LAST Sunday, Nigerian newspapers quoted Agency Reports, that the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) of Nigeria, in November 2013, signed a $3Million a year contract with the American lobbying firm Patton Boggs to “provide comprehensive security device, including the donation of excess military and law enforcement equipment”.
ABC News, which was the source of this report, said Nigeria had hired the “powerful Washington lobby firm to press its case for intelligence on violent terror group Boko Haram and to persuade the Obama administration to donate non-lethal equipment in the hunt for extremists”.
ABC News went further, quoting documents filed with the US Justice Department, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), it described Patton Boggs’ point man on the Nigerian NSA’s contract, as Col. John Garrett. This Garrett met officials at the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany in December 2013, “on behalf of Nigerian National Security Adviser Muhammadu Sambo Dasuki”.
Col. John Garrett requested information on Boko Haram activities derived from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance overflights of northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state”. Up to this point, there was nothing untowards in what the lobbying company seemed to have done on behalf of Nigeria’s NSA. But as the story rolled on, we might just begin to raise eyebrows as I will show in this write up.
Because ABC News went further to say that “Patton Boggs also asked for non-lethal protective hardware to be DONATED to Nigeria such as mine-resistant armored personnel vehicles, night goggles and communication equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan stockpiles LEFT OVER (my emphasis) from US withdrawals from those war zones”.
Stripped of niceties, our NSA is asking for the donation of TOKUNBO military equipment from the US and for that he employed the services of a Washington lobbying firm. But these requests do not seem to add up.
Why must we be requesting for the donation of TOKUNBO military hardware, when we have been budgeting huge sums of money for defence in the past few years? THE NATION newspaper’s Editorial of Tuesday, May 13, 2014, titled #BRINGBACKTHEGIRLS, raised pertinent issues about the nation’s defense budgeting: “One of the cries of the half year since the escalation of the violence of the Boko Haram insurgents is the call for accounting for the budget allocated for security since the Jonathan presidency started prosecuting its war against the militants.
The budgets of 2012, 2013 and 2014 have been especially high. For 2012, the budget allocation was N921.91billion. In 2013, the sum budgeted was N950Billion. This year’s budget is N845 billion. For three years, the Federal Government has budgeted N2.7trillion for security, and this covers the armed forces, police, the office of the national security adviser, and other operational costs”.
Begging for left overs
It is the security apparatus that has gulped over N2trillion in three years that has incredibly employed a lobbying firm to beg the US administration to donate to our country TOKUNBO left overs like night vision goggles that can be picked over the counter in China, US and Europe. What have they spent money on in the past three years?
News filtering out of the operational zones talk about restive troops that are badly provisioned and who do not have the requisite equipment to do their job. It is frightening to recall that President Jonathan told a bewildered country during his last media chat, that the military lags in training and equipment.
But after spending so much money in the past two/three years, why haven’t we seen qualitative improvements in the state of our armed forces? Why did we get to the point where the NSA is begging for the donation of TOKUNBO leftover material from Iraq and Afghanistan? They certainly owe Nigeria explanations.
Our valiant fighting men and women ought to be some of the best-equipped, provisioned and motivated forces in the world today, given the challenges we face as a country. These fine officers and men have a proud record of services around the world keeping the peace; but they have especially, displayed tremendous heroism and valour in ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone. So why and how did we arrive at the sorry pass of begging for TOKUNBO equipment?
The NSA must tell us why the trillions spent so far could not purchase night vision goggles and mine-resistant armoured vehicles! We have to tear through the mystifications woven around national security. There must be full disclosure to the Nigerian people!.