‘Reserve force’ underway as ‘wars’ drain military budgets

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara says legislators are now poised to review the current architecture of policing to make it “structurally strong and effective.”

• N.7 trillion spent in two years

Amid budgetary and human resource constraints, the Nigerian armed forces are fighting internal wars on many fronts and will have, by the end of 2017, spent about N700 billion in 24 months.

Lawmakers are now taking steps to create an “Armed Forces Reserve” group to ensure that the military is not overwhelmed. The special reserve force, according to the lawmakers, will involve retired military personnel.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara says legislators are now poised to review the current architecture of policing to make it “structurally strong and effective.”

Although officials would not disclose the expenditure profile for the war against the Boko Haram in the Northeast, more than half a trillion naira (N657.1 billion) have been budgeted between 2016 and this year as the military also grapples with pipeline vandals in Niger Delta and uprisings across the country. The amount, worth more than the N581.2 billion budget of the entire five states of the Southeast in 2017 — can build the contentious Second Niger bridge (estimated at the cost of N14. 4 billion) 45 times over. The old bridge links the Southwest and South–South of the country with the region. Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola recently fell out with the Senate for appropriating only N10 billion for a second bridge in 2017 Appropriation Act recently signed by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo. The Lawmakers argued that government would not be able to meet its financial obligations regarding the project, the reason they had to slash the budget.

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) says the military has the capacity to contain any form of insecurity nationwide but declined further details. “When you talk about personnel that you have, you know it is not strategic information to be given out,” Director of Defence Information, (DDI) Maj. Gen John Enenche told The Guardian when asked for details of the military’s numerical strength and financial capacity in its ‘numerous wars.’

“It is not in our national interest and security to give out such a figure,” he insists. “But I will tell you that we have what is needed now at every point in time to contain insecurity in the country.”

The 2017 globalfirepower.com report however says Nigeria’s more than 186 million people are backed up by a military strength of 181,000 personnel, with 124, 000 being active. The country also has reserve personnel of 57,000 soldiers.

Yesterday, a public hearing organised by the Mukhtar Aliyu Betara-led House Committee on Defence brought up a bill to amend the Armed Forces Act. The amendment will, among other things, provide for specific duties for the Armed Forces Reserve to serve as a rapid response mechanism with capacity to intervene in emergency and internal security where the police are overwhelmed.

Dr. Mohammed Sani Abdu, who sponsored the bill, underlined the need for the establishment of a reserve force considering the huge number of retirees of the Armed Forces and security personnel whose experience in the battlefield would assist in dealing with security challenges.

Saying that the armed forces appear to be overstretched, Abdu recalled that, in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, Nigeria lost many soldiers due to their lack of experience.

At the public hearing attended by top military brass and security personnel, Air Vice Marshall Ibrahim Shafi bared his mind on other proposed amendment to the Armed Forces Act and supported the proposal to establish a special reserve team for the military.

Although the Federal Government had issued statements pointing to a “technical defeat” of the terrorist group, renewed Boko Haram attacks in Borno State in recent weeks have killed many civilians and soldiers with some lecturers of the University of Maiduguri still in captivity.

Apart from the North-East battle, Nigeria’s military is also actively engaged in the Niger Delta where economic sabotage and renewed agitation for resource control in recent weeks have claimed at least one soldier, according to official numbers.

The suspension of planned resumption of attacks on oil and gas installations by militants in June had brought some respite for Nigeria’s troubled economy.

The country recorded a daily loss of more than 700,000 barrels of crude oil last year resulting in oil production revenue shortfall of N3.8 trillion due to activities of the Niger Delta Avengers and vandals.

Concerns about incessant attacks on critical national assets and infrastructure by militants had underscored the need for a review of the Order of Battle (ORBAT) which necessitated the establishment of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, covering Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states.

The division, which comprises 2, 16, and 63 Brigades of the Army, has been designed to curtail activities of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Niger Delta Avengers, general banditry, illegal bunkering, and pipeline vandalism.

A security expert in an oil major told The Guardian that Nigeria bleeds financially due to the high cost of maintaining security in the region. He says oil companies are daily spending huge sums of money to secure their facilities.

The Chairman of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition, Mr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, has asked government to either address the Niger Delta question, or allow the country sink economically. The President, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Legborsi Pyagbara, said the reported cases of attacks on oil facilities despite huge sums expended on pipeline surveillance contracts, were disturbing.

Pioneer Director, Centre for Gas, Refining & Petrochemicals Institute of Petroleum. Studies at the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Godwin J. Igwe, said financial capacity should start by reducing the allowances paid to senators.

According to Igwe, “curbing our internal expenditures help us tackle all other problems.” Fiscal governance expert, Eze Onyekpere, said deficit budget financing and inadequate provisions for the Defence Ministry would be addressed through a judicious use of resources. He believes that “Rather than merely control the crisis, government should do more of mitigation.

“South-South and Southeast cases are about restructuring, and this is avoidable. It is only Boko Haram that has a unique nature. What is needed is to increase provisions, as the resources can be accessed,” he said.

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