By Akanimo Sampson
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says the National Assembly has a bill that will address the funding of defence.
Speaking on the topic, State of the Nation at the ongoing 2020 Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) virtual conference, Gbajabiamila said ‘’we have a Bill that will address the issue of defence. It will be given speedy passage and will go to the President for assent. The only way you can fight the Boko Haram is through technology.’’
Obviously delighted, a pro-military interest group, Military Writers Society of Nigeria (MWSN) is urging federal legislators to do all they could, to enhance operational efficiency of the armed forces.
Administrative Secretary of the group, Thomas Anom, while expressing their support for the bill in an interview in Abuja on Thursday night, notes that in this year’s budget, Defence is allocated N878.458 billion out of which recurrent expenditure is taking N778.589 billion.
‘’This represents 88.6percent while the capital expenditure stands at N99.869 billion, representing 11.3 percent which is to be used for equipment and other infrastructure’’, the military writers said.
Continuing, he said, ‘’as a Society, we are confident that the bill for an Act to Provide Special Financial Support, Training and Modern Security Equipment for the Revamping of the Nigerian Armed Forces, cited as ‘Nigerian Armed Forces Support Fund Bill’ will help in tackling the country’s multifarious security challenges.’’
According to the military writers admin scribe, ‘’at our executive committee meeting on this bill earlier in the day, our President, Akanimo Sampson, explained that when established, the Nigerian Armed Forces Support Fund will provide alternative source of funding for security activities since government has not been able to adequately fund security despite rising spate of insecurity.
For the military writers, Nigeria is facing serious security challenges from Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, banditry in the North-West, Fulani herdsmen attacks in the North-Central and other parts of the country to violent crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping, assassinations, oil bunkering, cult activities and ritual killings.
‘’In the face of all these security challenges, government seems to be helpless. To a large extent, shortage of equipment and personnel caused by funding challenges has hindered the security forces from being on top of the situation.
‘’We are impressed that the House of Representatives under Gbajabiamila’s watch has passed for second reading the bill that seeks to create a five-year funding plan for the armed forces outside the annual budgetary allocations to help in war against insecurity’’, the group said.
The bill is jointly sponsored by the Chairmen of House Committees on Defence, BabajimiBenson; Army, AbdulrazaqNamdas; Police Affairs, Bello Kumo; Air Force, Shehu Koko; Navy, Yusuf Gagdi; and National Security and Intelligence, Shaban Sharada as well as Deputy Chairman, Committee on Defence, MakkiYalleman.
It proposes that the Support Fund will be derived from an amount constituting one percent of the total money accruing to the Federation Account and 0.5 percent of profit made from investment of the National Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF) by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
It also to come from an amount constituting one percent of Value Added Tax (VAT) remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR), any take-off grant and special intervention fund as may be provided by the Federal Government, states and local governments of the federation, and an amount constituting one percent of the air ticket contract, charter and cargo sales charge to be collected by the airlines and paid over to the support fund.
It will equally come from aids, grants and all assistance from international agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sectors, money derived from investments made by the Support Fund and an amount accruing from Annual National Fundraising as may from time to time be conducted by the Board.
While the bill provides that all funds received by the Fund would not be spent until it is appropriated by the National Assembly, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) shall be responsible for the collection of the funds and remittance to the Support Fund.
In specific terms, the Support Fund will be used ‘’for the purchase of modern and state-of-the-art military equipment and machineries for the Nigerian Armed Forces, for continuous training and acquisition of knowledge and skills by the personnel all over the world for improved proficiency in the use of modern operational equipment and machineries, and for such other purposes incidental or connected to the attainment of the objectives of this bill.’’
However, Gbajabiamila on the funding of the security agencies said, ‘’the issue of security is perhaps the most important leg of the three legs that this government came into power. If you look at it, a lot has been done, but that’s not to say that it’s Uhuru, it’s not yet.
‘’If you look at it, what’s being proposed by the Executive isn’t touched. The defence budget has been what it has been. But all over the world, what happens is that you need to look out of the budget to fund the security.’’
The Speaker also pointed out that constitutional and electoral reforms are currently top on the table of the Green Chamber of te bicameral Legislature, stressing that as soon as the House reconvenes from its ongoing recess on September 15, the Special Ad-hoc Committee on constitution amendment will hit the ground running.
Responding to a question on the actions taken by the House to address the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the first thing the House did was to pass the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill which grants moratorium on mortgages and lifts duties on medical equipment.
Other actions taken by the House on COVID-19, according to him, were the donation of two months salaries by the 360 members to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the introduction of the Infectious Diseases Bill as well as updating the Legislative Agenda of the House to accommodate current realities.
‘’The issue of reform or constitutional amendment is on the table of the House of Representatives. We already have a committee in place, and they will start work as soon as we return from our recess on September 15.
‘’But before then, we have the Police Reform Act amendment Bill. I think it’s now before the president. That will address a lot of issues such as community policing among others. For me, the constitutional reform and the electoral reforms are issues we take seriously’’, he said.
Gbajabiamila, according to his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, also said that those making insinuations about the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the House were only doing so to distract attention from the main issues, saying Nigerians should be concerned about getting value for the money pumped into the commission.
‘’Nigeria is great, but unfortunately we haven’t tapped into the greatness. We should use what we have to our advantage. We can achieve our aspirations. We need to come together, put our hands, our heads and our minds together to achieve more greatness as a country’’, he says.