Against the backdrop of recent deadly attacks carried out in some towns in Borno State by Boko Haram, the nation’s Service Chiefs have opened up to the leadership of the Senate why they have been unable to successfully prosecute the insurgency war.
They complained of lack of funds to buy equipment and also, lamented the failure of the Federal Government to release funds appropriated for the prosecution of war in the 2015 budget.
These factors were revealed to the Senate leadership and disclosed by the office of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki in a statement yesterday. The closed-door meeting between the service chiefs and top senators, which lasted for about two hours on Wednesday was presided over by the Senate President.
Saraki said several issues tailored at further empowering the security agencies to win the war against Boko Haram were discussed in a frank and open exchange between the two sides.
The military chiefs, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, reportedly briefed the lawmakers on the various challenges faced by the military, particularly the state of their equipment which they said required serious upgrading and restocking.
“They also complained that their vote in the 2015 supplementary budget has not been released thereby hampering their ability to fund their operations. Other issues that came up for discussion were the need to continuously increase the personnel in the three branches of the military and the hindrance posed by the procurement process which they said is very slow,” Saraki stated in the statement.
“The military chiefs also canvassed the need for the review of some laws governing their operations so as to make them able to respond to emergency situations they now confront in the North-east zone as well as conform with global best practices,” he further noted.
The need for regional support for the fight against insurgency in the North-East by the neighbouring countries, resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) back to their traditional homes, the issue of intelligence gathering and sharing among the various agencies and mobilisation of the international community, particularly through inter-parliamentary efforts in support of the fight against terrorism in Nigeria, were also discussed during the meeting.
The Senators assured the military chiefs that they will fast track the request for the review of the relevant laws being complained about by putting them on the Priority Bills list once they were given adequate information on areas that need to be amended.
They also promised to take up the issue of release of funds raised by the military chiefs with the Ministry of Finance immediately. Committees on Defence, Finance and Appropriations have also been mandated to ensure that the issues raised by the service chiefs are taken care of in the budget.
The Senators noted that at this point when the nation had recorded serious gains in the fight against insurgency, all hands should be on deck to sustain the tempo against the violent groups.
The meeting was particularly attended by Saraki, his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, Deputy Majority Whip, Francis Alimikhena, Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Isa Hamma Misau and his colleague in the Committee on Air Force, Duro Faseyi. However, Chairman of Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Ahmed Lawan was absent.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Olonishakin led the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, his colleague in the Navy, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas and the Air Force, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar to the meeting.