Nigeria’s Governors Forum

Transparency International the world’s leading anti-corruption organization has called for the scrapping of the security votes in the constitution which is a dedicated fund provided for the executive heads of the federal, state and local governments to disburse at their discretion.

The organization, therefore, rejected the claim of the Nigerian governors Forum NGF that the abolition of the security votes will breed chaos and disorder rather than addressing the vicious challenge of corruption.

TI is not alone in this stand as other well-meaning civil organisations such as the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) have all supported the same position.

The organization insisted that spending the sum of N241.2 billion annually should be stopped in the light of the dwindling revenue, poverty and mass unemployment in the country.

The organization said the very nature of the funds’ operations and accountability which make its disbursement over legislative oversight or independent budget because of its perceived sensitive nature provides a big gap for misuse and corruption.

According to Transparency International TI, most of the security votes are used for political activities and other extraneous purposes rather than on security issues. It is because of its vulnerability to misuse that anti-corruption agencies call for its outright abrogation.

At a seminar which is a quarterly policy dialogue on accountability for security votes held last Wednesday and organized by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN) at the ICPC Auditorium located at the Central Business District, Abuja the debate about the legality and morality of security votes surface once again.

At the said policy dialogue, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State who also is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum NGF argued that the abolition of the security votes in the country would breed chaos and fangs the embers of insecurity and violence.

According to Mr. Musa Rafsanjani, the security votes funding mechanism and used by politicians revealed a great propensity to corruption because the funds “are not subject to legislative oversight and independent audit”

Rafsanjani said, “We did extensive research on security votes. It shows a tendency for corruption. Therefore, we are actually not in support of the continuation of siphoning public funds through the so-called security votes.

“if you want to strengthen the security sector in Nigeria, budget it and ensure its effective utilization. When we looked into the utilization of security votes, we discovered that most of the organisations or government or government agencies that claimed to have used security votes do not have anything to do in terms of complementing safety and security in Nigeria.

“So, security votes have been a major source through which politically exposed corrupt persons siphon public funds. It is also because the funds are not audited. The fund is not over-sighted. The fund cannot show a serious impact in terms of contribution to society.

“What we need is to work out how to improve budgetary allocation to our security sector. For the politician to collect funds in the name of security votes, we think it is not proper. We think this practice has to end because it promotes corruption. It is a practice that promotes wastes. It is a practice that promotes financial impunity,” the TI Nigerian representative insisted.

Supporting the views of the TI chief, Mr. Debo Adeniran the Executive Chairman of CACOL noted that the so-called security votes” is like providing meal tickets to the governments at all levels when they are not properly used for its primary objectives.”

He cited some states who have collected huge sum of money annually without justification in the name of security votes. For instance, Imo state gets N4billion annually: Enugu N7.2 billion, Akwa Ibom N1.88billion, Edo State N10.8 billion annually, Delta state N2 billion annually and Lagos state N17.149 billion annually.”

Of all these states, he noted that only Lagos state “seems to provide a modicum of justification by providing a measure of assistance to the kitting of the Nigerian police in the areas of provision of cars, bulletproof vests, weaponry to complement whatever the federal government is doing in that area.”

Adeniran did not call for the outright abolition of the security votes since experience “has shown that some unanticipated threats to security do occur from time to time at the local level, like the spate of kidnapping by supposed herdsmen.

“This is why the calls for it to be appropriated for and audited at the end of every year is more auspicious and acceptable: because the funds are being abused by the state governments. Also how the funds are disbursed is not accountable to any agency,” Adeniran explained.

He calls on state governments “use their discretion on how to spend the funds after they have been appropriated for by their respective legislative arm, ditto for other levels of government in the country.

According to Adeniran “it is shameful for such huge amounts to be expropriated on the excuse of security when majority Nigerian graduates have no jobs to do and most states still refuse to pay N30, 000.00 as minimum wage.”