* Canvasses more funding for Army
BY BODE GBADEBO AND EMAMEH GABRIEL, Abuja
The Senate on Wednesday faulted the Amnesty programme of the Nigerian Army otherwise known as Operation Safe Corridor – deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of repented Boko Haram terrorists into the society.
The Upper Legislative Chamber said the Federal Government of Nigeria should rather follow the example of the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which convicted six Nigerians for financing Boko Haram terrorist group in 2019, instead of treating them with kid gloves inspite of their actrocities.
The lawmakers said this would serve as deterrence and as well ensure justice for victims of terrorism.
Recall that six Nigerians were reportedly convicted by an Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal in UAE for funding Boko Haram, having been found to be responsible for laundering the sum of $782, 000 between 2015 and 2016.
The Senate Committee on Army chaired by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South) made the call on Wednesday shortly after the 2020 budget appraisal and the proposed 2021 budget defense of the Nigerian Army.
“We are still calling on the Nigerian government that those that are directly or indirectly involved in Boko Haram activities should be brought to book and used as an example. I think we have not been up and doing on that.
“I am in disagreement with the Government on the issue of deradicalising and Reintegrating (Boko Haram repentants). I still maintain that. You can’t be resettling people, pampering them while the war is on.
“The committee is on the same page and I believe many Nigerians are on the same page on this,” Ndume said on behalf of the Senate panel.
He recalled how a repentant Boko Haram member was fingered in the ambush that led to the death of the Commander of 25 Task Force Brigade in Damboa, Borno State, Col. D.C. Bako, in September this year.
Also, Ndume maintained that the magnitude of their actrocities does not qualify them for amnesty, recalling that in his village alone, 75 elderly Ulamas were murdered in one instance by the terrorists in 2015.
“Can you imagine that the Nigeria Army or the Nigerian government is saying that because these people have gone to repent, or they say they have their hands up, you bring them back and pamper them,” the lawmaker wondered.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee said it will liaise with the executive arm of government on the need to ensure more funding for the Nigerian Army, especialy the capital vote, in view of its engagements across the country.
At a press conference after the budget appraisal/defense session, which took place behind-closed-door, Senator Ndume told journalists that the Army was being under-funded inspite of its enormous responsibilities in protecting the nation.
“The three arms of government are supposed to work hand in hand. We have engaged the Nigerian Army and we are going to engage the executive to make them understand that based on what we oversight, what they budgeted, they need to increase the budget of the Nigerian army.
“So far, we are on the same page with the executive. We are going to work together and make them understand that there is a need. Some of them do these things and present it to Mr. President without him knowing the implications,” he said.
On the 2020 budget performance of the Army, he said the funds were released to the security service in piecemeal, saying there was the need for the Army to be handed its money immediately the budget is signed into law.
“83% of their personnel was released to them. Imagine people who are in the war front, trying to protect the country.
“Worst of it, their capital (budget), I mean money that is supposed to be given to them to buy the necessary equipment, arms and ammunition, secure kitting for the armed forces, only 64% of that money was released.
“On top of that, the 50% was released in first week of July. The second batch of it was released this week and Nigeria is at war,” he said.
“The whole of Nigerian Army (2021) budget is $1.3billion. That is at the level of Niger, Chad and Sudan and other poor countries.
“In a period of war where the country is borrowing and is planning to spend N13 trillion, government is budgeting less than N30 billion as capital (vote) for the Nigerian Army.
“What I see that is the difference between the Nigerian army and the bandits is that the Nigerian army is trained and they have uniform. Even that, the bandits, some of them take away the uniform from the Nigerian army or they buy it from the market.
“Some of the bandits have better AK-47. I think they have what they call AK-49, the latest AK used by bandits and insurgents in the North East and North West.
“I want to use this opportunity to tell you the committee’s position that as a matter of urgency the budget of the Nigerian Army should be increased.
“Not only that, we are advocating they should be front rolled, that means if they sign the budget, you give them so that they can start their procurement process because unlike other procurement that you can buy here, buy there, the Nigerian Army’s have to be processed. Before you even finish the process, it takes a long time,” Ndume added.
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