There was a division in the Upper Chamber of the Legislative House over the recent approval of $1bn by President Muhammadu Buhari to purchase military equipment to fight Boko Haram.
From the interviews granted it seemed some were not in support of the President this. However the President would need the approval of the National Assembly before releasing the money or not.
Members of both chambers of the National Assembly had in December differed over the matter when the National Economic Council approved the withdrawal of $1bn from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram.
But on Friday, there appeared to be a conspiracy of silence in the House of Representatives on the matter.
In the Senate, there were indications that the $1bn security fund would polarise the chamber along political party lines.
The Vice Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, (Peoples Democratic Party, Bayelsa State) stated that the executive must seek legislative approval before spending the money.
Murray-Bruce, while speaking to one of our correspondents on Friday, stated that it would be illegal to spend such money without approval.
He said, “They cannot spend it unless we appropriate it. They have to bring it to us. They must be talking about the proposal, they cannot spend it. We will appropriate it while they will recommend it.
“I assume that whoever made the statement on behalf of the Federal Government must have failed to say that they would bring it for us to approve it.”
While speaking, the Chief Whip, Senator Sola Adeyeye, who is also the leader of the South-West APC Caucus, however, said the President might not require legislative approval to release the money, depending on which Federal Government’s purse it would be taken from.
He said, “I don’t know. It may be that there is an existing provision for the purpose. It could also be from borrowed funds, but I am sure that the executive cannot be reckless with borrowed funds. Otherwise, the money will be wasted and the future generations will pay part of the debt.”
Adeyeye, however, refused to speak on whether it was justifiable for the government to have approved the spending of $1bn on military equipment.
“I will rather not comment on that, for the sake of my party,” he said.
On the contrary, Senator Ali Ndume, described it as inhuman should anyone oppose the move.
Speaking particularly about the PDP, Ndume recalled that the previous government, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, spent $2.1bn without recourse to the National Assembly for approval.
According to him, the $1bn is still not enough to address the security challenges in the North-East and other parts of the country.
Ndume said, “Anybody that is opposed to this is opposed to humanity. It is inhuman. We in the North-East, particularly in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, are not going to be given the money; it is to fight an insurgency that is threatening the security of this country. I feel very bad because the position of those shouting now is inhuman. I wish they were the ones facing this problem and we had the peace that they are enjoying.
“When the PDP was in government, Jonathan singlehandedly disbursed $2.1bn in the name of fighting insurgency at the peak of electioneering (2014/2015), which this government is now trying to retrieve from the various people who sat at the National Security Adviser’s office and shared it.
“Where were these PDP people who knew that there was a National Assembly that had to approve that money but did not talk about it? It is very inhuman and unfortunate that these same people can come out now and criticise the approval of $1bn to purchase military equipment.”
Ndume pointed out that Buhari would seek National Assembly’s approval for the expenditure.
He said, “Who says the President is not going to write the National Assembly? This money we are talking about, it is from the Excess Crude Account. When the governors, then under the PDP, were sharing the money in the days of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Jonathan, did they come to the National Assembly? It was right then. Is it now that it is wrong?”
Speaking in his capacity as the PDP senator representing Bayelsa-East, Murray-Bruce, in a post on his Facebook, argued that arms and ammunition to be bought with the money would not end Boko Haram insurgency.
The post read, “On this $1bn, we must understand that Boko Haram isn’t just a terror group. More importantly, it is an ideology. The phrase itself means that ‘Western education is a sin.’ You can’t fight an ideology with guns and bullets alone. It is like fighting a spirit with physical weapons.”
Also, Senator Shehu Sani, on his Facebook page, criticised the empowerment of the military without similar consideration for the police and other security agencies.