The Federal Government, on Wednesday, defended the disbursement of N1.15bn for the purchase of 10 SUVs for the Republic of Niger, saying that the move is to enable the country to safeguard its territory in the best interest of Nigeria’s security.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by President Buhari, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said it was not the first time Nigeria is supporting her neighbours.
She argued that the President had a responsibility to make such decisions “in the best interests of the country”.
A report published on Wednesday by Sahara Reporters in June revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari approved N1.15bn to purchase 10 Toyota Land Cruiser V8 vehicles for the Nigerien government.
The record which was sourced from the ‘appropriations’ page of the Ministry’s website showed that in July 2022, N1,145,000,000 was approved for payment to Kaura Motors Nigeria Limited to supply the SUVs.
Not that Kaura Motors will also supply 25 operational vehicles for the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission at the sum of N810.53m, as revealed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday.
It also revealed that the President had okayed the disbursement in February 2022.
The news has sparked outrage amongst Nigerians who argued that funding a foreign entity should not be the government’s priority amid the 5-month ASUU as well as the harsh economic realities.
But speaking on Wednesday, the finance minister said Nigeria’s assistance to Niger is a way of securing its own territory.
She also noted that it is only one of several instances where Nigeria has supported her neigbours.
According to her, “Let me just say that, over time, Nigeria has had to support its neighbours, especially immediate neighbours, to enhance their capacity to secure their countries as it relates to us.
“This is not the first time that Nigeria has supported Niger, Cameroon or Chad, and the President makes an assessment as to what is required, based on the request of their president and such requests are approved and the interventions provided is to enhance their capacity to protect their own territory as it relates to security also to Nigeria.
“Nigerians have a right to ask questions, but also the President has a responsibility to make an assessment of what is in the best interests of the country. And I cannot question that decision.”
Meanwhile, in Niger Republic, President Mohammed Bazoum has honoured six Nigerians as the country marked its 62nd Independence anniversary in the capital city of Niamey.