Bill for Armed Forces Support Fund passes 2nd reading

Lawan Hamidu, Abuja

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The House of Representatives has passed the second reading of a Bill for an act to provide special financial funding for the revamping of the Nigerian armed forces.

The bill sponsored by Babajimi Benson who is the Chairman House Committee on Defence seeks to make special funding for the training and retraining of personnel of the Armed Forces.

The bill also provides for the acquisition of modern and State of the Art equipment to effectively prosecute any form of insurgency and external aggressions against the Nigerian State

Mr. Benson said for Nigeria to win the war on terror and other forms of criminality at the shortest possible time, the armed forces must be backed with adequate funding that the Bill seeks to guarantee.

“The dwindling revenue of the government called for the need to explore dynamic ways to fund the Nigerian Armed Forces.

The National Security is the central nervous system of any nation so no security threat should be treated with levity.

This alternative source of funding is expedient especially with the recent security challenges in the country. National security is of utmost importance to the growth and development of any nation.” He argued.

Mr. Benson said, in the last fifteen years, the Nigerian military have been involved in thirteen operations and four exercises. “Coping with all these are, no doubt, an enormous task that requires a robust, well-trained, well-equipped and efficient Armed Forces.”

Best Training
The lawmaker said the Bill aims to among other things ensure that all personnel of Nigerian Armed Forces are exposed to best trainings globally to improve the efficiency and capacity of the armed forces.

Contributing to the debate, Mr. Nasir Ali Ahmed from Kano State said the Bill when passed into law, will go a long way in strengthening the armed forces and urged members of the House of the Representatives to donate a percentage of their salary to support the troops.

Mr. Ali said “I suggest that every one of us should contribute a percentage of his salary to the fund beginning from this Assembly.

If the Nigerian Army is well funded, it would perform better than they are doing in peace missions outside the country.”

Supporting the bill, Mr. Sada Soli Jibia from Katsina State said the bill was not asking too much therefore should be passed to second reading.

Funding Gap
He said, Nigeria Armed Forces is the country’s first line of defence and the bill would bridge the funding gap of Nigeria Arm Forces.

“When the money is raised, we are sure it will be used judiciously.” He said.

Also supporting the bill, Mr. Mohammed Tahir Munguno, Chief Whip of the House, said the government must think outside the box to deal with numerous challenges facing the country.

He said the Armed Forces need special funding to be able to fight the battle because no nation on earth fund its security through budgetary allocation, citing Brazil and America as an example.

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila clarified that the Bill has checks and balances that will ensure the military go through proper channels before the funds are accessed.

He stressed that “Nigerians should be careful the way they criticize the military as their personnel are sacrificing a lot for the nation on the field.”

Mr.  Rimamnde Shawulu from Taraba State in supporting the Bill stated that the ratio of military personnel to citizens is one of the lowest in the world.

He stressed that the military needs to be encouraged financially for boosting the aspect of personnel and equipment.

Mr. Shawulu who was the Chairman of House Committee on Army at the 8th Assembly stated that “The budgetary provision for the army is grossly inadequate to tackle critical military needs such as infrastructure in barracks”.

Mr. Luke Onofiok from Akwa Ibom State, while acknowledging the scarcity of funds, stated that there is the dire need to block leakages of funds so that the proposed funds will not be misappropriated.

He called for the amendment of the armed forces Act to make provision of the proposed fund instead of a fresh bill.

It is expected that the bill introduced to the House on Tuesday, will receive speedy consideration given the recent development in the country’s security sector.

Nnenna.O