Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Ministry of Defence and Office of National Security Adviser Rift Over Control of Defence Spending

There are strong indications of a rift over the control of the country’s defence spending, with the Ministry of Defence and the Office of the National Security Adviser split over where the power to spend the fund should reside.

New Telegraph gathered from highly-placed military and intelligence sources over the weekend, that the rift between the two occupants of the high-profile public offices, the Minister of Defence, Lt-Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd), and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), centres on the control of the huge fund for the procurement of military equipment and arms, to prosecute the ongoing terrorism war in the North- East. Only recently, $1 billion was approved by the National Assembly for rearming and equipping the Army.

An intelligence source, who spoke in confidence, said until recently, the purchase of military hardware was done by the Defence Ministry, with the involvement of the Service Chiefs, depending on which of the Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force), was the beneficiary. He said the direct involvement of the Armed Forces in arms purchase in the past, was necessary, in view of the fact that they determine which equipment are bought at any given time, and the need to physically examine their potency, as the case may be.

However, the source said the status quo has changed to the extent that the Office of the NSA is now saddled with the authority of direct purchase of arms to strengthen the critical war on terror in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. This, he argued, could lead to the purchase of items that were either inadequate or not fully compliant to modern warfare.

The intelligence source argued that Gusau naturally feels embarrassed because, as an intelligence officer, who was NSA to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he believes he should be given a free hand to coordinate military operations, including the procurement, nature as well as calibre of weapons for re-equipping troops in the frontline of battle in particular, and the military, in general.

His position was corroborated by a senior military officer, who claimed that the development, in a way, was affecting the effectiveness of the counterterrorism operations in the North. “If the two powerful men are not on the same page as far as the war efforts are concerned, progress will certainly be hindered. There is the urgent need to resolve whatever differences that exist,” he said.

The source drew New Telegraph’s attention to the involvement of the office of the NSA in the recent seizure of $9.3 million and $5.7 million by South African authorities, meant for procurement of arms. “It is important to allow the (Defence) minister to handle arms procurement deals. I’m sure the embarrassing seizures of $15 million in South Africa, would not have happened, were the minister saddled with this responsibility,” he said.
The source further alleged that the twist had left the Ministry of Defence with just personnel operations, among other less critical responsibilities.

To give vent to the cold war raging between Gusau and Dasuki, the source claimed that “both men are hardly seen attending the same function. That is to avoid a situation where they will exchange pleasantries.” A source, however, said Gusau has no reason to complain because “at the time he occupied the office of the NSA, he took charge of defence spending.

So there is no basis for the minister to complain. What is important for him is to work with the office of NSA to ensure that the security challenges are tackled, not about financial matters. Defence Ministry should not only be about contracts.”

A breakdown of the 2014 Appropriation Act, had indicated that of the total national budget of N4. 962 trillion, Defence (Army, Navy and Air Force) got about N968. 127 billion; about 20 per cent of the budget sum.

Meanwhile, former Head of State and presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major- General Muhamadu Buhari (rtd) has exonerated the military from any blame over failure to tame the Boko Haram insurgency threatening the nation’s sovereignty. Buhari, who spoke while addressing APC delegates in Enugu State, said it was wrong to accuse the military of complicity in the current challenge of insurgency when the soldiers have been complaining of inadequate equipment to combat the terrorists.

The former military ruler said that rather than blame the military, Nigerians should hold the Federal Government responsible for the shortcomings of the security agencies as huge funds budgeted annually for security do not seem to have been utilised effectively. He said that in spite of the trillions spent on defence budget in the last three years, soldiers are still complaining of being poorly equipped to fight the insurgents.

“If you consider the foreign revenue Nigeria has generated since 1999, you will be shocked at how inefficient and corrupt PDP has been. Soldiers have been saying they are illequipped, yet trillions have been voted for defence in the last three years. If we don’t vote out PDP, they will vote out Nigerians and we will all be the losers.

Cast your votes for us so that wecan all fight this inefficiency and corruption” Buhari said. However, Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Sulaiman,has asked Nigerians to stop blaming President Goodluck Jonathan for the growing spate of terror in the North.

Instead, Sulaiman told newsmen in Ilorin, Kwara State, that Nigerians should begin to ask questions from the leadership of the armed forces.

According to him, the issue of Boko Haram insurgency is not just political, it is fundamentally, a military issue. Suleiman blamed the insecurity in the North East on alleged animosity between Nigeria and her neighbours.

His words: “I don’t think Boko Haram are having their ways because government is not working. They are having their ways because we are not getting enough support from the sub-region. It’s fundamental. “People should be mindful of one thing when they try to criticise President Jonathan on issue of terrorism.

We should know that when it comes to fighting terrorism, counterterrorism and warfare, presidents do not go to war. It’s the handiwork of the armed forces.

“It’s the primary responsibility of the military. And let me say this, Nigeria’s armed forces today are dominated by northerners and the Boko Haram spate is in the north. If there is a problem there, we look at our tactics, military operation and suspect some subversive tendencies in the armed forces.

“The Inspector General of Police is from the north, the NSA is from the North, the Chief of Defence Staff is from the North. So, why must anyone blame the President? I think we should appreciate what the man is doing by mobilising all these forces.

So, if there’s problem therefore, we should ask questions from the military and troops. “Yes, it’s a political issue, but fundamentally a military issue.

And am not saying they’ve not tried. The issue of terrorism is a global issue, regional issue and sub-regional issue. Secondly, the terrorism we have in Nigeria has internal and external dimensions to it.

Some of the terrorists are not Nigerians, they are not operating from Nigeria, they are operating from Nigerian borders and they have some back up from neighbouring countries.” Efforts to get the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major- General Chris Olukolade, to comment on the matter, were unsuccessful.
On his part, spokesman for the NSA, Mr. Karounwi Adekunle, neither picked repeated calls to his telephone line nor did he reply our text message. However, the imagemaker of the Defence Ministry, Mr. Shehu Maikai, said Gusau will be in a better position to respond to the inquiry.

“I’m not the minister; how can I know? Why not get across to the minister? It is a personal thing,” he told New Telegraph.

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