Follow the Money : Highest Defence Budget in Nigeria’s History.

In April 2018 a furor arose between the Legislative and Executive arm of government over the President’s request for an extra $1 billion to buy munition to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.

As criticisms grew, the Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina said that those opposing or criticising President Buhari’s approval of 1 billion dollars for security funding are only playing politics with the lives of Nigerian soldiers on the front.

Then came the Minister of Defence General Mansur Dan Ali, who said the release of $1 billion was for security equipment to fight insecurity in the country.

The National Economic Council approved the $1 billion dollar amount to be sourced from the country’s excess crude account for the fight against insurgency and other violent criminal activities across the country.

The Peoples Democratic Party condemned the Presidential approval of the $1 billion dollars to procure military equipment to fight insurgency without recourse to the National Assembly, and questioned the timing.

The Presidents Special Adviser on Media and Publicity responded :

Talking about the timing he said, there is no timing that is not good for security. Every time is security time. The ones who are reading political meaning into it is just unfortunate, they play politics with everything and they will play politics with the very lives of Nigerian soldiers, which is very bad.

He dismissed insinuations that the amount was too huge to be spent only on security matters, saying no government could quantify the amount of funds being expended on security, as no individual of government could quantify the value of human lives.

It is not something that I think any government could begin to disclose but we know that it is expensive, he said.

I remember that the chief of army staff spoke about some trillions of naira recently, security is expensive but human life is much more expensive he added.

So how was the extra $1 billion dollars that was taken from the nations ECA (Excess crude account) just a few months ago spent ? Nobody knows.

One of President Buhari’s biggest campaign promise was to significantly expand the capabilities of the Nigerian military. To be fair he started well. The first year since he become President he did just that. The Nigerian army, without significant help from the air force captured all hitherto lost territories in lightening speed. Today we are witnessing the decade long tradition of a resurgent Boko Haram again.


This analysis is aimed at trying to understand Nigeria’s confusing defense expenditure pattern and identify key issues plaguing the establishment. To achieve this we analysed the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 security-related budgets of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The total defence budget for the Nigerian Military in 2018 is N1.323 trillion, an increase by %15.83 when compared with 2017 approved budget of N1.142 trillion. At N1.323tn, the 2018 Budget is nominally the highest in Nigeria’s history. Let that sink in for a moment.

In 2016, 2015 and 2014, the security sector allocation was N1.063 trillion, N969 billion and N932 billion respectively.

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Of the budget the Nigerian Army received N230 3.5 billion. the Nigerian Navy received N95.13 billion and the Nigerian air force received N107.48 billion. Cumulatively we talking about a sum of N144.999bn for capital expenditure.

To address issues in the North East and the Niger Delta alone the president approved N75 billion or %5.67 of the total security budget. The breakdown of this amount remains a state secrete. Nobody knows how or if it was spent judiciously. No information was released in the public domain.

There is opacity around how the funds will be spent. Given that the amount is relatively larger than the FG’s capital allocation to the education sector (N61.72bn), the FG is constitutionally bound to scrutinise it for the Nigerian public to understand what the allocation was disbursed and spent.


Now, to be fair, an increasing share of Nigeria’s Defence Budget is being dedicated to the payment of salaries emolution of its personnel. The bulk of the defence sector’s budget remains its personnel cost component. Having the largest land army in Sub Sahara Africa means lots of salaries and emolution to be paid.

The capital expenditure for defence comes to 25 0.55% which is down from 2017 level of 29 40%. The reason for this might be that the growth in personnel cost is crowding out capital expenditure. Active Duty personnel is up to nearly 180,000 personnel.

But capital expenditure including investments in weapons systems communication systems logistics infrastructure physical infrastructure among others, are decreasing relatively in comparison to the rest of the budget, at a time when they should be increasing. If there is one country in Africa that has the financial muscle to fund and equip a large fighting force, and the security imperative to do just that, that country is Nigeria.


The government is advocating more funds to Special Military Operations. N75 billion was earmarked for internal military operations most of which are operationally under different code names such as Operation Lafiya Dole, which was set up to take back 20,000 square miles of territories lost to Boko Haram.

We also have Operation Python Dance I, Operation Python Dance II, setup to stop criminal activities such as kidnap and social unrest in the Southeast. “Operation Crackdown”, “Operation Gama Aiki” and “Operation Safe Corridor”, or the latest one -“Operation Safe Haven” with the overall objective of ending ethno-religious conflicts and other criminal activities.

Whether this is a step in the right direction, time will tell. But N75 Billion for each operation ? Shouldnt the Nigerian Police and Paramilitary handle some internal security crises so the army can focus on Boko Haram ?


There is a disconnect between the budget and the Federal Government’s security goals and policy. A well defined Defence Policy is lacking and it is difficult to critically examine how the multi-billion dollar budgets aligns with the security plans of the country. A guiding policy framework is critical, or decision making will be done in policy vacuums, which the defence establishment love, because it makes it so much easier for graft and theft to thrive.

With no clear policy guideline and key performance indicators to measure success, the budget is disconnected and have become an open space for theft.


Corruption is a major impediment to the growth and development of Nigeria. It poses a major challenge to security as forms meant for the procurement of security items are embezzled and mismanaged.

In South Africa, a minimum guiding framework in budgeting includes taking feedback from the South African public during the budget preparation phase. They then track the feedback process and make it available to the South African public. The South African public is engaged during the preparation process of their security budget.

In Nigeria public discourse in the budget formation process is non-existent. The Nigerian security sector lacks transparency and accountability in the matters of budget allocations. There are no document publicly available showing how the Nigerian public was engaged during while preparing the largest ever nominal security budget in the history of Nigeria’s -the 2018 Budget. Without a formal participatory framework, the philosophy underlying the principles of democracy will be absent. The opacity of the process makes it a fertile ground for graft and theft.

This lack of transparency and opacity has implications for the sector and the nation at large. Nigeria has to be the only nation on earth where graft thrives more in a democracy than in a totalitarian system.

To put things into perspective lets consider the Former military head of state General Sani Abacha. This man is considered the most corrupt leader in the history of the African continent as a whole. For five years Nigerians reeled under the tyrannical steel claws of Abacha. He misappropriated more than $1.1 billion under the guise of 60 security votes meant for different security operations, leaving the military and other security operatives at the huge disadvantage.

But he did not bleed the armed forces dry. The Nigerian military was still considered one of the best equipped and trained fighting force in Africa. Abacha appears to be a learner compared to former national security adviser colonial Sambo Dasuki….well who would have guessed ?

This guy diverted, wait for it…. $15 billion dollars meant for the procurement of arms in the fight against insurgency. (Take that Abacha). FIFTEEN BILLION DOLLARS. What’s scary, it took a special anti-graft panel set by President Buhari through the office of the State Security Council to discover this jaw dropping theft.

The discovery led President Buhari to fire the Service Chiefs of all three component of the Nigerian military. This endeared the President to the hearts of Nigerians and elevated his status as Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar. Weak on the economy but strong on the militar and hard on corruption.

But it appears this administration is trying to give the former administration a run for the money when it comes to missapriopriation of funds and graft in the security sector.


Nigeria’s Defence Ministry allotted N7 billion on travels. N4.45 billion on utility bills. The president also requested N5.2 billion for personnel training and N5.57 billion was spent on the procurement of fuel and lubricants

A further N3.644 billion on electricity bills, N130 million on telephone charges N147 million on internet access charges. N122 million on satellite broadcasting access. N125.2 million on sewage charges and N256.5 million on water rate.

The ministry will also received N66.7 million for newspapers, N169.16 million for magazines and periodicals; N303.25 million for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies and N309.99 million for uniforms and other clothings.

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Capital expenditure for 2018 was $144.9 billion. An increase of N6 billion from the capital expenditure allocation of 2017 which was N138.99 billion. In the years 2014, 2016, and 2016, capital expenditure allocation was N35.35bn, N36.70bn and N130.86bn respectively.

Highlights of the capital component include allocations of N3.56 billion for the procurement of vehicles, N888.5 million for the purchase of office furniture, N6.7 billion and N63.46 billion for procurement of security and defence equipment respectively. Others include N6.7 billion for the construction of residential buildings, N2.65 billion for the procurement of electricity equipment and construction of support infrastructure.

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The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) serves as a chief adviser to the President and his cabinet on security matters in the country. For 2018, a total sum of N121 billion was alloted for the ONSA, an increase of about N2 billion from the total allocation of N123 billion in 2017. In the fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016, the ONSA’s total allocation was N117 billion, N88 billion, and N89 billion respectively, with 2015 having the least allocation of the five years.


Despite the vast funds for security, Nigeria is yet to make public, a well-defined security policy, and it is increasingly difficult to measure success. Also, there is no oversight on the extra $1 billion. No evidence it was spent judiciously, no oversight on what it was spent on.

The extra budgetary $1 billion for munitions ALONE is more than the combined defence budgets of Cameroon (2017 fiscal year $370 million) and Chad ($538 million of which $80 million was earmarked for military goods and equipment).

Yet the Nigerian military looks like a 3rd world militia. This is no accident. This is the end product of absolutely terrible spending policy and practices, and of course, corruption. Corruption in a scale that is without precedence in world history I kid ye not.


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