Lawmakers should be willing to donate their salaries to the armed forces for the entire duration of the current assembly, a member of the House of Representatives has said opposing the setting aside of a separate fund for the fight against insecurity.
Nasiru Ahmed (APC, Kano) made this call on Thursday while the green chamber debated a bill which seeks to provide special financial support, training and modern equipment for the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The lawmaker also said the allocation to the defence ministry should be optimised amidst proper scrutiny.
“We must make sure they (the armed forces) account for the one appropriated for them,” Mr Ahmed noted.
Other lawmakers also opposed the bill. However, after further debates, the bill eventually scaled second reading.
The ‘support fund,’ which would be collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), is expected to draw funding from “one per cent of the total money accruing to the federation account” as well as “0.5 per cent of profit made from investment of the National Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF) by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).”
Sponsor of the bill, Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos), added that the fund is also expected to constitute one per cent of Value Added Tax (VAT) remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR) and one per cent of the air ticket contract, charter and cargo sales charge to be collected by the airlines.
For Oghene Egoh (PDP, Lagos), the stream of funds accruing to the support fund is too much. He argued that since the military had often told the country that insurgency had been technically defeated, they do not need more funding.
“Have they been telling us lies? Why are we now giving them more money? $1 billion was given to them to fight insurgency and up until now, we are still facing insecurity,” he said. “The money this bill is intending to give the armed forces in too much.”
He was on this when House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila cut in. Mr Gbajabiamila asked Mr Egoh to read the provision of section 83 of the constitution. The latter did.
Subject to the president’s approval, the section empowers the National Assembly to “make provisions for the establishment of a contingencies fund for an urgent and unforeseen need (in order to) meet the need.”
Luke Onofiok (PDP, Akwa Ibom) differed. He said that the idea of the support fund was noble but it could be done without creating new laws. He urged the House to “amend the armed forces act to accommodate the new fund rather than establishing a new law.”
Rimamnde Shawulu (PDP, Taraba), a former army committee chairman himself, said because the country’s armed forces are understaffed, the fund is more than due.
He added that care must be taken on “how we lampoon our security personnel” as it “drops their morale and makes civilians not to cooperate with them and it emboldens insurgency.”
The ministry of defence has the highest appropriation for 2020. The budget of the ministry stands at ₦975.7 billion, with ₦784.6 billion budget for recurrent expenditure, ₦116.2 billion and ₦75 billion statutory funds for the North-east operation Lafiya Dole.