FG, states squander N241.2b through security votes

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Transparency International has alleged that the federal and state governments in Nigeria spend $670 million (N241.2 billion) in ‘security votes’ annually.

According to the report, titled ‘Camouflaged Cash’ and released on Monday, May 28, 2018, the figure is also more than 70 per cent of the annual budget of the Nigeria Police Force, nine times more than the US security assistance since 2012 and 12 times more than the UK counterterrorism support for 2016 – 2020.

Most of the estimated $670 million of security votes is disbursed by state governments, with federal spending making up only $51 million.

“Federal government security votes average over $50 million (N18 billion) annually assuming the chairpersons of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas each receive on average $55,000 (N20 million) in security vote funding each year, local government security votes would amount to another $42.6 million.

“The sum total of Nigeria’s various security votes dwarfs the international security assistance it receives, and is comparable to budgeted spending on national defence and security institutions.

“In just one year, these in-cash, extra-budgetary expenditures add up to over nine times the amount of United States security assistance to Nigeria since 2012 ($68.6 million) and over 12 times the $53.5 million (£40 million) in counterterrorism support the United Kingdom (UK) promised Nigeria from 2016 to 2020,” the report said. Further analysis in the report showed that security vote spending in Nigeria exceeds 70 per cent of the annual budget of the Nigeria Police Force, more than the Nigerian Army’s annual budget and more than the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force’s annual budget combined.

“Rather than phasing out the use of corruption prone security votes, the current administration has expanded their use in both scope and scale. “In December 2017, the government announced the withdrawal of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account – nearly half of Nigeria’s dwindling rainy day fund – for ad hoc security expenditures. Likewise, Buhari has increased the number of security votes tucked into the federal budget from about 30 in 2016 to over 190 in 2018.

“The total value of these votes increased from $46.2 million (N9.3 billion at the time) to $51 million (N18.4 billion now) over those two years. If President Buhari is serious about reining in official corruption in Nigeria, he has an opportunity to curtail his own government’s widespread use of security votes,” said Transparency International.

TI also stated that the security spending “is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit because of its ostensibly sensitive nature.”

Besides, it said the funds are channelled into political activities such as election campaigns or embezzled outright.

“Our analysis of 29 state budgets (no data exists for seven states) reveals they spend an average of $580 million (N208.8 billion) in total each year on security votes,” it added.

TI’s director of defence and security in her remarks Ms. Katherine Dixon said, security vote had become one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today.

“Today, security votes are budgetary black boxes that are ripe for abuse by politicians seeking reelection or officials looking to run for political office.

“Instead of addressing its many urgent threats, the ever-increasing use of security votes is providing corrupt officials with an easy-to-use and entirely hidden slush fund.

“Corruption in the crucial sector of defence and security plays right into the hands of those who seek to sow the seeds of instability and terror.

“It leaves armed forces under-resourced in the fight against Boko Haram and feeds groups who may destabilize the elections,” she added.

 

Meanwhile, the executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr.  Auwal Rafsanjani, said the security votes considered for the report includes those of the federal and state governments, adding that not all states provided information about theirs.

Ahead of the 2019 general election, Auwal Rafsanjani urged candidates to agree to “phase out this secretive and dated form of spending”.

“Any candidates serious about fighting corruption in Nigeria will recognise the need to urgently address the problem of security votes,” he said.

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