ABUJA – The Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, says the National Assembly (NASS) has commenced the process of creating alternative sources of fund for the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila disclosed this in an interview with newsmen at the opening of a two-day Capacity Building Workshop/Retreat organised by the House Committee on Defence on Monday in Abuja.
The committee organised the workshop in collaboration with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and Centre for Strategic Research and Studies of the National Defence Collage (NDC).
He said that current security threats confronting the nation required adequate funding, adding that no nation could fund its military adequately with only budgetary allocation.
According to him, the House of Representatives is already working on another model for funding for the military apart from the budgetary allocation.
“Anywhere in the world, you do not fund your infrastructural gap or security matter simply through the budget.
“That is why there is something called the war fund and we are at war, whichever way you look at it and we have been in it for many years.
“So, it is time to look for other sources of funding which we are doing. There is a bill in the House that is already looking at that,’’ he said.
Gbajabiamila said that the workshop was necessary, considering the fact that security challenges being faced by Nigeria were more diverse and demanding than it had ever been in its history.
He added that the nation’s democracy was being threatened by the facet of security threats which included skillful abuse of information technology and the cyber space.
According to him, it is perhaps this last threat that promises to alter forever the nature of our believed existence.
He said that legislators would be able to effectively perform their roles if efforts were made to understand the evolving nature of the threats and the challenges that must be met.
The Speaker urged the participants to take advantage of the retreat to explore the challenges and options of meeting them as well as embrace new ideas.
Gbajabiamila pointed out that the role of the military in dealing with external aggression should not be limited to physical threats only but all forms of threat.
He said that America had classified the Coronavirus as external aggression that the military needed to be deployed against.
According to him, the traditional role of the military as we understand is, when there is external aggression you call the military but then we forget that foreign or external aggression can be several things.
“In America now, the Coronavirus is an external aggression because it came from foreign country and they have deployed their military,” he said.
The Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Mr Babajimi Benson, said the retreat was borne out of the desire to ensure that members of the committee were well trained to carry out their oversight tasks.
Benson said that the defence as specialised sector, required distinct skill, adding that the committee was determined to effectively perform its duties.
According to him, this retreat could not have come at a better time considering the spate of security challenges facing the country.
“We are disturbed by these challenges and we must always have answer to our constituents.
“The committee has continued to interact with the defence establishment with a view to finding solutions to the challenges we are facing.
“At the end of this retreat, I am optimistic that we would have built very useful skills and knowledge that will aid us in our works.
“As representatives of the people, we seek to deepen the performance of those in such a way that we can help to build trust and confidence between civilian population and the military.
“This retreat will help us to explore ways in achieving this. Furthermore, we are all aware of the dwindling nature of resources available for appropriation to the security sector.
“Consequently, this retreat shall open our eyes to alternative sources of funding for the defence sector and role of the National Assembly in ensuring this,” he said.
The Executive Director of PLAC, Mr Clement Nwankwo, said that the retreat was borne out of the belief that the National Assembly must support defence sector to deliver on safety, prosperity and peace in the country.
Nwankwo said that every Nigerian desire to see a peaceful, safe and prosperous nation, adding that the role of the defence sector in guaranteeing and assuring the safety should be supported.
He pledged that PLAC would continue to partner the various organs of government on issue of development of the country.
“We believe that the National Assembly being a critical institution of democracy has a lot of role to play in terms of meeting citizens’ expectations on the demand.
“We also believe that citizens do have a lot of expectations from the defence sector and we believe that the citizens know that there is a lot of work being done to secure this country.
“The ability of the committee to provide oversight and support for the defence sector is very important,’’ he said.