Defence budget: Senate summons finance minister, army chief

Determined to get to the root of raging insurgency and banditry despite huge budgetary provision to combat insecurity, the Senate Committee on Army has summoned the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, the Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, and the Chief of Army Staff, Attahiru Ibrahim, to appear before it next Tuesday.

Senator representing Borno South and Chairman of the Committee, Ali Ndume, vowed that Nigerians deserve to know details of public funds so far released to the Nigerian Army to fight insurgency, banditry and other forms of insecurity, from 2019 till date.

Senator Ndume who expressed disaffection that the Minister of Finance shunned the Committee invitation noted that there have been sustained claims and counterclaims as to why the military have not been able to subdue the insurgents.

He said the soldiers have continued to advance the argument of lack of fund to procure arms and ammunitions.

He said: “Honestly, we are not happy that the Minister of Finance is not here today despite the fact that she was duly invited and she knew the importance of the issue we invited her to discuss with us.

“There is nothing that is more important that she could be attending to than the serious problem of insecurity all over Nigeria at the moment. We were blaming the military but the soldiers are claiming that they have no equipment, arms and ammunition to work with because there was no money to buy them.

“We have invited the Minister now to explain why her ministry was not funding the operations of the Army and she is not here. This is not acceptable.”

Aliyu Shinkafi, Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Finance Ministry, however, told the Committee that N75bn was appropriated and released in 2019 while additional funds to the sum of N7bn from the Service Wide Vote was also released 100 per cent.

Shinkafi further disclosed that the sum of N2.5bn was also released in 2019.

“In 2020, N75bn was appropriated but N74.99bn was released. In the current year, N100bn had been appropriated and we have released N19.4bn for the first quarter. Just yesterday, we released N19.95bn for the second quarter.

“I believe that we are on course as far as releases for these operations are concerned.”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, however, maintained that the military authorities complained that they had a shortfall as far as releases from the Finance Ministry was concerned.  Senator Ndume brought out a letter from the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor to support his claim.

“The letter from the Defence headquarters on the funding of Operations Lafiya Dole is claiming that they have a shortfall of N50bn in terms of releases and requested us to do a follow up on the matter.”

Shinkafi, however, insisted that all the amount appropriated had been released, prompting the Senate Committee to asked officials of the Finance Ministry officials to come with details of the releases next week.

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