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Nigeria Boosts Military Spending, but Analysts Doubt It Will Improve Security

Nigerian authorities say national defense, internal security and economic stability are the top priorities in the 2024 budget that President Bola Tinubu delivered to lawmakers on Wednesday.

Improving security is a major challenge for Tinubu’s government as it desperately seeks to attract foreign investments to grow the country’s struggling economy.

Under the new $35 billion budget, authorities allocated about $4 billion or 12% of the total budget to defense and security — the largest single allocation to any sector.

In his first budget speech since taking office, Tinubu told lawmakers that security is important to safeguard lives, property and investments across the country.

Tinubu said he will overhaul Nigeria’s internal security architecture to boost performance operations and achieve better results.

But experts say Nigerian authorities have consistently increased military spending in recent years without making Nigerians safer or more secure.

Kabiru Adamu, an analyst for consulting firm Beacon Security in Abuja, cites the previous budget as an example.

“In the 2023 budget, security enjoyed the largest allocation and in this current budget that is submitted to the National Assembly there’s almost about 30% to 40% increase in the provision but unfortunately we haven’t seen remarkable improvements to equate this attention the government is giving,” he said. “So, what’s the challenge? I think it has to do with accountability and monitoring the performance of the security sector.”

Africa’s largest economy faces many security problems, including a 14-year Islamist insurgency in the northeast, separatist violence in the south, often deadly clashes between pastoralists and farmers, and proliferation of kidnap-for-ransom gangs in the Northwest and central regions.

Tinubu, who embarked on bold economic reforms including the scrapping of fuel subsidies and removal of foreign exchange restrictions, promised to fix security problems if elected.

But this week, local residents in northwest Zamfara state, said they’re still reeling after armed gangs last Friday attacked their villages and kidnapped more than 100 residents.

The gangs are demanding about $236,000 for the captives’ freedom.

Security analyst Senator Iroegbu says corruption is the reason the increased military spending is not yielding results.

“Do they have the capacity to actually maximize this budget?” he asked. “Then the issue of corruption, how’s this money expended? Is it rightly used for what’s it’s supposed to be used for? Then there’s the issue of political will and interest of conflict merchants.”

In October, Tinubu signed a what he called a performance bond with cabinet members. The agreement allows authorities to review the performance of serving officials and hold those underperforming accountable.

But Adamu says he’s worried about one thing.

“What we’re hoping is that that [the] performance bond would be implemented in a manner that we will see an improvement in security,” he said. “Security personnel do not willingly submit themselves to civilian administration. I worry a little bit.”

Meanwhile, Nigerian authorities predict the economy will grow by 3.76% next year — well above the global average.

In recent weeks, the president has been meeting with foreign officials and business leaders with the aim of attracting more investments to Nigeria. In one notable deal, Saudi Arabia agreed to rehabilitate Nigeria’s non-functioning oil refineries.

Source: VOA