In 2017, the President got an approval from the National Economic Council (NEC) for the withdrawal of a billion US dollars from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), which is to be used for strengthening the fight against insurgency. This happened in the wake of claims by the Presidency that insurgency was now ‘technically defeated.’ Of course, this produced many Thomases, whom the Presidency was not interested in making believers. As many suspected that it was a withdrawal meant to finance elections campaign early next year, would you blame them? So rant they did and the man from Daura just did what he does best, keep mum and allow Nigerians do the job of interpretation of his body language. In a few weeks, the story was no longer about the one billion dollars or the weapons to be procured against Boko Haram.

The year 2018 was a different plate of hot rice, and right from January 1st, it was the marauding killer herdsmen that owned the stage. They smiled wryly, as they flung their AK-47 across the diminutive silhouette of bodies. Their larger than life cattle sprawled across newspaper’s front pages. Refusing to be relegated to the background, Boko Haram got resuscitated and like a vampire their blood thirst was insatiable. Scores of dismembered bodies lie heaps upon heaps like rubbishes, yet the conscience of the nation is not stained by the blood.

An overview of the statistics of unnatural deaths across the nations would send cold shivers down the spine of any sane man with a backbone. These numbers are so ridiculously high that even nations at war like Syria do not have such. Yet, Nigeria is so relaxed that the most important article of interest in the political clime right now is whether the man currently called President is from Daura or Sudan.

The United States Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recently released a report that it had documented over 19,890 deaths since June 2015. When you look beyond the empirical statistics of mere figures and digits and you look at it sociologically. That is over 19, 890 families that have been thrown into mourning. We are talking about some families that have lost their breadwinner. Families that have lost all their children. Husbands that have lost their pregnant wives and the innocent foetus. Children that were suddenly orphaned, and just when they were still crying over the corpses of their parents, had their throats slitted and young lights cut off. We are talking about 19, 890 persons whose only offense was being in Nigeria. We are talking about human beings, not heaps of stones or spirits, and we count 19, 890 of them whose graves were dug too early. A friend of a friend was killed and his mutilated body found three days after at the bank of a river in Benue state. To so many people, their personal contact with the deaths is closer than this. Some so close that they carry the pains for a lifetime.

In one particular attack that lasted an entire day in Plateau state, the official death toll was over 200, but we all know they were much more than that. The CFR also went further in their report to state that over 53, 965 deaths have been documented over the period of seven years, between May 2011 and May 2018. These deaths, both causal and symptomatic of weakeness of the Nigerian political systems and citizens alienation, are to high a cost to pay and yet the numbers keep rising.

As painful as these deaths are, and indeed the pains are absolutely and incontrivably excruciating. We need to discuss the deaths of our gallant men of arms. Brave men, whose hearts are made of steel and deserve better than their country of birth. These soldiers were given sticks to take into a bomb fight, yet they didn’t complain nor retreat. They fought gallantly, drove the insurgents into forests and still went after them in the forests. They decimated the bandits of Zamfara, went after the killer herdsmen they could get. The country had respite for the moments, yet the one billion dollars had not gotten to them nor the weapons it was supposed to procure.

After a year and over 150 soldiers gone, the service chiefs and a few conscientious Nigerians are asking the Presidency a simple question: Where is our one billion dollars? Who is responsible for the delay? Under what bureaucratic process is it being withheld? Soldiers are being slaughtered in their military bases! Hundreds of citizens are being slaughtered in their homes and we are playing politics with the money in Abuja?

The APC government came into power on the strong waves of three pivotal storms that bedevilled the Jonathan led PDP government. These were insecurity, corruption and the economy. President Buhari, being a retired military general with records of battles fought and won, was generally perceived to be in the better position in tackling the menace of insecurity than a former university lecturer. However, three and a half years down the road, the killings are unabated and the government ever clueless.

It is not unclear the might of the Nigerian Armed Forces in combating and addressing the hells these demons in human skins are reining upon Nigeria. It has never been an issue of capacity but the willingness of the government in giving teeth to the military wardog. It is about the readiness of the government in giving grit and force to the bite of the Armed Forces. One would be correct to expect that the intentions of procuring the release of the one billion dollars was to this noble effect. So it begs a question upon our conscience as a nation, as to why twelve months after, we are yet to give the military teeth to bite. Of what use is a dog if it can only bark and not bite? Of what use is teeth that is either too weak or old to wound the enemy? Of what use is having military bases that cannot withstand attacks of a group that started as ragtags miscreants, man for man, firepower for firepower?

The cost of a human life is worth more than a hundred billion dollars and yes if we need to spend a hundred billion dollars to make sure farmers return home from their farms unhurt, school girls write their examinations in peace and southern business men and women can trade in states up north without any fear. I think it would be worth every buck to the last dollar. But then, first things first, let us talk about our one billion dollars of 2017 first.

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