The Federal Government has confirmed that it has purchased vehicles worth N1.4 billion to help Niger tackle insecurity.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed gave the confirmation on Wednesday, explaining that providing intervention to the neighboring Niger Republic is not new and it is the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari who approved the purchase.
According to her, President Buhari, whose actions she cannot question, has the right to make his own assessment of situations and give directives accordingly.
She added that the financial support, which is primarily for the purpose of enhancing capacity to protect their territory, based on a request by the Nigerien Government, is also in the best interest of the country.
The minister, who was speaking after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the President, responded to questions regarding documents released on social media which showed that the president approved the release of the funds on February 22, 2022, for the Niger Republic.
A report published on Wednesday by Sahara Reporters in June revealed that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), 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.
It also revealed that the President had okayed the disbursement since 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 harsh economic realities.
But speaking on Wednesday, the Finance Minister said, “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.”