The mystery behind the N206 billion, surreptitiously inserted in the budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, is beginning to be unraveled with the revelation that the money was put there, intentionally, for purchase of military equipment.
This perfidious drama started when the Senate discovered that the budget of the ministry had a strange sum to the tune of N206 billion added without sufficient explanation. The Minister, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, feigned surprise at the discovery by the senate when asked to explain the presence of the huge sum in her ministry’s budget.
Her remarks were even more befuddling when she said, “Yes, we made mention of the projects for 2022 which was not released and part of it was for the NEDC. The money was not released and now we have seen it recurring by almost 10 folds and we are also going to clarify from the ministry of finance to know why this increase despite the fact that the previous year, the money was not even released for the project.”
The Ministry of Finance was reported to have claimed that the money was meant for military equipment. Sadiya herself admitted before the senators that “on the N206 billion, when we saw it, we didn’t understand what it was meant for because the explanation wasn’t clear. If you put N206 billion in Humanitarian Affairs Ministry’s Budget and the narration is purchase of military equipment, definitely something is wrong. That is why I said I’m not going to say anything about it until we get clarification from the Ministry of Finance. If we had requested for N206 billion for a different project and then in the appropriation bill, it is reading something else, we will not own it.” The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Sani Gwarzo, was also reported to have described the illicit presence of N206 billion in their budget as a minor mistake. N206 billion, a minor mistake? Very few states have that amount as their annual budget.
This outrageous exposition, benumbing as it is, in our opinion, raises several questions begging for plausible answers. For a start, where else is such padding done with the excuse of using same for military purposes? Is the military aware that some agency or agencies of government are stealing in their name? What happened to the budget of the military? If that is not enough, is this bare-faced stealing the way to augment any perceived shortfall in the military’s budgetary demands? What happened to supplementary budgeting?
It has gone beyond conjecture, in our view, that the security situation in the country and the need to equip the military to face the challenges it poses, has become a drain pipe of sorts. Some analysts go even further to aver that the insecurity in the country is contrived and elevated to the level of an industry with a plethora of interests competing for attention and a share of the presumably loose cash lying around.
There is an allegation, also, that the insecurity in the country has defied solution because of these outside influences that are taking advantage of the situation for their own pecuniary benefits. Revelations such as are being traded on the floor of the senate give credence to this allegation. It is, indeed, sad, in our opinion, that in spite of the huge sums so far invested and the determination of the security operatives to prove themselves worthy of being capable of safe-guarding the nation’s territorial integrity, Nigerians still live in a state of endless fear.
As a newspaper, we feel obliged to ponder that in the circumstances that rabid corruption has invaded the security architecture, can the nation still continue to live with the lie that security expenditure cannot be subjected to scrutiny? This poser becomes inevitable now that civilian agencies that ought not to have anything to do with the military or security operations are incurring expenses of a nature that is decidedly inexplicable.
As a way of getting to the root of this matter, we urge the senate to spare neither resources nor efforts to ensure that Nigerians get to know the truth not just as it affects the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development but elsewhere in the gamut of the nation’s bureaucracy.
It is pertinent to point out that the corrupt tendency on the part of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government to pad their budgets before presenting them for appropriation, is an attitude that is as old as the government itself. What is alarming in this present circumstance is the volume as well as the temerity of the officials, caught with their hands in the cookie jar, admitting of their guilt and daring the rest of us to do our worst. It smacks of benign neglect which must be frowned at and punished.