Boko Haram: Much ado about N360bn security fund

One of the major problems this administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari has had to grapple with is communication. There are very bad communicators in the administration and this has often times painted the government bad in the eyes of the public. Very simple task of informing the public properly and timely is taken for granted. That is why the announcement of a $1 billion (N360 billion) fund to help in tackling insecurity was greeted with loud disapproval. Government was later forced to make clarifications. Simply put, a billion dollars is a huge chunk of money and it is no surprise that the cavalier manner the Nigerian Governors Forum ‘authorised’ its spending from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to combat insurgency in the North-East angered many Nigerians.
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have since been at each others’ throat.  Among the governors themselves, a few dissenting voices are emerging.  Among the generality of the population, many discordant voices are rising, questioning the rationale, the process and, ultimately, the grand plan for the money.
Litigation has been threatened. Reports claim that the sixteen local government chairmen in Ekiti State have also sued the Attorney General of the Federation and the 36 state governors on the constitutionality of the proposed expenditure. They are also seeking an order of injunction restraining the Federal Government and the state governors from giving effect to the approval of the $1 billion, unless and by means of statutory allocation by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). Before the court rules on this case, we must remind Nigerians that our democracy is anchored on the rule of law and due process, which must always be the guiding principle of our processes.
It is not in doubt that the governors forum have no right to share Nigeria’s wealth. It is equally settled that the National Economic Council is a merely advisory organ of government. Although constitutional, it does not possess the powers to share national wealth. Thus, it is difficult to understand where the two bodies got the right to announce the disbursement of national funds. This is what used to happen in the past. Although wrong but that ‘s  the problem with precedence.
Section 59 (1) (a) of the Nigerian Constitution spells out how money must be appropriated and the processes for the handling of public funds.  The authority is vested only in the National Assembly.  Appropriation bills may come from the executive branch and, when in the considered judgment of the executive, the funds are not enough, it can propose a supplementary bill.  But, it must be processed through the National Assembly.
Even if states wish to make extra contributions to a security fund, their houses of assembly must approve a request by respective governors just like the National Assembly will approve for the federal government. The Excess crude account reportedly has only $2.3 billion.  Also, we had expected that before the states will broach the idea of $1 billion, explanations must be given as to what may have been budgeted for security before, what was utilized and how this new injection will help the system. It will be difficult to assume like the initial report suggested that the entire fund will be used to fight Boko Haram only, when there are various security challenges manifesting in different from across the country like herdsmen killings, kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery, etcetera.
The Chairman of the Governors Forum, and Zamfara State Governor, Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, has argued that this is not the first time such a request was made in the country, that a similar move was made during the preceding administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.  He ignored the fact that in 2014, President Jonathan went through the National Assembly for the arms funds.  Besides, the Jonathan administration’s $2.1 billion arms funds scandal and the other numerous scandals that have trailed it are still too fresh in the memories of Nigerians to trust that the $1 billion under consideration would not meet the same fate.
What is crucial here is transparency. The government can do better carrying Nigerians along on matters such as this. Because trusting politicians these days have met with serious disappointments. The case of the former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) is still fresh in our minds. Let Nigerians get the full details of this fund’s expenditure. And let it pass through the normal channels before approval and disbursement.

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