The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, says the non-submission of the military hardware estimates by the defence ministry is responsible for the delay in the submission of supplementary budget for procurement of military equipment and COVID-19 vaccines to the National Assembly.
Hajiya Zainab said this while fielding questions from State House reporters after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The minister, while reacting to a question on the plan to send a supplementary budget to the National Assembly, said her ministry had met with the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor and the three service chiefs on the urgent need to have the estimates for the military hardware to be purchased.
She said the security chiefs had not furnished her office with the details but voiced hope that the estimate will be submitted soon.
Daily Trust reports that soldiers in the frontline are complaining of lack of fighting equipment, a development they attributed to their inability to tame terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.
President Muhammadu Buhari had during his meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on Monday hinted that he would submit a supplementary budget proposal for funds to buy arms and COVID-19 vaccines.
This is because there was no provision was made for the purchase in the 2021 Finance Bill adopted in December 2020.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan told reporters after their meeting with Buhari that both the executive and legislature believed that a supplementary budget should be provided to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 and insecurity.
“And that is why we are expecting our Tucsons to be here soon. We are expecting some APCs from Jordan. We are expecting some APCs from China. And we believe that we have not had enough, we still need to approve more resources for the purchase of weapons for our armed forces, because this is the number one priority of government or any government really, to secure the people, and of course later the welfare.”
What the minister said on arms purchase
According to Hajiya Zainab, “For the military hardware, we have met with the service chiefs and the chief of defence staff. They are supposed to aggregate their request for review amongst themselves and then pass it to Mr President; then it will be sent to us. So, we are waiting for the information of the aggregate requirements.”
She announced that the supplementary budgetary estimate for COVID-19 vaccines prepared by her ministry and that of health was ready.
She, however, said that the amount initially voted for the building of primary healthcare centres had been put on hold for now.
According to her, “Sometime in January, the president, based on the request by the ministry of health gave an approval in principle for the ministry of health to work with the ministry of finance, budget and national planning to prepare and take to the National Assembly, a supplementary budget for COVID-19 vaccination.
“The submission that was made to Mr President at that time was in the sum of N399 billion, but included in this N399 billion was a N103 billion for the building of primary healthcare centres. So, we have worked with and met several times with the ministry, we have agreed to back out from this building of primary health care centres…That can wait till later. So, there is still a provision of N396 billion for COVID-19 vaccinations for 2021 and 2022”.
The minister, who said the country was expecting not less than 43 million COVID-19 doses from donors, explained that the health ministry officials had been directed to provide the total number of vaccine donation being expected to guide the government in its plans to buy more vaccines for the citizenry.
She said: “There have been some delays because we expected the ministry to confirm the vaccines donation that Nigeria is expecting. We are expecting a total of not less than 43 million doses of vaccines. So, they are supposed to find out when those ones will come. Because, if we are going to get back the donated vaccines, and at the speed of the current rollout, we have to slow down on what we are buying ourselves.
“So, the ministry is working with partners that are donating these vaccines. So, we see the timelines of the donations and see the gap that the government needs to fill in 2021.
“But we have already provided to the ministry funds to enable them roll out the four million vaccines that have been brought already into the country and the vaccination process is ongoing.
“For us, it is still work in progress. We hope in the next couple of days, we will have clarity on the schedule of vaccines expected from donors, and then, we will now be able to firm up what government has to provide for in 2021. And therefore, the 2022 component, we will provide it during the 2022 appropriations.”
Military, defence ministry silent
When contacted yesterday night to comment on the inability of the military to submit the estimate for the arms they need, the Acting Director, Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Brig.-Gen. Bernards Onyeuko directed one of our correspondents to the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig.-Gen. Clement Nwachukwu.
He said it was not within his purview to speak on the matter. Efforts to reach Brig. Gen. Nwachukwu were unsuccessful as calls to his mobile phone were not answered nor did he reply to a text message sent as at when this report was filed.
Similarly, the spokesman, Ministry of Defence, Mohammad Abdulkadir, when contacted on phone simply said “Thank you”.
Speaking on the development, a security expert, Vincent Onyekwelu, said the military might not need the supplementary budget being proposed, hence their silence to the request.
“When the 2021 budget was signed, was there no budget for the Nigerian military? We need to analyse the current 2021 budget. How much was given to the military? So, let’s first breakdown the budget for 2021 before they can ask for supplementary.
“You know, they are new service chiefs, if they came and there was no money in their locker, and they need new money, they would have to investigate how much was given to them as from January, February this year and possibly highlight areas where these monies were budgeted for.
“We can now have an idea of why they haven’t asked for supplementary proposals.”