2020 Budget: What is there for defence and security?

On October 8, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the joint  session of the National Assembly, tagged: ‘Budget of Sustaining Growth and Job Creation’.

The President listed the budget priorities to include: ‘fiscal consolidation; strengthening the nation’s macroeconomic environment; investing in critical infrastructure; human capital development and enabling institutions in key job creating sectors; incentivizing private sector investment essential to complementing government’s development plans, policies and programmes; and enhancing social investment programs to further deepen their impact on the marginalized and most vulnerable Nigerians’.

From the list of priorities, the President’s concern over the plight of ordinary Nigerians has once again come to the fore.

This he further amplified thus:  “Our government remains committed to ensuring the equitable sharing of economic prosperity. Our focus on inclusive growth and shared prosperity underscores our keen interest in catering for the poor and most vulnerable.

“Accordingly, we are revamping and improving  the implementation of the National Social Investment Programme through the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.”

One could therefore state that the 2020 fiscal projection is concerned with a holistic approach to human security as key to sustainable peace and security in Nigeria.Addressing social and economic conditions that allow for exclusion,

deprivation, and lack of opportunities is critical to stability and national development.

While this is commendable, there is concern about  the allocation to defence and security, which is an aspect of physical security that defines a country’s national power. Defence spending is one of the key areas of interest in the budgetary allocation of any nation. This is even more so for a country at ‘war’, if the subsisting conflicts in the Northeast and other security challenges may be described as such.

As significant as  the increase in budgetary allocation to the sector seems, it still falls short of the United Nations’ recommended best practice of 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is even more worrisome that over 90% of the defence allocation is for recurrent expenditure.

Even though every defence and security budget is a projection of both overheads and capital expenditure such as salaries, training costs, maintenance of existing equipment and facilities, support of new or ongoing operations, and development and procurement of new weapons, equipment and vehicles, some level of equilibrium is expected between recurrent and capital.

The Ministry of Defence comprising of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Defence Headquarters, Nigerian Defence Academy, Defence Intelligence Unit and 11 other units got N878,458,607,427 total allocation, this is impressive and is the second highest allocation in the budget.

Shocking however is that despite the huge allocation – at least considering that the total budget itself is just above 10 trillion naira – the recurrent expenditure gulps a whooping N778,589,343,660 representing 88.63%; while the capital expenditure is N99,869,263,767 representing 11.37 percent of the total allocation.

For the Nigerian Army for instance, N14bn would be used for purchase of  arms, ammunition, armoured vehicles, spare parts, general kitting, construction of office and residential builings (barracks) and renovation of  destroyed Kur Mohammed Barracks; Bama, among other projects.

For the Nigerian Airforce, N28bn is expected to be used for purchase of defence equipment, procurement of various small arms and ammunition, purchase of various aircraft and their spares, support equipment and their spares among others.

Needless to emphasize, a country projecting itself as a regional power, needs better funding for the defence and security sector – at least an allocation that puts capital projects and overheads at something close to parity.

In my earlier column: ‘Setting Agenda to Magashi’,  I made a case: “In the age of hybrid warfare, Magashi must concentrate on having an armed forces that is not just seen to be powerful, but really powerful based on its Table of Equipment, TOEs, in Army, Navy and Airforce – an armed force that is technologically superior, effective in weaponry and has capabilities for rapid response.”

Nigeria has lost its global recorning in Peace Support Operations due to lack of  Contigent Own Equipment, COEs. It cannot regain that position by following this trend of one-sided budgetary allocation to the sector.

If Nigeria really desires a defence and security sector that is able to project its national power, then, it is time to break the jinx of less than 3% allocation and leapfrog into the league of nations that spend more than 10% of their annual budget on defence.

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