It started as a tweet on Tuesday by David Hundeyin, an independent journalist. He posted the photo of a budget office document showing the payment for the purchase of vehicles worth ₦1.4 billion for the neighbouring Niger Republic.
After the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed, while responding to questions regarding the released document, confirmed the purchase and explained that it was done following the approval of the President.
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After this confirmation, concerned Nigerians are worried about how the approval was shrouded in secrecy. The Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked for an immediate refund of the money. Here are four messages that could be deduced from the purchase saga:
1. No proper blueprint to defeat insecurity
Anyone with little knowledge about the activities of terrorists in the northern part of our country will agree that this asymmetry war cannot be defeated without the support of neighbours like Niger and Chad.
However, the spending of 1.4billion naira to buy 10 SUVs for the Niger Republic with the purpose of enhancing their capacity to protect their territory shows we are not putting our money where the result could be gotten. SUVs are luxury cars, and soldiers will not drive them to fight terrorists.
We can do a lot to help our neighbours in areas like training security personnel and buying arms and ammunition, among many other logical ways.
2. Ignorant of the hardship this administration has brought on Nigerians
This is one of many steps that show this administration is far from the realities in the country. They say charity begins at home; many Nigerians in IDP camps scattered across the country hardly eat once a day. Kerosene sells above #800 for a litre, the value of naira falls freely, and inflation further pushes people below the poverty line, yet, our government did not see the misplacement of priority in gifting our neighbours luxury cars.
3. Rubberstamp ministers
On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed, explained that providing intervention to the neighbouring Niger Republic is not new, and it is the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari, who approved the purchase.
She further said, President Buhari, whose actions she cannot question, has the right to make his assessment of the situation and give directives accordingly. Is the minister not to advise and guide the president on issues relating to her ministry?
When the ministers prefer the backseat and cannot or choose not to question the President, misappropriation will definitely set in. It is so pathetic that the Minister who announced harsh and brutal measures like an increase in VAT preferred not to question the spending of the resources squeezed out of Nigerians.
4. Our President’s love for the Niger Republic
Before the recent gift of cars worth 1.4billion naira to the Niger Republic, the approval to construct the 25-kilometre Kano to Maradi railway is a pointer to the special place Niger occupies in the heart of our president. This is coming at a time when many parts of the country have not been connected. We hope the love for Nigerians still comes first in the heart of our president.