With allegations of financial impropriety hanging over former and serving top brass of Nigeria’s military, facts have emerged that the institution, in the last three decades, gulped a whooping N3.7trn.
According to a recent report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which focused on the military spending of selected countries in the last 27 years, Nigeria might have invested an estimated N3trn between 1988 and year 2014, excluding the votes for 2015 (N397.497bn) and 2016 (N443.077bn), which ramp the total figure to N3.7trn in 29 years.
A breakdown of the report indicates that from N1.230bn, voted in 1988, provision rose to N6.382bn in 1993. This leaped by an additional billion the following year, landing on a N14bn mark in 1995.
By 1998, allocation had risen to N25.162bn. The following year, as plans for return to civil rule gathered momentum, Defence budget shot to N45.400bn. The provision in 2000 was slashed to N37.490bn, only to rise the following year to N63.472bn. In 2002, it was a towering N108.148bn.
After this crest, Defence budget went below the hundred billion point, oscillating between N75.913bn in 2003 and N99.853bn in 2006. It returned, however, in the year 2007 when N122.200bn was allocated. It climbed to N191.515bn the following year, N224.021bn in 2009, and N299.108bn in 2010.
From 2011 to 2015, the allocation moved to the three hundred billion turf, notching N369.045bn in 2011; N364.843bn in 2012; N380.500bn in 2013; N373.815bn in 2014, and N397.497bn in 2015. This year, the allocation hit the four hundred billion threshold with a vote of N443.077bn.
Reacting on the figures, against the backdrop of the military’s initial failure to contain the Boko Haram insurgency, Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ), Eze Onyekpere, recalled: “Soldiers were disobeying their seniors when commanded to go to battle. Mismanagement of funds meant to procure weapons and even the emoluments of the rank and file became the order of the day. The institution was bound to decay and loss of focus. As such, it became unable to discharge its basic obligation, which justified its existence in the first place.”
Onyekpere noted that incursion by the military into politics might have fueled a culture of corruption, where budgetary allocations are repeatedly siphoned. He, therefore, stressed the need for Nigerians to keep soldiers away from politics, in order to save the marred image of the institution and the country. He also called for a weeding of corrupt soldiers, and sanctions for those found guilty by the courts.
The Universal Peace Federation (UPF), a United Nations organisation, meanwhile, has described as counter-productive calls in certain quarters for division of the country, saying Nigeria’s unity has to be worked upon.
Secretary General of UPF Nigeria, Dr. Raphael Ogar Ojo, warned that no part of Nigeria could stand alone and remain relevant in the comity of civilised and developed nations, adding: “The larger, the better.”
Citing the United States of America, which he said derives strength from its size, population and human resources, Ojo said everything should be done to keep Nigeria one strong country.
Speaking in Minna, the Niger State capital, yesterday, at the presentation of the 2016 Award of Ambassador for Peace to Reverend Father Christian Levi Achinivu and the Muslim Interreligious Peace Foundation, Ojo cautioned governments, at all levels, to do everything possible to address the complaints of aggrieved segments of the country. According to him, people have a right to agitate and have their agitations looked into.
He also called for the establishment of Development Commissions in all the geo-political zones of the country, as is being done for the North East region, ravaged by the activities of insurgents.
Also speaking, yesterday, in Ibafo, Ogun State, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, said calls for restructuring Nigeria must not be based on personal or group interest.
“People are saying, ‘restructuring’. What sort of restructuring? As long as it is something that is for the common good of Nigerians, not restructuring to their own particular way of doing things, then we can talk of restructuring,” he said.
Speaking with The Guardian during the 18th graduation ceremony of Jextoban Secondary School, Gowon said: “I think we have to be very careful when we talk about restructuring. We have to make sure…Yes, bring ideas. If it is something that is good, and then I am sure the nation would be able to consolidate and be able to give it their blessing…It must not be restructuring on personal or group interest.”
As reactions continue to trail yesterday’s failed military coup in Turkey, pundits say there are lessons Nigeria’s government, its military and people may learn towards building a strong and united nation.
Forces loyal to Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan, quashed the plot, even as citizens trooped out in the thousands to denounce the attempt. Over 200 persons were reported dead, with more than 2000 injured. About 3000 coup plotters have also been detained.
International Relations expert and the former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Professor Bola Akinterinwa, said: “For Nigeria, our President must get the support of the people and renew the legitimacy of his mandate and the affirmation of the people’s sovereignty. There should be a cord between the leader and the people, which must not be strained.
“There is an ongoing debate about restructuring the country and the negotiability of Nigeria’s unity. But Nigeria’s President must learn from the Turkish President, who did not quickly jump at force or military might, but rather democratised his defense, calling on the people to back democracy and their government.
“So, the President should ask Nigerians to make a pronouncement. Let’s know how many people want and do not want restructuring. It is about ensuring the legitimate support of the people.”
Another scholar, a professor of International Relations at the University of Lagos, Political Science Department, Akinboye Solomon, said the lesson for Nigeria’s leaders is need for good governance. According to him, if governance is in proper perspective, people will support those in authority, as it happened in Turkey.
“It means the people love the government in power and have not seen anything fundamentally wrong with the government they put in place. It also shows that the era of military coups is gone and is no longer fashionable. The military’s main duty is to defend the country against external aggression. Anything short of that is moving beyond its scope, as prescribed by the constitution,” he said.
Solomon added: “In the case of Nigeria, I do not see any military that wants to take over power because the present government is popular, as it has carved a good image for itself. And an example is what happened during the fuel crisis. Though the price was hiked astronomically, though the people did not like it, they accepted it. That was the reason the strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) failed. So, once a government is popular, any coup would be met with resistance.”