By Kingsley Okoye
Senate Committee on Army has invited Finance Minister, Director-General of Budget Office and Chief of Army Staff (CAS) to give details of funds released to the Nigerian Army to combat insurgency and banditry in Nigeria.
The minister, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Budget Chief Ben Akabueze and CAS Lt.-Gen. Attahiru Ibrahim, are to appear on May 4, the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Ali Ndume, said on Thursday.
Ndume (APC-Borno), issued the summon on behalf of the committee at a meeting with officials of ministry.
He said the financial details required were those from 2019 until date.
Ndume expressed dismay at the minister’s failure to honour the committee’s invitation in spite of the challenge of insecurity in the country.
“Honestly, we are not happy that the Minister of Finance is not here today despite the fact that she was duly invited and she knew the importance of the issue we invited her to discuss with us.
“There is nothing that is more important that she could be attending to that is more serious than the problem of insecurity all over Nigeria at the moment.
“We were blaming the military but the soldiers are claiming that they have no equipment, arms and ammunition to work with because there was no money to buy them.
“We have invited the minister now to explain why her ministry was not funding the operations of the Army and she is not here, this is not acceptable.”
Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Ministry, Aliyu Shinkafi, explained that N75 billion was appropriated and released in 2019 while additional N7 billion from the service wide vote was also released 100 per cent.
“The sum of N2.5 billion was also released in 2019.
“In 2020, N75 billion was appropriated but N74.99 billion was released.
“In the current year, N100 billion had been appropriated and we have released N19.4billion for the first quarter.
“Just yesterday, we released N19.95 billion for the second quarter.
“I believe that we are on course as far as releases for these operations are concerned”
But Ndume informed participants of a letter from the Chief of Defence Staff which indicated that military authorities had complained of shortfalls in releases from the ministry for funding of its operations.
“The letter from the defence headquarters on the funding of Operation Lafiya Dole is claiming that they have a shortfall of N50 biliion in terms of releases and requested us to do a follow up on the matter,” Ndume said.
However, Shinkafi insisted that the entire amount appropriated had been released by the ministry. (NAN)