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Friday, May 4, 2012

AZAZI, BOKO HARAM, AND N1 TRILLION DEFENCE BUDGET


      To start with, Nigeria is not the only country in the world (of it size) that is facing serious internal security challenges; others such as Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan, India and even china has faced one insurgency challenge or the other. While all these countries faced the situation as it is and proffer formidable approaches to deal with them, Nigeria is lost in defining what the problem is. Because of that billion of Dollars are been squandered without attending to the root cause of the problem. While, for example, in Pakistan the authorities have evolved religious, ideological, and to some extent socioeconomic ways of dealing with their situation, here in Nigeria the authorities are thinking only along the line of using military forces to crush the insurgency. The use of brutal force has never solve any security problem any where in the world, if at all it only succeeded in keeping the problem low but not eliminating it as the US found in Iraq and Afghanistan. Top military spenders in order of size of their budgets in billion dollars term are United State ($ 711 Billion), China ($143 Billion), Russia ($71.9 Billion), United Kingdom ($62.7 Billion), and France ($62.5 Billion), it can be observed that US share is more than that of all the other four combine. In term of share of their respective GDPs, the US allocated 4.7%, China 2%, Russia 3.9%, UK 2.6% and France 2.3%, this compare to Nigeria with about 2.5% of it GDP this year allocated to defence spending call for concerned, looking at the unique position of Nigeria among these high spenders. Many are of the view that this outrageous budget will not achieved much taking into consideration the level of corruption among top government officials, the history of Nigeria’s government poor budget implementation, and the apparent lost of priorities in the government scheme of things.
    Boko Haram has become a thorn in Jonathan’s throat; so far he has failed to solve the current security riddle facing him in the face, despite the huge security expenditure. If increased spending is the barometer for measuring the success of any security measure Jonathan would have score high. But the fact that money allocation is not the indicator of the success of any government policy in Nigeria, the about $5.7 billion dollars allocated in this year budget to security has done little to bring the security situation under control. Last week all newspapers in the country reported that the national security adviser Gen. Andrew Azazi has made statements during the South-South Economic summit pushing the blame of his office inability to solve the Boko Haram problem to PDP. In the opinion of Azazi the insertion of zoning clause into the constitution of People Democratic Party was responsible for current state of violence in the country. The NSA is really clever, instead of Nigerians blaming him for his office failure to deal with the current problem, despite the about N1 trillion budget given to his office, he is now quick in pushing the blame some where else. In case Jonathan relieve him off his appointment, Nigerians will say that it is because he told the true to PDP which they do not want the world to hear, and no one will care to look the other way to see the fact that is staring at him in the face- the fact that Azazi sector received the highest allocation which he failed to show satisfactory return to justify the expenditure. It was Johnnie Carson, the US assistant secretary of state, who was quoted to have said that the problem of current security challenges in the northern part of Nigeria is attributable to economic factors and not necessarily political and religious as some in Jonathan want the America government to believe, thereby coming to the aid of Jonathan government.
     Like the Americans, I myself (too) believe that the solution to some of the current security challenges facing the North can be found in the chronic poverty that ravaged the region. The earlier the Jonathan administration understands this, the better for it and some of its policies. Instead of allocating Billion of dollars to security the federal government should have used part of that amount to directly address the economic problems facing the North. The Americans even suggested that Jonathan created the ministry of Northern affairs like its counterpart the ministry of Niger delta, but is like some people in the Jonathan administration do not like the idea, hence, the forwarding of different conspiracy theories to explain American government apparent reluctant to come directly into the aid of Jonathan in this matter. Though is not all the security budget that was allocated to tackle the insecurity problems in the north, the fact that Boko Haram is the main security problem of this government made the allocation to look like budgeted for that purpose only. For example, substantial amount of that money was allocated to maritime security mostly to do with the Niger delta coast. The sum of N6.78 billion was allocated for the purchase of two offshore vessels from China in addition to N2.2 billion means for the purchase of patrol craft for the Nigerian navy. In total the Nigerian navy was allocated about N69 billion in this year budget, the army who are shouldered with the responsibility of confronting Boko Haram N122 billion, and the Air force N64 billion. The rest of the money that went into hundreds of billions dollars goes to the office of general Azazi and other security agencies such as the police. But, like with many other countries facing security challenges as we do, the best option is to start developing our own domestic defence industry. Countries such as China, Pakistan, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa have their own security manufacturing firms that supply substantial amount of their defence needs. Pakistan has developed her domestic security industry to the extent that it has already started exporting defence wares into other countries. Pakistan produces a range of defence products that includes Airplanes, war tanks, missiles, drones and even submarines. South Africa export war tanks, helicopters, military vehicles, and other security wares.
      At the centre of the current American deficit and domestic economic challenges is the over bloated defence expenditure. Since after the September 11 attacks, the United States has spend trillions of Dollars in the name of fighting terrorism out side the US land. Currently, the US is a net borrower from the rest of the world because it cannot control its security budget that went out of hand. In my opinion Jonathan government cannot afford to go the United States way; first the economic premises of the two countries is not the same, America is a rich developed country, Nigeria a poor developing one. Looking at the poor infrastructures on the ground in Nigeria, spending a quarter of the annual budget on security do not make economic sense provided there are other alternatives to tackling the security challenge. Deficit in budget is not desirable, especially in a country that is not at war. And, if this regime were to spend a quarter of its budget in the next remaining three years on security, am sure we are going to be in a serious budgetary problem and the regime will not achieved anything. Pakistan domestic economy and global competitiveness has been seriously affected because of the country involvement in the war on terror, as billions of dollars of GDP has been lost. Currently, the economies of Sudan and South Sudan are feeling the impacts of the current war that is going on between the two countries, likewise in Syria. The earlier this regime understand this the better for it, including embracing other options that include dialogue, because economic progress is only attainable in an atmosphere of piece not war.