A new report by Trading Economics, a global organisation that provides economic indicators of 196 countries, indicating that Nigeria’s military expenditure is projected to increase to about $2 billion in 2023 based on global macro models and expectations, is food for thought. “Military expenditure in Nigeria averaged $1.2 billion from 1960 until 2021, reaching an all-time high of $4.5 billion in 2021 and a record low of $23.4 million in 1960,” the report said.
This is ironic in that despite the humungous allocations to fund military defence, the anti-insurgency war has continued to falter, partly due to lack of accountability.
Incidentally, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson, added a twist recently, arguing that the N2.74 trillion budgeted for security in the 2023 Appropriation Act is inadequate. “Show me a prosperous nation; you will see that security in that country is very high,” Benson said. “The budget, though huge in naira terms; converting it to dollars makes it a bit insignificant.”
While it is true that Nigeria’s military budgetary allocation dwarfs those of several other countries such as Algeria, there is no denying the fact that the billions of dollars that have been appropriated over the years in Nigeria are not being accounted properly for. Also, citizens are not getting value for the money allocated to defence.
In 2015, Boko Haram had three northern states under its stranglehold, but as of 2023, the terrorists and their murderous splinter groups have spread their tentacles across the country and escalated the scale of attacks. The Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna was attacked by terrorists who killed two officers and kidnapped another one in August 2021.
The Presidential convoy has been ambushed and military checkpoints have been attacked. Terrorists have attacked the Kaduna-Abuja rail and the train station in Igueben, Edo State, abducting scores of people. Dozens of rice farmers were slaughtered in Borno State in 2020. Several state governors have raised the alarm that Fulani militants have established their camps in the forests close to major highways.
The National Security Tracker says 9,076 persons were killed in 2022; 4,680 others were kidnapped. SMB Intelligence reported that N653.7 million was paid as ransom to kidnappers between July 2021 and June 2022. Hostage International listed Nigeria after only Mexico and Venezuela as having the world’s highest kidnap rates. The Global Terrorism Index 2022 listed Nigeria sixth most terrorised country, under siege from Salafist groups, bandits and Fulani herdsmen, and separatist gunmen in the South-East.
One of the keys to stamping out insecurity is for the National Assembly to probe the procurement and utilisation of security funds. According to a communique issued at the Federation Account Allocation Committee in July 2022, the balance in Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account has reduced significantly partly due to the procurement of military equipment. There have been reports of financial mismanagement, ill-equipped troops, and brazen corruption by security chiefs. This has unnecessarily prolonged the war against terror.
For instance, in 2021, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission charged a former Chief of Army Staff, Kenneth Minimah, and two other generals for the alleged misappropriation of N13 billion meant for arms purchase. A year earlier, a former officer, Hakeem Otiki, was found guilty of corruption charges which included theft of public property and diversion of operational money.
A Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the forfeiture of properties belonging to a former Chief of Air Staff, the late Alex Badeh, who was prosecuted in a N3.9 billion fraud case. A former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was arraigned for allegedly diverting $2.1 billion meant for arms procurement to fund the 2015 elections.
In September 2022, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Bolaji Owasanoye, stated that an ex-military chief stole N4 billion from the military budget, diverting it to two companies, where he is the sole signatory. Owasanoye noted that the prolonged insecurity in the country “can be partly traced to the revelation by the Centre for Democracy and Development that about $15 billion has been squandered through fraudulent arms procurement deals in the last 20 years in the country.”
Yet, soldiers are often reported on social media complaining of being poorly equipped, poorly motivated and outgunned by the terrorists they are being deployed to confront. This is a double tragedy.
A report by Transparency International published by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre highlighted the corruption within the Nigeria defence sector as being responsible for the inability of Nigeria’s Armed Forces “to effectively tackle the insurgent threat in the North-East as well as respond to the oil bunkering in the Niger Delta, the conflict in the Middle Belt and the threat of maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.”
The NSA, Babagana Monguno, had in 2021 said that funds meant for the procurement of arms and ammunition under the past service chiefs were unaccounted for. Monguno later recanted, saying that some of the military equipment ordered had not been delivered.
Unlike Nigeria, the defence budgets in other countries are heavily scrutinised; these countries have specific countries they patronise to source arms based on short- and long-term needs. In the United Kingdom, a parliament committee thoroughly scrutinises the defence budget and it works with international partners on the technologically advanced equipment that the UK Armed Forces require.
In the United States, the military budget which pays the salaries, training, and health care of uniformed and civilian personnel, maintains arms, equipment and facilities are allocated to the Department of Defense. Every amount spent by the DoD including the recent security assistance for Ukraine worth $15.8 billion, is accounted for and the allocations are approved by the US Congress.
Nigeria needs to put a stop to the culture of waste and corruption in the ranks of the military; it needs result on its defence spending. It is the duty of NASS to make the ministry and the military account for the money allocated to security.