By Precious Igbonwelundu
Plans are underway by the National Assembly (NASS) to make laws for alternative sources of funds for the military and other issues that would enhance their performances in prosecuting various wars across the country.
Also in the offing is a law that would mandate the military and other security services to patronise local manufacturers of armoured vehicles, bullets and other equipment that could reduce cost, save time as well as boost the defence sector.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson made this known on the sides of a legislative retreat organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Lagos.
Noting that the military was grossly underfunded, he said the legislature has always given them all necessary support within available resources which have proven to be insufficient.
According to Benson, the government was interested in finding innovative ways to fund the defence sector, including a possible Trust Fund, legislative advocacy skills.
“We need to do government to government transactions whereby the middlemen are eliminated. We need to also do trade by barter, we need enough weapons and inventory and platforms to be able to successfully fight insurgency. Yes, even in this dwindling revenue times, we need to spend more particularly on our defence so that it will open up prosperity,” he said.
On plans to boost local production of military wares, he noted that the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) and some other private businesses were already producing quality and innovative wares but needed more patronage to do better.
He said the committee intends to tour the facilities of all manufacturers of military wares in the country for first hand information on their strengths and weaknesses, adding that the prosperity of any nation was tied to how rapidly it can develop home grown solutions to address its challenges.
The chairman noted that there were some Nigerian companies producing military wares that were being exported and commended in different parts of the globe but not receiving much accolades and patronage back home.
He said the focus was to ensure a blossoming defence industry that can provide jobs to unemployed youths and by so doing, reduce the number of young people who could be lured into extremism and crimes.
Benson said the House of Representatives was also opened to bills that would better the defence sector in terms of funding, accountability, transparency and best practices.
Acknowledging that the country was currently over militarized, the chairman said the federal government was taken steps to correct the trend through the introduction of community policing.
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“About 400,000 policemen are policing over 200 million Nigerians, this is against the UN index and against all known parameters. Then, everybody knows that 70 per cent of our population are youthful and for those of them who do not have anything doing, they become.eas target for indoctrination particularly in the North East.”
“They turn into Boko Haram, ISWAP and are all over the place. This indoctrination is spreading to other parts, causing banditry, oil bunkering. So, Nigeria can also not fold its hands and allow things to degenerate. The quickest and the most effective way we can handle this is using the military and that is why we have them in various operations across the country.
“I believe that the government is addressing this with the recruitment of more policemen and introduction of the community policing. I believe in not too distant future, we will gradually migrate from this abnormal situation into going back into what democracy recognises which is allowing the police to step in and do their jobs,” he said.
In his welcome address, the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa said the forum was to raise discussions on Defence Management Bill, the Armed Forces Revamp Bill and the proposed Armed Forces Service Commission, as well as throw light on some of the challenges faced by Nigerians in accessing certain defence related information.
“Democratic governance of the security sector is broader than parliamentary oversight and relates to the constant process, policies and administration of the defence and security sector in a manner that is transparent, accountable and participatory. It involves the submission of armed forces and security services to political power and direction and extends beyond parliamentary control to include the wider public.
“Parliamentary oversight of the defence sector is essential because it enhances effectiveness and efficiency of the security sector.
It contributes to making this crucial sector synchronised with national priorities as defined by the constitutional authority. Moreover, the security sector is funded by the treasury and parliament needs to check whether public money is spent according to the people’s real needs…
“There should be no area of state activity that is a no-go’ zone for legislative oversight. Security is one of the core tasks of a state; the agencies within the defence sector hold many leverages of power that needs to be counterbalanced and
controlled. That is why ensuring a real separation of powers and a smooth system of checks and balances in security issues is more important than in other fields of government,” he said.
Other speakers at the retreat included the Chairmen, House Committees on Army and Navy, Abdulrazak Namdas and Yusuf Gagdi respectively, as well as Deputy Chairman, Committee on Air Force, Abbas Adigun.