CISLAC Musa Rafsanjani
CISLAC Musa Rafsanjani

Still on Security Votes and Corruption in Nigeria
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani

Recently we hosted an event, which served as an enabling platform to raise public and policy consciousness against an institutionalized form of corruption face-marked as “Security Votes” which precarious risks and implications are extensively revealed and verified in a Report titled “CAMOUFLAGED CASH: How Security Votes Fuel Corruption in Nigeria.”

The growing budgetary allocation to the nation’s security sector with contending political struggles for security votes has exacerbated corruption which is not far-fetched in Nigeria’s security sector.

Security votes are one of the most durable forms of corruption that exists in Nigeria, and it is time for us to end this outdated relic of military rule and ensure that funds are used to protect citizens, not line the pockets of politicians.

The total security vote spend is 241.4 billion Naira. That is:
• More than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army
• More than the annual budget of the Nigerian Air Force and Navy combined
• More than 70% of the annual budget of the Nigerian Police Force
• Almost three times the US security assistance since 2012
• More than 15 times the UK counter-terrorism support for 2016 – 2020

And these vast sums are spent without the basic controls you would expect in a democracy, like transparency on their use, or audits. They’re hidden behind a veil of secrecy that serves to mask all sorts of sins. In some cases, the findings of this research are almost laughable:

• The Federal School of Dental Technology and Therapy in Enugu received $2,800.
• The National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Development Studies received N5,668,635.
• In Bayelsa State, funds went to the Special Advisor for Beautification.

Now perhaps there is some reason for these expenditures. But without any justification for them, there’s no way for us as civil society and the citizenry to know.

And though some of these findings seem almost like a joke, the security implications are of grave concern.

In Borno State, officials almost certainly have spent a significant amount of their security vote on financing a security presence as well as sponsoring the 26,000-strong militia, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). But those CJTF members report that they don’t receive their already-meagre pay of $100 per month, which the government promised them when they joined.

And we know that security votes can fuel the kind of political violence that, particularly in the run-up to this next election, puts the lives of Nigerians and the stability of our country at risk. We have seen this in Anambra State, where funds have gone to vigilante groups like the Bakassi Boys. Security votes are providing officials with slush funds to build private armouries, stoke ethnic tensions and divide opponents, creating dangerous networks of power.

Security votes represent a significant waste of resources that our legitimate military forces desperately need to tackle the range of security issues we face – piracy in the Delta, Boko Haram, and farmer-herder conflicts require a response, and in order to provide it these forces need funds. But spending on something with security in its name does not create security. Instead, security votes represent a drawing-away of money from those institutions that actually need it most – and because they are conducted with no oversight, control or transparency, they in fact feed into conflict and stoke tensions, rather than resolving them.

Ultimately, we need to have security votes brought to an end. Legislation should be introduced to this effect as soon as possible, and it should be accompanied by legislation specifying budgeting procedures and criteria for security expenditure.

But we recognise that this will take some time. And the first step is to look at the model of Lagos, where a trust fund has been set up that takes the oversight out of the hands of those receiving this money. The LSSTF is governed by a board that includes government, civil society, and private sector representatives. It is audited independently each year, and its procurement processes are competitive and relatively free from security force interference. This has led to increased support from the private sector – 30-40% of its funds now come from companies – and provides a model that other states should look to, until a complete ban on security vote spending is enacted.

In spite of non-existence of specific constitutional or statutory basis, security votes are publicly permitted, prioritised and sustained regardless of transparency, accountability and impacts of utilisation at all levels of government. It is on this note that the Report provides detailed accounts, historical perspectives and implications of security votes to our nation’s socio-economic and political prosperity.

While it acknowledges the existing efforts by many state governors who use a significant portion of their security votes to top-up funding to federal security agencies operating in their states, the Report, with case studies from federal and states levels, does not conceal the fact that widespread use of security votes by federal, state, and even local officials clearly undermines transparency and accountability, and international practice.

Similarly, the report exposes the extent of misplaced priority in the allocation of security votes where some identified Ministries, Departments and Agencies received security votes in the proposed 2018 budget, despite having no security-related function.

I hope relevant stakeholders will effectively utilise holistic recommendations itemised and highlighted in this Report to interrogate transparency and accountability, uproot the precarious socio-economic implications of security votes in the country and restore sanity in our financing for the security sector.

I would like to appreciate Transparency International Defence and Security (TI-DS) for its support that brought this Report to limelight; and my colleagues at Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), which is a National Contact of Transparency International (TI), for making it worthwhile.

AUWAL IBRAHIM MUSA (RAFSANJANI)
Executive Director,
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)