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Much ado about $1bn military spending

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At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security – Jodi Rell

The $1 billion approved for the military by President Muhammadu Buhari which is now to be transmuted to the National Assembly as a supplementary budget request, has generated somewhat expected reactions from different quarters. Some of these concerns are germane but the rest border on knowing what is right and wanting not to do it. The Nigerian citizens who are facing enormous security challenges deserve all the pity there is to give. For a long time, they have patiently waited with bated breath, uncommon faith and incomprehensible patience for a democratic messiah who will come save them from the destruction they have sadly become accustomed to.

However, politicians and policymakers misunderstood their patience for cowardice. A huge reawakening is gaining momentum. Citizens are waking up to their rights and privileges, and the realisation that their continuous absence from politics won’t give them the good governance they seek. There are others who have gotten so used to the evils of yesterday that everything they see or will see today and tomorrow will still be of the same prism.

It is important to note that, military budgets often reflect how strongly a country is perceived, the likelihood of threats against it, internal or external, the amount of aggression it wishes to condone. Nigeria is currently facing both internal and external threats which is a global phenomenon and her military – land, air and sea forces, not to mention cyberspace – need modernization and sophisticated weapons to enable it “degrade and ultimately destroy” enemies of the state.

The number of helicopters in the fleet of the Nigeria Air Force, as an example, is inadequate for effective deployment across the current flashpoints nationwide. It should be highlighted that before the coming of the current administration, no new helicopter had been added to the fleet since 1998.

This article seeks to make a clarification. There are Nigerians who have gotten so used to benefiting from the dysfunctional governance of yesterday that anyone who comes today and tries to stop them from continuing to enjoy their yesterday will become an immediate enemy. Those ones are almost irredeemable. It is no use engaging them in any civil discussion as they have so politicized security matter beyond reason. They keep asking for the details of platforms to be purchased for the armed forces. To mention a few in the shopping list; precision-guided missiles, reconnaissance satellites, Global Positioning System (GPS) and radar-beating stealth aircraft.

Defense budget is a kind of global race. It is as if countries are trying to stockpile weapons to outdo each other. Nigeria’s armed forces use obsolete weapons which need to be well-resourced and technologically superior in today’s warfare.
Numbers don’t lie, the United States with a population of 325.7 million spends $611 billion yearly on military hardware. That’s 36% of the global total defense expenditure according to the Swedish think thank – the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Algeria with a population of 39 million spends $10.5 billion yearly. Let’s come home; Nigeria with a population of about 200 million wants to spend an insufficient $1 billion and mountains want to fall.

Military platforms are not what you pick on the shelf – you get some on it while majority are to be booked ahead. An example, a single Ak-47 costs between $2,800 and $3,000 on the darknet. With an active personnel of 162,000, arming each one of the personnel of Nigerian Armed Forces with one will cost $453,600,000, this is almost half the $1 billion in contention; only on guns.

Helicopter platforms are even more expensive, the MIL Mi-35/24D costs $36 million. That is more than N10 billion, which is about 10% of the N96 billion Ekiti State budgeted for 2018. NAF procured 12 A29 Super Tucano for the sum of $600 million, at a unit cost of $50 million per plane.

Nigerians shouldn’t be worried arising from the hangover of the previous administration, the APC-led government is not as careless and economically pedestrian as the PDP who handed out $2.1 billion defense budget as patronage. Even the $500 million looted Abacha funds, repatriated to the country got re-looted. A point to note here is that the budget of the Nigerian Armed Forces for 2016, according to Wikipedia, was $2.152 billion. This is almost equivalent to the amount that was doled around like Sallah rice in the past administration. The current administration will ensure that these monies are used judiciously. Mind you, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is from the military constituency.

•Akanji, a political strategist, writes from Abuja.

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Opinions

Let Buhari contest and let Nigeria have peace

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The polity heaved a sigh of relief with the announcement by president Buhari to Contest the forth coming Presidential Election come 2019 to seek for a mandate of a second term.

 

The question is why should mere simple matter of saying I want to to recontest for a second term or I don’t want to Contest attract such wide spread expectations that virtually all the activities of the state have been grounded on speculations, apprehensions and misgivings on whether the incumbent will try once again or just throw in the towel.

 

Why the secrecy in declaring to contest or not to contest in an election that is virtually ten months away. The answer may not be far fetched as the history of second term bid as it concerns the Presidency is fraught with dishonesty and irrelevant secrecy. What is the big deal there if not that all our leaders have shown that dubiousity and insincerity in the prosecution of the ambition. Starting from Obasanjo who never came out clean to declare his intention to Contest for a second term but ended up gunning for a third term! The case of Goodluck Jonathan was even the worse as he did not declare until few months to the actual election in 2015 election.

 

 

Nigerians were expecting a new lease of life and breathe of fresh air with the case of president Buhari. Being a self acclaimed no nonsense general and straight forward person Nigerians expected that the tension and apprehensions of declaration of intent to Contest for second term that he would have come out boldly to declare his intention to run or not to run. Moreover President Buhari and the ruling APC came under the banner and mantra of change connoting that the old way of doing things have come and gone and passed away.

 

On a personal note am gladdened that president Buhari has decided to run for a second term. My joy knew no bounds and is predicated on the fact that he is man enough to boldly grab his constitutional right of a second term as enunciated in the constitution. Thus he has put to bed any attempt to cajole or intimidate him out of appropriating his constitutional Right to a second term. By this rare bravery that no amount of intimidation or harassment could have coerced him out of contesting. Not even with the twelve epistles of letters of Obasanjo could shut him out of his desire and right to contest.

 

Also my gladness touches on the fact that if eventually President Buhari wins he will equate the record of Obasanjo being the only living person that has been a military head of state, executive president for two consecutive terms. This very touchy issue is what some pundits are pointing out as the main reason why Obasanjo is hell bent on scuttling whatever chance that President Buhari has in achieving his ambition of a second term. Same reason Obasanjo wrote a long letter to Jonathan.

 

Thirdly most Nigerians will be happy to see Buhari and win for a second term in office. Their argument is based on the fact that most of the excuse of this government is that four years is not enough for somebody to do anything meaningful and tangible. So if Nigerians want to see proper dividends of democracy they should allow Buhari to complete another four years. In line with this I say a big yes to it. The reason for this my support is that before the emergence of President Buhari some Nigerians were of the belief that previous administration ran the country aground and that it is only a Buhari with his magical and midas touch that can turn the fortunes of this country around. And so the mandate was given to him about three years ago and they are all witnesses to what their fate have been all these years. I have been imagining what this country would have been or what these core Buhari supporters would have done or said if Goodluck Jonathan or any other person have been in the saddle. And this country may not be as bad as it is today what you will be hearing will be that if only Buhari has been given an opportunity to rule, Nigeria Would have been better than America! Now President Buhari has not only been given a four years mandate to prove his meatle but will also be given another four years. Nigerians will be waiting for that miraculous turn around of their lives and fortunes.

 

On the other hand many Nigerians are saying that President Buhari should not run for a second term and they may be right in their own thinking. The focus of their argument is hinged on the principal fact that age may not be on the side of the ailing president. By next year Buhari will be 77 years. That is the official age he provided. And if peradventure he contests and wins he will rule at a very old and fragile age that will make him leave office at the age of 81 years. How productive and agile he will be to carry out the onerous task of governing a seemingly difficult and challenging country like Nigeria is what most people cannot fathom out. Not only old age but there is also the health status factor of the president. For a good part of 2017 the President spent months in a London Hospital leaving behind Aso Rock and governance that Nigerians elected him. Even when he does not travel out for medical treatment most of the time he is holed up in Aso Rock tending to one ill health or the other, all associated with old age! Thus they are saying that the best thing will be for President Buhari to take a bow and go and attend to his failing health. Aso Rock should not a home for the old and retired people to serve out their Retirement and also live off the remaining part of their life. It should be a place where a vibrant and energetic person should work if possible 25 hours a day with unflinching vitality, vigour and alertness. It should be an office where the president attends to the problems and challenges of country, travelling the length and breath of the country particularly to troubled spots where his attention is needed!

 

Moreover some Nigerians are putting it to President Buhari that there is this thing they call honour. They are quick to remind Buhari that in 2011 that he told the whole world that he will do only just one term. To buttress this claim they are brandishing and displaying a copy of a front page news cover of The Nation Newspaper where that declaration was made. Mind you Buhari was just 69 years old then. Nigerians in this fold are urging the President to toe the path of honour and just do one term and retire in peace when the ovation is still the loudest.

 

They are beckoning on him to emulate the African icon and late South African Leader Nelson Mandela who irrespective of his popularity and goodwill only did one term and handed over to another person thereby appropriating the highest honour and respect of any living or dead African!

 

Going further the argument is further stretched that of what benefit will a second term do to Buhari and the nation when from all Indications he is not in charge of the affairs of the country. It is pointed out that a powerful clique and cabal have taken over the governance of this country thereby making it difficult for Nigerians to see the the real Buhari in action. This is evidenced and authenticated by the outburst of of President Buhari wife, Aisha, who in a widely publicised comment and broadcast, insisted that her husband no longer has charge of the affairs of the country and that if Buhari did not stamp his authority she may not continue to support him or even campaign for him for 2019 election. That outburst was two years ago and up till now nothing has changed!

 

One thing is clear, it is not declaration or even actual winning of next year election that Nigerians are after. Their main concern is that whether president Buhari wins a second term or another person comes to power what they need is a new lease of life that will better their lives if not they will just simply advice president Buhari to run for his dear life!!

 

 

Austine Uche-Ejeke is Publisher and editor-in-chief Agenda Community Newspaper

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Omo-Agege: Suspension of elected senator is treasonous

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The National Assembly has over the years played politics to the extreme by repeatedly, egotistically misappropriating its gavel in contradiction of democratic system, and severally, conceitedly axed opposing colleagues that were elected by the people in their respective senatorial districts and constituencies for their counterparts at the House of Representatives. The same blunder also plays out recurrently in various Houses of Assembly across the states.

 

By democratic norms, the electorates freely and wittingly bid their mandate to some persons to exercise the sovereignty on their behalf as their representatives and therefore can only be recalled or removed from workplace by the people. In other words, the action of the senate recently by suspending a duly elected legislator, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege representing Delta Central Senatorial District is clearly a display of disdain and naivety, and above all, constitutes a robbery against the entire people of the district.

 

By the grotesque intrigues, the entire population of the senatorial district being represented has been unconsciously, forcefully kicked out from the Federal Government by the act of arbitrarily shutting out its representative from participating in legislative businesses by elected colleagues. Frankly speaking, the action fell below the bar of decorum. This aberration gravely portends danger as any acts of the parliament or resolutions passed during the period of such unlawful suspension cannot legally be sustained without carrying along the district or constituency as a valid stakeholder in the national project.

 

Succinctly put, all resolutions by the legislative body during the period such a representative is placed on illegitimate moratorium should logically be null and void as it is the legitimate right of all senatorial districts and constituencies to be part of deliberations that affect the nation or states. The risk in sustaining the noxious, malevolent and mischievous scheme is that it could someday extensively be used as a tool of oppression against a district, constituency or geographical zone that genuinely clamors for welfare of its population such that its representative may also be kicked out during the plenary.

 

Election and recall, apart from orders of the court, afford the electorates exclusive rights to ‘hire and fire’ those they endorsed for public offices. It therefore becomes grossly erroneous to conceive that legislators, duly elected with certificate-of-return issued by the electoral umpire and consequently sworn-in to represent the people can only exercise the mandate by the discretion of other elected colleagues. The mandate to represent the people in the senate, House of Representatives or House of Assembly is not in any way a shared responsibility or conditional, but sacrosanct; exclusively determined by the people and not members of a legislative body.

 

And even if a colleague is found guilty of commissions or omissions including in-house rules, the appropriate people that can call the shorts or cut short his duties are the electorates. At most, the legislative chamber can withdraw privileged benefits it freely allotted by partisan considerations where contravention of rules is substantiated against the colleague. That’s the extent in-house rules can go. Thus, in-house powers of legislative bodies begins and ends with partisan benefits to members by whatever criteria it adopts but not to shut out a bona fide legislator elected to represent a legitimate group of people from participating in legislative businesses in the society.

 

Democracy is succinctly, the government of the people, by the people and for the people. It therefore connotes that the people plays fundamental and active roles in any democratic system as it is virtually all about the people. Thus, where the representation of the people is denied access into government businesses, it is tantamount to intimidation, terrorization and muzzling of the entire people being represented. To sum, the action of the senate is aptly treasonous and felonious; criminal offenses punishable with terms of imprisonments against principal officers of the red chamber. It is clearly hostilities against Section 14(2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, precisely against corporate existence of the nation. Politics must be played within its borders. To barefacedly, contemptuously and recklessly suspend, even for a day, a legislator that represents a legitimate group recognized by the nation’s constitution over whatever reasons let alone frivolities and partisanship is the height of law-breaking and should expeditiously attract full wraths of the law. A legislator that contravenes in-house rules may lose in-house arranged packages or positions but not to the extent of impliedly shutting out the entire people of the district or constituency from participation in their government.

 

As it stands, the senate has by its weird and reckless action unconsciously fired the entire people of Delta Central Senatorial District from legislative businesses of the Federal Republic of Nigeria till further notice. Probably, the jumbo allowances the lawmakers covetously allocated to themselves made them forget the concept of representation of the legislature vis-à-vis the people. Emphatically, the legislative arm albeit misconstrued by politicians is the peoples’ corner. A legislator is apparently the symbol of the constituency he represents. Unfortunately, it largely remains a myth in the contemporary society instead selfishly amassing monetary benefits at the detriment of the people. It is indeed upsetting that most allocations made for constituency projects for districts and constituencies in the country end up in foreign countries for acquiring exquisite properties for ‘distinguished senators and honorable members’.

 

 

Umegboro, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja via umegborocarl@gmail.com (07057101974 SMS only)

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Perspectives

Stone-throwing ‘David’ versus gun-wielding ‘Goliath’

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The story of how David defeated Goliath remains one great triumph of good over evil. It was a battle between humility and unnecessary pride. Some call it a battle of faiths. Yet for others, it was an underdog situation whereby a humble shepherd armed with slingshot and stones fell a giant tormentor with armour and javelin. It was a single battle. David hurled a stone from a sling and hit ferocious and fearsome Goliath in the centre of his forehead. He fell on his face to the ground, and David cut off his head.

A smaller and weaker opponent defeated a dreaded and fear-instilling giant. However, without prejudice to unwavering faith in God in whom all things are possible, the story of David and Goliath can be categorised as one of those that happened as we say in Oral Literature: when eyes were on the cheeks and bottoms were on the kneecaps. The complexity of today’s situations has rendered anachronistic the use of slingshots and stones or armours and javelins in battles.

The David and Goliath’s story belongs to the Stone Age. But interestingly that is the age the Benue State government wants to take its people to as the answer to the rampaging herdsmen who derive pleasure in killing the people at will and appear unstoppable. A frustrated Governor Samuel Ortom had last week Monday told the Internally Displaced Persons who were chased away from their homes by herdsmen to return home and defend themselves with stones. “David in the Bible used ordinary stones to defeat his enemy, it is now time for you to stay at home and use the stones in your homes to defend yourselves instead of running away,” the governor reportedly said.

The Chairman of Takum Local GovernmentArea of Taraba State, Shiban Tikari, also shared Ortom’s sentiment. He also wants his people to defend themselves with “sticks and stones in the face of unprovoked attacks” by the killer herdsmen. As far as he is concerned, the presence of the ‘Exercise Ayem Akpatuma (Cat Race) has emboldened the killers to be more daring and deadly.

What evidence does anyone needs beyond the unabated killings in the presence of military men deployed purposely to curtail the killings. It is difficult to fault the position of a former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Theophillus Danjuma, that the soldiers are not only providing cover for the killers but are also guilty of the killings that have become a daily occurrence in different parts of the country.

I understand the plight of Ortom, a helpless chief security officer of his state. But I will not touch his suggestion with 100 metres long pole. If there is a re-enactment of the hostility between David and Goliath today, neither of the party will use slingshot, stones, armour or spear. So, asking victims of the persistent herdsmen attacks and killings to go home and defend themselves with sticks and stones is suicidal. Some even said the sticks being referred to are traditional sticks laced with African magical power.

Some said they are potent and powerful. Even if there is a modicum of truth in what appears like an exaggeration from the Nollywood Yoruba movie, my honest advice is that the indigenes should not contemplate risking their lives while armed with stones and sticks. If the government cannot guarantee their safety, they should remain in the IDPs’ camps. What will ‘David’ do with stones and sticks if ‘Goliath’ is armed with AK- 47? Before ‘David’ flings a stone with his slingshot, one can imagine how many rounds of gunshots ‘Goliath’ would have released from his AK-47.

There is no point begging the issue. More people will be killed in droves If all they rely on for self defence is traditional method of carrying sticks and stones against well-armed attackers. The governor is just being careful. He was only being circumspect by creating the impression that stones and sticks will not be equated with guns and other assault weapons If security agents find out that is what the people armed themselves with. If stones and sticks turn out to be deadly, I can place a bet that security agents will still find reasons to arrest some people for ‘taking the laws into their hands.’

The modus operandi of these killers is enough to show that carrying sticks and stone is akin to a suicide mission. They usually sneak in, in the dead of the night, set houses on fire and as people are running out of their houses, they are gunned down. There have been claims that they sometimes carry rocket launchers and kill with venomous rage. Yet, the governor thinks stones and sticks can confront such mean men who don’t understand the sanctity of human lives.

If people must resort to self-help, sticks and stones are not the solution. Otherwise, they will continue to hold funeral parties every now and then. Taraba State is under constant attacks. The past three weeks have been hellish. People can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed. Fear has enveloped most communities. The governor is helpless. Yet, he needs help. The military whose presence has not abused the killings are going about arresting people in the dead of the night. The situation has overwhelmed the police. The neutrality of the soldiers is doubtful.

There are bound to be slips when soldiers are entrusted with the work meant for the police. We have never had it so bad like this at least in recent time. Life has become so cheap. Death is as common as stones on the streets. The government claims from time to time that it’s doing something to contain the bloodshed. But whatever it’s doing is not good enough to stop the killings. For those who are waiting for the president to sack the heads of security agencies for their inability to halt the killings in different parts of the country, they should not hold their breath. The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, knew there won’t be consequences for disobeying the president when he was asked to relocate to Benue State.

And if you are still in doubt as to why the killings have not been halted, the president has provided the answer: Let’s blame the late Muammar Gadaffi. The men he armed before he died seven years ago, have infiltrated our land and they should be blamed for the killings. But why did Nigeria become the destination for weapons used in fighting the war in Libya? How many of such arms and ammunition have found their ways into the immediate neighbours of Libya? How often are people being killed in Libya compared to Nigeria in recent time? Why have our borders remain porous over the years? These and many more are questions begging for answers.

We continue to sit on a keg of gunpowder and think there is pleasure in doing so. Our problems have not defied solutions except that we are yet to be blessed with a genuine problem solver, a leader who knows that when there’s a problem, solution and not excuse will solve it. The level of insecurity in the country is a cause for concern. Many Nigerians have become so disenchanted with life generally.

The disconnect between the government and the governed is growing by the day. On Thursday, gunmen in army uniforms went berserk, killing no fewer than 26 people in Jandelkyura, a border town between Benue and Taraba States. Women took to the streets in Taraba to protest against killings by herdsmen and alleged complicity by the soldiers. And on Wednesday, the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, said it had arrested 147 herdsmen in Benue and 15 in Taraba. It recovered 38 machetes, five AK-47 rifles, 23 rounds of ammunition, 18 motorcycles, 19 locally-made guns, five locally-made pistols among other weapons from the herdsmen. This is a good development.

After investigation, those found culpable should be dealt with according to the law. The security threat in the country is real. There are many illegal weapons in circulation and the earlier they are mopped up, the better for all. Nigerians love life and are ready to hang on even if the socio-economy of the country further nosedive beyond its present nadir state. Asking the government to be alive to its constitutional responsibility of ensuring security of lives and property of the citizens is not like asking for arms and legs.

If government fails in its responsibility, the shit will soon hit the fan and the dire consequences may rub on all. As for the victims of incessant attacks, if government cannot guarantee your safety and you are advised to defend yourselves with sticks and stones, ignore the advice. Rather, dialogue with your legs. Life has no duplicate.

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