A recent report by Transparency International (TI), entitled: “Camouflaged Cash: How Security Votes Fuel Corruption in Nigeria,” which was unveiled in Abuja by the Civil Society Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) revealed that the Federal and state governments spend N241 billion on security votes annually. According to the report, the funds, known as “security votes” are a relic of military rule, mainly disbursed in hard cash and nominally released for dealing with unexpected security issues.
Although disbursed by the federal and state governments, most of it is disbursed by the latter. CISLAC said that the security votes were more than the combined annual budget of the armed forces, while TI’s Director of Defence and Security, Katherine Dixon, said the security vote is one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today. TI also noted that 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.
The group observed that the spending “is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit because of its ostensibly sensitive nature” stressing that “the funds were channelled into political activities such as election campaigns or embezzled outright.” TI also observed that “today, security votes are budgetary black boxes that are ripe for abuse by politicians seeking reelection or officials looking for to run for political office.”
Similarly, CISLAC Executive Director, Auwal Musa, said that the Nigerian security vote was more than 70 per cent of the annual budget of the Nigeria Police Force and almost three times the United States security assistance since 2012.” Musa pointed that the vote was also more than 15 times the United Kingdom counter terrorism support for 2016-2020.
What the report said on security vote is not strange to informed Nigerians. The report has only confirmed what many Nigerians know. It is indeed worrisome that security vote, which is unknown to the 1999 Constitution, should be used as a conduit pipe to siphon federal and state funds. Since security vote is a stranger to the extant constitution, it is, therefore, a constitutional aberration that must be done away with. It is an anomaly that security vote is determined by those in power without any legal backing or checks and balances. It is alien to the constitution or any other statute. Because nobody monitors the use of security vote, there is a huge problem. It is, indeed, high time this unconstitutional act was stopped.
It appears that there is a conspiracy of silence over the abuse of security vote. This is one of the reasons Nigeria is regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. States and federal lawmakers should come up with laws that will criminalise security vote. Instead of security vote, let the security agencies be given adequate funding in the annual budget. If there is need for more funds for security, extra budgeting can take care of it.
The current fight against corruption can gather more verve if security vote is outlawed. The federal government should lead and show example in the campaign against security votes.
The general insecurity in the country has not justified the need for security votes. Since security votes fuel corruption, let the aberration be stopped forthwith. All government’s funds can only be used if duly appropriated. There should be no room for slush funds for political office holders.