THE ECO-POLITICAL IMPLICATION OF $1BILLION ECA FUND FOR INSURGENCY BATTLE: A CALL FOR A RETHINK By Oyeniyi Iwakun

The Federal Government again have decided to withdraw One billion dollars ($1b) from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram insurgency, an action which got the endorsement of the National Economic Council (NEC), including the Nigeria Governors forum (NGF) and other loyalists and die hard supporters of the incumbent regime.

However, this move has also attracted criticisms from various quarters, especially among people who felt the decision was ill conceived, considering the economic challenges that have rocked the nation in recent times. Some civil society groups and analysts faulted the move by the Federal Government on the basis that past allocations to defence and the anti-terrorism operations are yet to be judiciously accounted for.

Although Nigeria is said to have come out of recession, but the effect of this acclaimed economic breakthrough had not reflected in the lives of the common citizens, not even when state governments owe huge salaries and unable to embark on welfare oriented projects. The incumbent administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has become very popular in recent times with shocking decisions and inconsistent policies that don’t conform with current realities in the country. Recently, the same Federal Government said it was going to finance the 2018 budget with the proceeds from the sales of critical national assets which have been condemned by most Nigerians who opined that some national that were sold and concessioned in the past had either not fared better under their new owners or had created monopoly in the sectors.

Security of lives and properties is no doubt sacrosanct and must be priotized by every sane government. It is also unarguably correct that one of the major ingredients of the change mantra which brought the current administration onboard is its three months’ timeline promise to defeat the deadly Boko Insurgency that has caused the death and displacement of thousands of people in the North-Eastern part of the country among others. It is then worrisome that a government that claimed to have technically defeated Boko Haram has suddenly woken up to say they want to fight the same insurgents they have defeated with such huge amount of money.

The Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki had been a leading voice among the governors who gave open consent to the idea. Addressing journalist in Abuja last week, Obaseki said the approval which was announced by the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari on behalf of the governors of the 36 states of Nigeria at the 83rd meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) held inside the council chamber of the Presidential Villa Abuja and chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was premised on the impressive achievements that have been made to date in the fight against insurgency, particularly in the North East by the federal government. He said “We expect that the contribution of the states to these efforts is going to cover the whole array of efforts required to secure the country and counter insurgency and that the amount will include but not be limited to purchase of equipment, procuring intelligence and logistics and all what is required to ensure that we finally put an end to the scourge of insurgency,’’

Notable among those opposed to the decision is Ekiti state Governor, Ayodele Fayose who has described the decision as a means by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to fund President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election in 2019. Fayose also denied having knowledge or consent in what he tagged as “the sole idea of the federal government which they used the arranged NEC meeting to achieve”.

He questioned the logicality of federal government’s sudden plan to fight the Boko Haram it claimed to have already defeated with the whooping sum of over N360 billion from ECA that belongs to the three tiers of government, an act he described as “APC government’s policy of wiping out the economy of Nigeria and the means of livelihood of the people”.

The Ekiti state Governor said N360 billion was equivalent to what the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) share to the federal government, 36 states and 777 local councils monthly, challenging the federal government to make available to Nigerians, how the money released by international donors for the fight against Boko Haram was spent.

He said “Even the Transparency International (TI) once said in its report that some top military officials in the country were feeding fat from the war against Boko Haram by creating fake contracts and laundering the proceeds in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere”. The vocal opposition party leader also accused the APC led federal government of looting the treasury on daily basis to amass huge fund for the 2019 elections under the pretence of fighting insurgency in the Northeast as well as other dubious means.

Also supporting Fayose is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that described the NEC approval as “a ruse and alarming”. Speaking through its national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, it said “it is a manipulative plot of the APC administration to secure approvals without recourse to due process” even as he questioned the rationale behind avoiding the direct constitutional appropriation channel of the National Assembly for funding of items already provided for in the federal budget if it actually has nothing to hide.

Recall that towards the end of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, the Federal Government requested and got approval from the National Assembly for a loan of $1bn to fight the Boko Haram menace. No explanation has been given on how the money was expended to date.

There has also been various scandals associated with funds allocated to fighting Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria that the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki and many other top politicians and government officials, especially from PDP had been in detention for funds diversion and other related offences on arms procurement deals.

It is hoped that APC and President Buhari would give it a deep thought before withdrawing this fund from the ECA as it may be more distraous to realize that it went the same path with what transpired during the President Good luck jonathan’s administration.

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