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Where is the security amidst huge budget allocations?

On November 29, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu presented a budget proposal of N27.5 trillion for 2024 to the National Assembly. Out of the sum,…

On November 29, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu presented a budget proposal of N27.5 trillion for 2024 to the National Assembly. Out of the sum, defence and security was allocated N3.25 trillion, the largest single allocation to any sector, at over 12 percent of the total budget.

This may indicate that the government places a high premium on security of lives and property, and rightly so. However, it also raises the question of accountability and performance, particularly in terms of Nigeria’s cumulative spending on security over recent years with little to show for it on the ground.

In 2022, defence and security had a budget allocation of N2.98 trillion out of the total budget of N21.83 trillion. In the military alone, N1.55 trillion was budgeted in the 2023 budget, showing a breakdown of N917.55billion for personnel costs, N78.53billion for overhead and over N297 billion for capital expenditure. Also, in the 2023 supplementary budget, defence and security got N605 billion out of the total amount of N2,176,791,286,033.

According to a review of budget documents of Ministry of Defence, in the last five years, Nigeria’s defence budget has risen by 134.80 per cent, from N589.955 billion in 2019 to N2.98 trillion last year.

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said military expenditure in Nigeria averaged from $23,4 million in 1960 to an all-time high of $4.47 billion in 2021. Specifically, in the last five years, Nigeria’s military spending/defence budget for 2021 was $4.47 billion, a 73.93% increase from 2020. For 2020, it was $2.57 billion, a 38.04% increase from 2019, which was $1.86 billion. The 2019 figure represents a decline of 8.95% from 2018, which was $2.04 billion.

In other words, in just the years 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018, Nigeria has budgeted $10.94 billion on security and defence. And add to that the budgets for 2022 and 2023 that together total nearly a further $6.23 billion even by today’s exchange rate of say N1000 to a dollar. Overall, we are looking at total budgetary allocations of $17.17 billion for security and defence for just the years 2018 to date.

No doubt, $17 billion for a single sector is a lot of money, even for the United States, the country that has by far the highest defence and security expenditure in the world. For Nigeria, it is still a lot of money if just 30% of the sums were released.

Yet, despite the dramatic increase in defence and security allocation in recent years, Nigerians have not felt commensurate decrease in insecurity. They are daily confronted with terrorism, kidnappings, crude oil theft; farmer-herder clashes, banditry, separatist terror, and other criminalities. Meanwhile, increased budgetary allocation was supposed to equip the military and other security agencies’ capabilities towards meeting its constitutional requirements.

Defence Headquarters has always claimed that the military is winning the war against terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements, pointing to the decimation and mass surrender of thousands of terrorists. But non-state actors still are wreaking havoc in almost every region of the country. So, the military-led security agencies cannot in good conscience claim to have lived up to their constitutional duties or the expectations of Nigerians.

What is disturbing is that statistically, the Nigerian military alone is no push over. According to the World Bank collection of development indicators, Nigeria has a military strength of over 230,000 active personnel, making it one of the largest uniformed combat services in Africa. It is also ranked sixth in the world. In 2022, a group, Global Firepower also put the Nigerian military as the third-most powerful military in Africa, after Egypt and Algeria; and ranked 35th in the world. But it is obvious that these top rankings are not reflecting on their effectiveness to make Nigerians feel safe in their houses, offices and streets.

A second excuse by the security agencies is that not all the funds allocated to security and defence are released year after year, as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa said in a recent television interview. But this excuse is not tenable. The question is how well are the funds released used judiciously by the agencies?

First, 80% of Nigeria’s military, trained for warfare, are currently deployed in all the 36 states of the federation performing police duties, including pursuing online fraud suspects, enforcing dress codes, controlling traffic, or guarding private homes, thus demeaning the military institution and promoting indiscipline and other acts prejudicial to service discipline. Instead of being on the frontlines, they are accused of being bullies, inflicting gross human rights abuses on the civilians they ought to protect.

Secondly, because of the opaque nature of allocations and spending of defence and security budgets, Nigerians question the existence of sound financial management that is key to efficient and effective armed forces capable of responding to the citizens’ legitimate security needs.

Third, because all the security agencies have often been accused of rampant corruption at one time or the other, we fear that continued huge budgetary allocations might in fact be incentivizing insecurity in the country, which many Nigerians will say has been getting worse rather than abating.

Therefore, as the National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and all his service chiefs settle down for the difficult task ahead in the next year, we at Daily Trust call for openness in the budgeting and spending on personnel, overhead and capital projects. They need to take a hard look at the books and the overall structure of security governance in the country. Sound governance is about doing more with less, not doing less with more.

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