The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, says the $1billion approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the purchase of military equipment will be spent judiciously.
General Buratai said this on Thursday while briefing reporters at the Second Nigerian Army Procurement Seminar in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
President Buhari had approved the fund during a meeting with the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd), and the service chiefs at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The Army chief was optimistic that the money would boost the efforts of the military in the war against insurgency in the North East and other security issues affecting the country.
On how the fund would be used, he said, “Our capability is increased in terms of the platforms that would be procured, in terms of the further training that would be carried out.”
“Once these equipment are procured, it means further consolidating on other areas where there are challenges so that the troops will be able to use these equipment and operate very efficiently to be able to defeat all those criminals,” Buratai added.
The $1bn approved by the President on Wednesday was from the Excess Crude Account as a bailout fund for the military to purchase equipment to tackle insecurity issues in the country.
Although President Buhari had sought the consent of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum before taking the decision, some governors, including Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State had opposed the development.
The approval had also sparked criticism from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP).
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP called on Nigerians to reject and resist the alleged renewed attempt by the Presidency to loot $1billion from the national coffers to finance the national convention and 2019 campaign of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It also urged the National Assembly to commence appropriate constitutional legislative actions against the President Buhari for alleged gross misconduct in unilaterally approving the release of the fund without purportedly allowing for the application of the legislative instrument.
The opposition party further accused the Presidency of wilfully sidestepping the National Assembly so as to avoid legislative scrutiny and accountability of the fund.
On its part, ANRP through its national spokesman, Sesugh Akume, described the approval as “a ruse, and considers the amount as part of a slush fund for APC to finance the 2019 elections.”
“To be sure, defence budgets in Nigeria have characteristically been used in recent times as slush funds to finance elections. In 2012, PDP administration allotted 921.98 billion naira for defence, the highest in the country’s history up to then. In 2013, it was increased to 1.06 trillion naira; 2014, 968.13 billion naira. In all of this, there was no value for money. There was no evidence of better equipping, training, welfare of troops, etc. The evidence shows that the funds were diverted into private pockets and used in funding the 2015 elections,” the party claimed.