The latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), based in Sweden, shows that in 2012, Nigeria ranked as the 6th highest spender on the military in Africa, and this is because of the increase in insurgency across the country.
The war against terror in Nigeria raised military expenditure to a staggering $2.327 billion (N372.3 billion) in 2012 alone, ranking Nigeria among countries at war in Africa.
The report, released at the weekend, shows that the country's military spending is the sixth highest in Africa, and competed with the expenditures of countries like Libya ($2.9 billion), Morocco ($3.4 billion), Angola ($4.1 billion), South Africa ($4.4 billion) and Algeria ($9.3 billion). Countries with relatively lower expenditure among the top 10 spenders on military in Africa include Cote d'Ivoire ($407 million), Namibia ($407 million), Tunisia ($709 million), Kenya ($798 million) and South Sudan ($964 million).
According to the SIPRI report, Nigeria's military spending, which may not include wages and salaries, but mainly military hardware purchases, has been on the increase since 2006, but it escalated from 2008, to coincide with the period when the military became involved in the fight against insurgency across the country.
For example, while government spent $1.067 billion in 2006, when there was relative peace, though the Niger Delta militancy had begun to take its toll on the country, by 2009 when the Boko Haram crisis erupted in the North-East, the expenditure rose to $1.825 billion. In 2010, a huge sum of $2.143 billion was spent in procuring military hardware, and the figure rose to a staggering $2.386 billion in 2011. Last year, when the military began massive procurement of security equipment to fight Boko Haram insurgency that had begun to spread from the North-East to North-West and some parts of the North-Central, the Federal Government spent some $2.327 billion.
In 2012, the total budget for security was N921.91 billion, close to a record N 1 trillion, which attracted much criticisms from various segments of the society, especially when compared to the sum of N348 billion allocated to defence in 2011. As at 2012, the budget for security was the biggest, bigger than the allocation to education. Even in 2013, the trend continued, as the allocation to Defence hit N668.54 billion, ahead of what was allocated to Education, Health, Works and other infrastructure-related sectors.
In spite of the rise in Nigeria's military expenditure, it is not among the league of big spenders on the military across the world. For instance, the United States remains top military spender with $682 billion in 2012. Fast-developing China spent $166 billion, while Japan spent $59.271 billion. Germany, as put on the schedule spent $45.785 billion, India ($46.125 billion), while France spent ($58.943 billion).
In its remarks about Nigeria's spending, the institute wrote: "Domestic and regional stability are key concerns of Nigeria. It sits with the largest military in West Africa, supported by a budget that is only smaller than that of education. Spending on its military has been increasing over the last decade and by 2016 Nigeria could leapfrog several spots to sit in the top 3 positions. The country is keen to flex its muscle as a regional peacekeeper. But it also has to deal with internal problems, specifically militants in the Niger Delta and the Islamist group Boko Haram."
The relatively huge expenditure on military, as mentioned above, is directly related to the security challenges faced by Nigeria in the last five years since the Boko Haram insurgency began. In January last year President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state-of-emergency in selected local governments in Plateau, Niger, Borno, and Yobe States. The deployment necessitated the deployment of troops to all the affected local government and put the military under intense pressure. Though military hardware purchases were not made public, there was a proportional huge expenditure in the procurement of weapons and the installation of Close Circuit Television camera in parts of the country, for which an estimated $7 billion contract may have been awarded to a Chinese company.
In addition to the expenditure to deal with internal insurgency, the Federal Government sent troops to Northern Mali, which had been overrun by an Al-Qaeda group. It was suspected that Boko Haram fighters were trained in the chaotic region, and early this year, government decided to send those troops to join international forces to chase Al-Qaeda and possibly Boko Haram trainees from the region. At least 1,200 soldiers, according to the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, were scheduled to be sent to Mali in February this year. They included 900 combat soldiers and 300 Air Force personnel as part of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). An initial 162 soldiers were dispatched earlier in the year. In January, President Jonathan said some $34 million (N7 billion) would be spent toward the deployment of troops and logistics support to the Malian Crisis. He pledged to make an additional payment of $5 million in to assist the country.
Last year, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Nasir el-Rufai, was interrogated by security agents for his criticisms of the huge spending on defence. In a syndicated article printed in several newspapers and carried by online publications, el-Rufai claimed that such expenditure would not contribute to the economic growth of Nigeria.
However, considering the emphasis on military spending in other parts of the world, a cross-section of Nigerians believe that, if the resources are available, the Nigerian military should be modernized and its personnel well trained to meet the current security challenges, especially terrorism. For instance, South Africa, with a smaller population spent $4.4 billion in 2012.
Remarks on how it is making the expenditure goes thus: "A lot of controversy surrounds South Africa's buying of military hardware, particularly because it has been neglecting its ground forces - at a point one of the strongest in the world. But priorities have shifted back to this backbone of its military, especially as the country wants to establish itself as one of the go-to peacekeeping force for the continent. It was present in the Central African Republic and is part of a new force headed to the DRC. Unfortunately the armed forces are in a bad shape, with a report in 2012 lamenting this sad state, including too few personnel and outdated equipment."