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Slain Farmers: Gbajabiamila proposes more funding for ‘incompetent’ service chiefs

The House Speaker sympathises with the victims of the weekend Boko Haram attack, which left at least 110 farmers killed.

• November 30, 2020
Chief or Army Staff Tukur Buratai and Speaker of the House Femi Gbajabiamila.
Chief or Army Staff Tukur Buratai and Speaker of the House Femi Gbajabiamila.

House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has suggested additional funding for the Nigerian military, despite poor accountability and alleged incompetence of service chiefs who would manage such funds.

Service chiefs have come under widespread criticism after 110 farmers were killed, dozens of whom were beheaded, by Boko Haram insurgents

The attack on a rice farm near Zabarmari, about 20 kilometres from Maiduguri, sparked nationwide outrage and renewed calls for President Muhammadu Buhari to discard the service chiefs, including the controversial army commander, Tukur Buratai.

“This incident is one too many for us as a country. Here were innocent citizens going about their lives of looking for their daily bread to cater for their families. But are murdered in a most gruesome manner.

“Their lives should not go in vain. This should call for more action from our military. As a House, we are ever ready to give them all the necessary support, especially through budgetary allocation, to deal decisively with the insurgents.

“My heart goes out to the families of the murdered farmers,” the Speaker said in a statement Sunday evening.

Mr. Gbajabiamila’s suggestion for additional funding to the military was at odds with the position of a plurality of Nigerians, especially security experts, who said the service chiefs have failed to show working for the huge allocations they receive annually.

“The widespread insecurity that Nigerians are going through right now is not about a lack of money but a lack of strength and character amongst service chiefs,” security analyst Victor Eke. “Any additional budgetary provisions for the military would only be mismanaged by the service chiefs, who clearly lack the capacity to rein in terror in Nigeria.”

“The incompetence of the service chiefs is enough for the president to show them the door,” the analyst added. “But we are all confused by the president’s tone-deaf approach to these debilitating crises.”

Mr. Buratai and his counterparts in the Nigerian Navy, Air Force and Defence Headquarters were all appointed in 2015 shortly after Mr. Buhari assumed power. But the president has failed to remove them from office, even as it became increasingly apparent that insecurity had worsened with kidnappers, bandits and Boko Haram insurgents unleashing daily terror.

Corruption, especially diversion of procurement earmarks, amongst the service chiefs has also been widely reported, with little action taken to hold perpetrators accountable. 

Both the president and the service chiefs have pushed back against public criticism by asserting an improvement in the war against Boko Haram, insisting that only a remnant of the sect was being flushed out of the northeast battlefront.

The president also said large swathes of Nigerian territory previously held by insurgents had since been recovered by troops; while service chiefs insisted they are fighting corruption within the armed forces, especially with the arrest of Hakeem Otiki, a major-general who was court-martialed for diverting hundreds of millions in security funds to own pocket.

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