Insecurity: Govs, LG Chairmen pocket over N375bn security vote annually, yet situation persists

Without doubt, insecurity is one of the fundamental and notorious challenges currently facing Nigeria, the most populous nation in the continent of Africa. The problem has grown in proportion, sophistication and gravity especially with regional militia groups mutating with no restraint. The emergence of the monstrous, ferocious invidious and blood –thirsty organization called Boko-Haram and other groups across the country have alarmingly aggravated the situation. This ugly situation has not only attracted negative global attention to the country but made it become a country of interest.

Amidst this unfortunate situation is the shocking revelation that State governors and local government chairmen in the 36 states of the Federation collect a whopping sum of N375 billion annually in the name of security votes, an act not provided for in the Nigerian constitution or any known law in the country. This amount excludes those collected annually by the president, vice president, leadership of the National and state Assemblies, Ministers and other top government officials.

The security funds, often provided in cash to the government officials are not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit, and therefore are disbursed at the discretion of the executive. Although, these officials often spend some of the funds on security, they also channel them into political activities or embezzle them outright according to 2018 report by the Transparency International. The result is that security votes have become conduit pipes for corruption

Regrettably, despite the huge sums of money they collect from the public treasury, state governors have been incapable of stopping wanton killings, kidnappings and other criminal activities currently going on in their states.

In recent media chat President Muhammadu Buhari said he sent two South-west governors back to their states when they came to his office to complain about insecurity in their states.

Responding to a question on the establishment of state police in Nigeria during an interview with ARISE TV, the president said “Two governors from the South-west came to tell me that the cattle rearers in some of the forests are killing farmers while their cattle are eating their crops. I told them you campaigned to be elected and you are elected. I told them go (to) back and sought out themselves.”

Read Also: When fight against insecurity becomes govt’s main preoccupation

In Nigeria, security vote is a monthly allowance allocated to state governments for the sole purpose of funding security services within such states. The monthly fund runs into billions of naira and vary based on the level of security required by the individual state. States such as Rivers, Delta, Lagos, Kaduna, Oyo and Kano that face constant security threats receive some of the largest security vote funds.

Figures obtained by BusinessDay across the country revealed the following details: Taraba State: N200M Monthly (N2.4B Annually), Bauchi State: N1.417B Monthly (N17B Annually), Kaduna State: N400M Monthly [N175M (Security vote) + N225M (Security vote (Preventive and Supportive) for the SSG’s office)] N4.8B Annually [N2.1B + N2.7B], Katsina State: N17.583M Monthly (N211M Annually), Zamfara State: N600M Monthly (N7.2B Annually), and Benue State: N3.092B allocation to personnel and overhead costs monthly which cover security vote, among others (total N37.1B Annually. Other states include, Lagos State: N1.429B Monthly [N1.297B (Public order and safety) + N132.5M (Social Protection)] (N17.149B Annually [N15.559B + N1.59B]), Ondo State: N600M Monthly (N7.2B Annually) Osun State: N400M Monthly (N4.8B Annually), Ogun State: N80-N100M Monthly (N960M-N1.2B Annually) Ekiti State: N100M Monthly (N1.2B annually), Oyo State: N1bn Monthly (N120B annually), Borno State: N806.25M Monthly (N9.675B Annually), Yobe State: N316.667M Monthly (N3.8B Annually).

In the same vein Imo State governor receives N333.333M Monthly (N4B Annually), Enugu State: N600M Monthly (N7.2B Annually), Anambra State: N850M Monthly (N10B Annually), Abia State: N700M Monthly (N8.4B Annually), Cross River State: N500M Monthly (N6B Annually), Rivers State: N1.5B Monthly (N18B Annually), Akwa Ibom State: N1.8B Monthly (N21.6B Annually), Edo State: N900M Monthly (N10.8B Annually) and Delta State: N2B Monthly (N24B Annually), respectively

Others are, Niger State: N1.308B Monthly (N15.7B Annually), Plateau State: N216.667M Monthly (N2.6B Annually), Kogi State: N400M Monthly (N4.8B Annually), Nasarawa State: N100M Monthly (N1.2B annually). However, the the data for Kwara, Ebonyi and Kano states could not be obtained as at press time

The governors are not alone. Chairmen of local government areas, it was gathered, collect up to N50m each amounting to N38 billion annually.

The worrisome aspect of this practice are that there is no limit to, or regulation of, what may be spent as security vote and, sadly, the amount involved is neither appropriated nor subject to any form of legislative scrutiny or accountability. Rather, the allocation and use of the amount involved are usually shrouded in secrecy.

And notwithstanding that this so-called security vote is regularly obtained, security challenge has continued to grow with worrisome sophistication and gravity in Nigeria. This sad development has constrained many commentators to query the legitimacy of security votes in the face of the persistence of crimes in the country

Ifeanyi Nzelibe, a retired Naval Commodore said the fact that the amount usually obtained as security vote is seemingly limitless, unappropriated and unaccounted for should provoke patriotic and not mere passing interest. This is especially so in a democracy which he said has as its tenets, transparency, openness, accountability and political participation. Besides and more importantly said Nzeribe ‘is evident that in the absence of control, the practice is susceptible to abuse”.

Security analysts estimate that over ($60bn) sixty billion dollars has so far been wasted by Nigerian in the name of security vote to president, Governors and Local Government Chairmen. Although there is no scientific data on which this figure can be predicated and validated, it is nonetheless indicative and revelatory that the amount collected as security votes by those entitled is massive.

Transparency International recently alleged that the use of security votes has expanded in both scope and scale under the present Muhammadu Buhari government with its director for defence and security, Katherine Dixon, saying that, “the security vote is one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today.”

According to TI, 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 one year, these in-cash, extra-budgetary expenditures add up to over nine times the amount of US security assistance to Nigeria since 2012 ($68.6 million) and over twelve times the $53.5 million (£40 million) in counterterrorism support the UK promised Nigeria from 2016 to 2020” the anti-corruption watchdog stated a recent report.

Viewed from another angle, security vote spending exceeds 70 percent 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 budgets combined. For instance, the 2018 budgetary allocation to defence was N145 billion, while allocation to the Ministry of Interior was N63.26 billion, the total falls short of N241.2 billion shared by the executives in security votes annually.

In December 2019, 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.

In the same vein, president 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.

Analysts say Buhari should show his commitment to fighting corruption by cutting down on his government’s widespread use of security votes.

“If it is so important for national security that a proportion of federal and states’ security budgets remains secret, then it should be equally important that it is spent effectively. The only way to ensure this is to put in place effective oversight structures” said a retired military officer who pleaded anonymity.

No law supporting security votes- Clarke

A senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Robert Clarke, said pointedly that there is no law, however small, that sanctions the payment of security votes to the state governors as well as the president. He, therefore, called on Nigerians to rise against what he called impunity in the system.

“I still maintain my stand that the question of security vote has no basis in law. When you look at the history of security vote in Nigeria, you will not find anywhere in the 1999 constitution that allows security vote to be enjoyed by anybody. It was the military that started it all.

“I am bound by the constitution if you can find it anywhere there. There may be provision for the upkeep of the Presidency or the Governor’s house. But you will never find that a special amount of money has been allocated for security.

“Therefore, the security votes for these past years have been used by these governors without appropriation, which by law is illegal. Because the law is clear that no money can be spent without appropriation and if there is no law backing security votes, that means they have been spending the money illegally and unlawfully.

“I have checked from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and he has told me emphatically there is no provision covering the security votes. The question is that nobody in Nigeria today knows how much the presidency is spending on security votes, likewise the governors and other executives. So, it is illegal, null and void” Clarke said.

There is a limit to what Governors can do says Gov El-Rufai

Defending the action of state governors, Kaduna state governor, Nair El-Rufai at the weekend said although governors receive security votes, there wasn’t much they could do in the face of rising insecurity in the country.

He spoke when he paid a sympathy visit to his Kebbi state counterpart , Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.

“As a state government, there is a limit to what we can do, we have no full control over the army, the police or the air force. The security agencies have been doing their best, we all need to do more, we all have to play our roles in the circumstance we find ourselves,” El-Rufai said.