The Nigerian Army has proposed to spend N5.6billion on fresh arms and ammunition for its operations in 2021, amidst global criticisms that it deployed its personnel to shoot at peaceful protesters in the Lekki area of Lagos State.
SaharaReporters learnt that while the army set aside N3,092,857,481 for the “Purchase of Arms for Operation”, it also earmarked N2,601,581,056 for the purchase of ammunition in the coming year.
The two sums proposed by the army add up to N5,694,438,537.
These figures are contained in the army budget as stated in the 2021 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly, which was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari for the approval of the legislature.
Although the majority of the military spending on ammunition is supposed to impart on the protracted war against Boko Haram’s insurgency in the North-East, several army personnel still complain about poor fighting weapons.
The army, however, on October 20, deployed its personnel, armed with live ammunition, to clamp down on the peaceful EndSARS protesters in the Lekki Tollgate area, resulting in many dead and injured persons.
The soldiers were drawn from the 65 Battalion, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, opened fire on the protesters and led by a certain Lieutenant Colonel Bello, who was the Commanding Officer.
The army budget reads, “ERGP14152470 – Purchase of Arms for operation at N3,092,857,481; ERGP14152473 – Purchase of Ammunition for operations at N2,601,581,056. Purchase of ‘A’ Vehicles for operation at N2,450,292,805; also, purchase of arms for training at N723,214,371.”
The Nigerian military is known for buying arms and ammunition annually from abroad to boost its operations. Some of the sellers are Pakistan, Russia, Bangladesh and Serbia.
On October 6, 2020, the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, said the army took delivery of weapons including VT4 and FT1 tanks, the KIA light tactical vehicles as well as the SH2 and SH5 self-propelled artillery guns. Earlier in February, the Nigerian Air Force purchased the Mi-171E helicopter from Serbia.
In the Lekki shooting incident, eyewitnesses had said that they picked some of the bullets shot by the army, which were also marked, Serbia.
Although the army has desperately denied firing live rounds and insisted on using blank ammunition, scores of people from the Lekki tollgate were rushed to the hospital after bleeding from serious bullet injuries.
A day after the shootings, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had initially denied any loss of life by gunfire or that he was aware of the deployment of soldiers.
Later, he admitted that two persons were killed in the incident, while the army said in a terse statement that the state government requested for a military clampdown on the protesters to enforce its earlier-than-scheduled curfew.