Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has written an open letter to President Buhari requesting him to investigate widespread allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the spending of security votes by several state governors.
SERAP also urged Buhari to instruct the Attorney General and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to publish the report of any investigation carried out, including the names of governors that may have benefited from the public funds and to ensure they are recovered.
The organization said, “If there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for former governors to face prosecution and serving governors to be prosecuted at the expiration of their tenure as governors.”
SERAP also issued an ultimatum to the President, asking him to take action within 14 days or they will go to court to compel the government to act.
In the letter dated 6 July 2018 and signed by SERAP deputy director, Timothy Adewale the organization said, “Pursuing this matter would ensure that public funds are used properly, and mean state governors would be less likely to misuse or steal security votes, and ultimately improve the ability of state governments to promote, enhance and ensure the security and safety of all Nigerians in their states.
“The lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes is the real cause of many of the security challenges confronting Nigeria. State governments across the country are failing to ensure the safety and security of Nigerians and residents despite huge yearly allocations of security votes to governors. These funds are purportedly appropriated for State security.
“However, despite these huge expenditures on security, many state governors are failing to prevent kidnappings, cultism, assassinations and other unlawful killings, maiming of residents and destruction of property.”
Diversion of funds
The organisation alleged that some Governors are diverting the funds meant for security for their use.
SERAP also added that many Governors hide the security vote expenditures from the public.
“SERAP is concerned about the growing allegations of mismanagement, waste, and corrupt practices in the spending of security votes by several state governors. Rather than using security votes to promote, enhance and ensure peace and security in their states, many governors have allegedly used and/or still using it as conduit to divert public funds for private gain.
“Yet, the most general purpose of state power is to provide security for citizens and other residents and to enable them to lead a life that is meaningful to them. In fact, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) states clearly in Section 14 (2b) that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
“Many state governments do not include security vote expenditures in their appropriation laws, as they prefer to apply extra-budgetary measures in the allocation of such funds. This ensures that the public is kept out of the loop on this bogus and suspicious expenditure.
“State governments cannot on the one hand appropriate huge funds each year under the security vote expenditure head while on the other claim that ensuring the security and safety of Nigerians is the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government. Rather than serving the public interest in terms of enhancing the security and safety of all Nigerians in several states, the allocation and appropriation of security votes would seem to serve the personal, political and pecuniary interests of public office holders entrusted with security votes.”
“SERAP is concerned that majority of states do not disclose how much funds are allocated and expended as security votes by governors. Referring the allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the spending of security votes by several states would help to remove the secrecy and lack of accountability associated with security votes, improve the level of security in several states and contribute to good governance in the country.
“Apart from contributing to the level of insecurity across several states, corruption in the spending of security votes is also taking away the much-needed resources to provide education, healthcare, clean drinkable water and other essential public services by these states,” the group added.
“SERAP notes that each year since the return to civilian rule in 1999, huge public funds are budgeted at all levels of government in Nigeria in the name of security votes. According to our information, the amount appropriated as security votes by state governments in Nigeria range between N400 million and N2 billion monthly. Over N1.5 trillion is allocated and expended annually as security votes by governments at all levels in Nigeria, virtually all of which is lost to corruption primarily because the spending of such funds is entirely at the discretion of the public office holder.
“The allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the spending of security votes by many state governors suggest a fundamental breach of Nigeria’s anti-corruption laws and several provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption including articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 15, 17, 18, 19 and 20, to which Nigeria is a state party.
“We note that the Attorney General is a defender of public interest and has the powers under Section 174(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against anyone including governors, suspected to be responsible for acts of corruption.”
Security vote is a monthly allowance that is allocated to state Governors in Nigeria for t he purpose of providing and funding security initiatives.