Haram insurgency.