The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday said the country would need a minimum amount of $2 billion annually for an initial period of 3 years to combat its security challenges.
DHQ also said the proposed N100 billion in the Armed Forces Support Trust Fund bill would be inadequate to combat the protracted security challenges facing the country.
This is just as the Speaker of the House of Representatives; Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila observed that about 91 per cent of current funding to the Armed Forces goes to recurrent overhead, salaries and welfare, leaving only nine per cent for capital purchases.
The Speaker, however, identified the need to uplift the resources available to the Armed Forces to enable them to procure the best tools, noting that the country is at war against insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping and all manner of insecurity.
The director of production, Defence Headquarters, Air Vice Marshall M. A. Yakubu, during a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Defence on the bill said, “If we are not able to raise a minimum of $2 billion per annum in the next three years for a start, subsequently maybe we can begin to taper down the percentages. But for a start, we need a bulk sum because many of these manufacturers of equipment require a 100 per cent down payment to even start production.
“So you cannot sign a contract example with the US manufacturers and pay 15 per cent mobilisation as required by the procurement act. Their terms must be followed. Many times we are asked to pay 100 per cent. An example is the super Tucano. This one is on government to government. They insisted 100 payment within 30 days. No budgetary allocation would fund that,” he said.
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Yakubu insisted that the N100 billion would be meager and inadequate to purchase the required equipment when converted to the United States Dollars.
“We are estimating something in the range of N100 billion per annum. Convert that to dollars because virtually all the equipment are imported. This will go nowhere. And it would not address the problem we are seeking to address unless we expand the sources. Nigerians I know are tired of being asked to pay for something. The level of poverty everybody appreciates is severe. However, nobody wants to sleep with only one eye closed. Everybody is scared of traveling on the road because of insecurity. Therefore, I would urge that all stakeholders must educate citizens to understand the need to sacrifice because if we do not do that to address this problem sincerely speaking would continue to be a mirage.”
Yakubu in his submission added that, “Every year, how do we get our budget, capital budget specifically? An arbitrary envelope is simply thrown at us. This year for example, your budget cap should be N20 billion. It does not take into consideration what are the actual needs. What do you need to meet those needs?
“We are all aware of the exchange rate fluctuations, we have run into problems where even working with approved budget envelopes, we have gone ahead to sign contracts for procurement of equipment and suddenly the exchange rate collapses on us and we are unable to fund it. We have found ourselves every year running back to the federal government for interventions. This is not sustainable.
“The next thing I want to talk about is the cost of equipment. Talking from the point of view of an Airforce officer, who has been involved in procurement of equipment, let me give you an example. The procurement of the 12 Super Tucano Aircrafts cost approximately $500 million. Now, this is a package. The United States would not sell equipment to you and just give you the equipment there. There must be a support package for a minimum of three years. There must be training and other things. That total package came to that amount. How many years would it take you to budget.”
According to Yakubu, the maximum amount the DHQ received from 2017 to in capital allocation for the Airforce was about N44 billion per annum.
“Convert that at the current exchange rate. How many years do you need to gather $500 million to buy just 12 aircraft? Look at the expanse of land we are required to cover? Nigeria is over 920, 000 square km. Every inch of the land needs to be covered by either surveillance or capability to attack. Where can you get that equipment to cover this land? Even the northeast alone, how much does it take to maintain even existing aircraft? Because of this, I sincerely believe that the sources we are considering for this Bill are grossly inadequate. Let us look at it,” he noted
The Speaker, who was represented by the House leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa, noted that the country’s war situation prompted the lawmakers to seek a way of providing funds that will be focused on the capital needs and training of the Armed Forces.
Gbajabiamila said that Nigeria’s expenditure on military hardware and training in the last five years hovers between a paltry 9 and 11 per cent of the total annual budgetary allocation to the Armed Forces.
This, he said, was grossly incapable of empowering the military to face the security challenges in the country especially the insurgency in the North-east.
Meanwhile, the director-general, Defence Research and Development Bureau, Air Vice Marshall U. P. Uzezi, urged that research and development be taken more seriously so that required military hardware can be produced locally.
Uzezi said “This bill is very needed at this point in time in the history of our country, bearing in mind the national security challenges we are facing. I just want to raise two points on this draft. Having gone through the bills I was very happy when I saw on page 13 when he talked about supporting local production of our products. That is a very good part of that bill,” he said.
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