Scrutinizing Nigeria’s Defense Spending

Nigeria’s military spending in the last decade have been absolutely ineffective. We have not really taken the step from the army of general conscription to the army of special forces that is needed in all these present joint ventures. Our gear is not up to date, we are burning money.

WHEN President Buhari said the Federal Government will continue to place high premium on the development of a strong and efficient Armed Forces, including sustaining efforts at equipment modernization and lifting the morale and welfare of officers and soldiers, one could not help but wonder what the Nigerian Government and security authorities have been doing with all the yearly budgets for equipping, training and maintaining the Nigerian Defense.

Looking at the billions of dollars that are yearly budgeted and expended on defence-related expenditures in Nigeria, we would observe that these huge budgets do not justify the outputs we see on the ground. Budgets cannot be overemphasize. But often times, what we see is the opposite. And the usual language used is that “for security reasons”, details of expenditures of the Nigerian Defence Budgets are not advisable to be disclosed. And as such, all the “Security Votes” accrued to the various States Governments are never accounted for because the Executive Governments are not compelled by law to do so.

How and what they do with these Security Votes is their business and no one should ask questions. But in a situation where innocent lives and properties worth billions are lost every now and then, and the Security authorities are complaining of being ill-equipped, then the Government and those in authorities owes the Nigerian citizenry some explanations.

The main players in the Nigerian ‘Defence industry’ comprises of the President, who by virtue of occupying this position is also the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. Others are the Minister of Defence and the Defence Ministry, the Armed Forces (which comprises of the Nigerian Army, Navy and the Air-force) and the ‘moribund’ and crappy Defence Industries Corporation.

Without a doubt, sound financial management of a country’s security sector is key to having efficient and effective security forces that are capable of responding to the population’s legitimate security needs. Deficiencies in the way the military budget and arms purchases are decided and controlled are likely to lead to higher levels of inefficient military expenditure and inappropriate weapons purchases.

Such excessive military spending and arms imports flowing from weak budgetary and procurement processes fail to provide economic or security benefits, merely consuming scarce resources needed to address basic needs of the population. Lack of transparency in particular creates high vulnerability for corruption, especially in arms procurement processes.

In many countries, the military tends to be one of the most corrupt sectors of government because of the level of ‘secrecy’ often observed by the players in this sector. For instance, Arms procurement, be it domestic and international, is especially subject to corruption, in both developed and developing countries.
Avoiding excessive, wasteful and corrupt military expenditures and procurement thus requires high levels of transparency and accountability in military budgeting and procurement processes.

When we carefully consider the huge budget that yearly goes into the Nigerian Defence sector we would understand the reason why there is need for more transparency and accountability by those concerned.

The truth is, for a nation that has been at war for over a decade, Nigeria’s defence spending raises several critical concerns. The paradox of course is that the more government spends on defence, the more insecure Nigerians feel. Travelling within the country has become so perilous that it is now advisable to get a ‘security report’ of all towns and villages on our way before setting out.

Today, all major defence related structures in Abuja, supposedly the safest place in the country are so barricaded that images of Baghdad and Kabul come to mind. If the state of our armed forces and defence apparatus are the way that they are in against armed insurgents lacking the resources of a state, what would happen if (God forbid), Nigeria is faced with a major external threat with an equally or more powerful adversary with the resources of a State?

Allocation to the key government ministries and agencies under security and  defence got the lion’s share of the 2012 budget when compared to 2011 and 2010 shows  that from 2010 through to 2012, Nigeria would just spent around $84 billion, of which  $16 billion would be for security. The table below shows the Security Votes in Nigeria  between 2008-2013:
Budget Allocations for Security/Defence from 2013-2017.

2011: N 348 billion (Goodluck Jonathan)

2012: N 921.91 billion (Goodluck Jonathan)

2013: N1.055 trillion (Goodluck Jonathan)

2014: N 921.91 billion (Goodluck Jonathan)

2016: N 294.556 billion (Mohammadu Buhari)

2017: N 65.87 billion (Mohammadu Buhari)

Nigeria has joined the league of countries that are known to spend a good chunk of their budgetary allocation on security. As a result of these challenges, Nigerian leaders have decided to tackle them by raising her Defence and Security Votes. Nigeria ranks 41 in the global rating on military expenditure. It occupies the 5th position in Africa while it is regarded as the largest spender in the West African sub-region.

The ranking was based on Nigeria’s military expenditure in 2009, which also made her the seventh largest spender on the African continent. The country spent $5.864 billion in 2015, and provision was made for an extra $1 billion in emergency funds strictly for weapons acquisition. As we can see, National Defence is a critical sector and has enjoyed favourable consideration in funding, especially in recent years. Unlike other sectors of the economy, military expenditure in Nigeria has gone up by over 50 percent compared to other sectors in recent times.

It is anybody’s guess why budget allocations in key ministries and agencies especially security and defence has continued to get the lion’s share in the last few years. But analysts however wager that the rising budget spending for security over the years could have been influenced by a constellation of forces.
For instance, in February 2018, extra budgetary request as presented by the President Buhari , was $1 billion in emergency funding for the army and airforce. It would appear that the mega figure was aimed at political correctness and possibly intended to show new commitment heights for security and the development needs of the northeast. Apparently justifying the need for the bogus budget, it was also intended to signal to the international community that Nigeria is sparing no expenditure in ensuring peaceful co-existence among the citizenry and the interest of the businesses.

But despite rising budget allocations for defence and security in the last five years Nigerians have not received value for their money. In fact things seem to be getting worse. The Boko guys in contract seem to be good use of whatever resources they have. New kits, weapons, even their attack mode mirrors that if a professional army than a ragtag militia.

It is incomprehensible and disheartening to record the pervading wave of violence ravaging our country today. Of late the nation witnessed a resurgent Boko Haram carrying out audacious attacks against military bases in its pervasiveness,  brazenness and sophistication, and daily, it seems as if the Nigerian Security Operatives and our Political leaders are becoming helpless, and running out of options on how to tame the growing insurgency activities and terror attacks perpetuated by the Boko Haram sect.

Africa’s wealthiest country is fast degenerating into the Hobbesean state of nature where “life is short, nasty and brutish” and is “a survival of the fittest”. Anarchy is closing in: law and order have lost their sting. Like in those biblical days when there was no king in Israel, everybody now appears to be doing what is right in his or her own eyes. Hoodlums, burglars, hired assassins and of cause, insurgents have virtually taken over the land.

Most Nigerian christians in the middle belt now sleep with one eye  open as those who are lucky to escape fulani herdsmen are kept awake all night by booming sounds of gunshots or bomb explosions by herdsmen that the Buhari administration is reluctant to control.

Certainly, it is the sole responsibility of government to protect the lives and property of citizens. This is indeed, the primary purpose of government amongst other things. A government that cannot guarantee this, to say the least, loses its essence. Nigeria is in this mess as a result of the kind of leadership we have had in place. Even when government official are targets of the violent attacks and some of them are kidnapped on a daily basis by hungry youth, nothing is being done by the Buhari administration to halt the trend.

Being a Commander-In-Chief does not end in adorning military uniform and making speeches. Many northern Nigerians are deliberately left uneducated, hence jobless and can easily be recruited by undesirable element to cause havoc in the society.

Put differently, blood has been literally, flowing in the streets of Abuja, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Damaturu ,Okene, Taraba,  Suleja Maiduguri etc. Lives have been lost and property, worth millions and billions, destroyed. Apparently, there is no end in sight for this ugly development. No Nigerian is insulated from bomb explosion. As Churches, Mosques and corporate offices, schools, are not spared.

Yet, year in year out, billions of dollars are budgeted to fortify and maintain the Nigerian Defence. We are greatly of the opinion that if all the funds that goes into the Nigerian Defence Ministry are judiciously used to properly equip and maintain our security operatives and their welfare, by now the country’s Defence Ministry will be one of the most sophisticated in the world.

It is appalling to find authorities within the Nigerian Defence Ministry living like millionaires while our security forces are said to be using less sophisticated weapons and armory than that used by insurgents.  We cannot be talking about addressing the insecurity challenges facing us as a nation when those in Government and Security authorities cannot transparently account to Nigerians, how and what the huge budgets meant for the Defence Ministry are used.

Let’s take the nation’s air defences (or lack thereof) for instance. Nigeria has virtually no air defence structure in place. The nations most sophisticated air defence weapon is ROLAND SHORAD. Nigeria acquired 16 ROLAND SAM systems in 1984. The Roland is obsolete, its range is very limited which makes it at best a tactical system designed to protect troops and vehicles on the battlefield. Furthermore the operational status of all of Nigeria’s 16 Roland SAM system is unknown. Other SAM systems in the Nigerian military are the shoulder launched Soviet era Strela SAM system and the ZSU-23-4 radar guarded AAG

By contrast Zambia, a country with a GDP less than a quarter of that of Lagos State and at peace with no clear external threat fields the S-125 Air Defense Missile system, a system a generation ahead of what Nigeria currently fields.

It is high time the Nigerian Government and relevant Security Operatives should rise to the occasion and exhibit more transparency and accountability in budget expenditures of the Defence Ministry. It is one thing to tell Nigerians that the Defence Ministry needs more funds as allocated/budgeted, but it is another thing entirely for such huge budgets to be judiciously used and proper accounted for.

Our Nigerian political leaders have not demonstrated sincerity of purpose and the patriotic spirit in their co called efforts towards the fight against terror/insecurity in our land. This ‘indifference’ attitude and lack of seeing themselves as accountable to the citizenry, has to change. Nigerians need to see our political leaders rising up to the challenge in addressing this issue. They cannot be saying one thing and doing


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