The Senate Committee on Army has asked the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, the Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze and the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Attahiru Ibrahim to appear before it next Tuesday.
They were invited to explain details of the funds so far released to the Nigerian Army to fight insurgency, banditry and other forms of insecurity, from 2019 till date.
The Chairman of the Senate panel, Ali Ndume, stated this on Thursday during a meeting with the officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
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Ndume expressed disappointment that the Minister shunned the invitation of the panel despite the importance of the issue at stake.
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.”
‘We are on course’
The Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the finance ministry, Aliyu Shinkafi, told the committee that N75bn was appropriated and released in 2019 while additional funds appropriated N7bn from the service-wide vote was also released 100 per cent. The sum of N2.5bn was also released in 2019.
He said in 2020, N75bn was appropriated but N74.99bn was released.
“In the current year, N100bn has been appropriated and we have released N19.4bn for the first quarter. Just yesterday (Wednesday), we released N19.95bn for the second quarter.
“I believe that we are on course as far as releases for these operations are concerned,” he added.
However, Ndume brought out a letter from the Chief of Defence Staff, which said the military authorities complained that they had a shortfall as far as releases from the finance ministry were concerned.
“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,” Ndume said.
Shinkafi insisted that all the amount appropriated had been released.
The committee asked the ministry’s officials to come with details of the releases.