The Senate Thursday summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; the Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze; and the Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Lt. General Attahiru Ibrahim, to appear before it next Tuesday for proper briefing about financial releases since 2019 to the Nigerian military to fight security problems in the country.
The invitees are to appear before the Senate Committee on Army to explain details of the funds so far released to the Nigerian Army to fight insurgency, banditry and other forms of insecurity, from 2019 till date.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Ali Ndume, stated this during a meeting with top officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
He expressed disappointment that the finance minister shunned the invitation of his panel despite the importance of the issue at stake.
He said: “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 than the serious 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.”
The Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Ministry of Finance, Aliyu Shinkafi, however, told the committee that N75 billion was appropriated and released in 2019, while additional funds of N7 billion appropriated from the service wide vote was also released 100 per cent.
According to him, in 2020, N75 billion was appropriated but N74.99 billion was released, adding that in the current year, N100 billion had been appropriated “and we have released N19.4 billion for the first quarter and 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”.
At this point, Ndume brought out a letter from the Chief of Defence Staff who claimed that the military authorities complained that they had shortfall as far as releases from the Finance Ministry was concerned.
The ranking senator said: “The letter from the Defence Headquarters on the funding of Operations Lafiya Dole is claiming that they have a shortfall of N50 billion in terms of releases and requested us to do a follow up on the matter.”
Shinkafi, however, insisted that all the amount appropriated to the Defence Ministry had been released.
The committee thereafter asked the ministry officials to come with details of the releases next Tuesday.