Investigations by NAIJ.com have revealed a huge amount of money provided monthly to the Nigerian president and state governors, ostensibly for security purposes, that is unappropriated, unaudited and unaccounted for. Although at present the amount of security money voted monthly for the Nigerian president is undisclosed, a reliable source in Edo state Government House confided to NAIJ.com that the state governor, Adams Oshiomhole, smiles to the bank every month with at least N500 million as his security vote.
“Governor Adams security vote is not regular, depending on what is coming from Abuja. Sometimes is N700 million when there is enough money and other times when fund from Abuja is not much the governor takes N500 million as his security vote. Since he assume office he has taken monthly between N500 and N700 million as his security vote,” a source said. The source’s disclosure of the security ‘pocket money’ of the former labour leader also tallies with an on-the- record admission by a former lawmaker based in Osogbo, the state capital, concerning the governor of Osun state. The former deputy speaker of the Osun House of Assembly, who is also a former attorney general of the state, Honourable Niyi Owolade, told NAIJ.com that the first monthly money Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state traditionally demands and gets as soon as funds arrive from the federal government is N500 million, which he said is the governor’s share of the controversial security vote.
“From what we have, immediately money arrived from Abuja the governor would immediately call those in charge and demands and gets his N500 million before other issues are attended to. That is a firsthand charge. Can you imagine this kind of impunity in this age? Our governor does not joke with his security votes and so are his counterparts across the country,” he said with a deep sigh. Owolade, who said that the security vote is unappropriated, unaudited and unaccounted for, said if President Muhammadu Buhari is truly ready to fight corruption he should start by telling Nigerians how the nation’s presidents and governors plunder scarce resources in the name of security votes, and demanded that the president do something radical to address the it.
According to him, “Nigerians must know how their money is spent including security votes. The constitution never asks that security money should be given to presidents and governors. The whole idea emanated from military rulers who wanted to enjoy themselves in disguise of money to take care of a state’s security. But it is civilian presidents and governors that increased the amount to what we have today; it was not up to the current amount during military era. Things are really happening in Nigeria and we are not sincere; because if we are, these issues would have been addressed long ago.” He said further that the time is ripe for Nigerians to start the debate on security votes and that it is a humiliating slap on the face for citizens for sitting governors to be taking N500 million unaccounted for monthly from the collective wealth amid a financial crisis which necessitated a federal government bailout package to state governments.
Buhari “If the president and state governors are really sincere in the fact that money is not forthcoming when people are suffering, the quantum security votes in some states is N500 million, where that would represent 1 quarter of the salaries of the entire workforce. “If you are trying to garner funds together, you have funds from federation accounts; you have IGR. Excess crude is no longer buoyant due to the global fall in oil prices, and you are preaching austerity to the people; you must follow by example. That is leadership. Reduce the quantum of security votes. President Buhari should look into it. This should be a starting point for anybody talking about fighting corruption,” he said. At present, with states’ governors setting aside a minimum of N500 million every month as security vote, by the end of each year a state governor would have succeeded in diverting N6 billion of public funds annually, with citizens of 35 states, excluding the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, losing N210 billion annually to their chief executives according to that estimate, while governors who serve two terms are likely to pocket a whopping N48 billion as security vote during their tenures.
Balarabe Musa, the former governor of the old Kaduna state, told NAIJ.com that when he served as governor the amount for security vote was a paltry N100,000, which he said was accounted for. He explained that before the military came to power in 1966, the amount of security funds was voted for, and that the difference between then and now is that the money was accounted for, though not made public. “Since the military took power the money is no longer accounted for. It is now treated as ‘pocket money’ to the chief executives, either at the federal or state levels. When I was governor of the old Kaduna state security vote was just N100,000 annually and I did not see the need for it to be more than that because all security issues was attended to by the FG. Even now the FG is responsible for virtually all security issues and state governors therefore do not need N500 million as security votes,” he said. According to him, if the money is approved by the legislators then it is legal and constitutional, and he explained that this was the case when he was governor of the old Kaduna state.
He said security votes as they are practised in present day Nigeria are nothing but fraud and stealing of public funds through unaccountable means, noting that the trend goes to show how bad the Nigerian system is where such an outrageous amount can be wasted by presidents and governors at the expense of the people who elected them. “N500 million unappropriated funds without proper documentation is simply brazen corruption. One begins to wonder what our anti-corruption agencies are doing when they cannot expose this kind of thing. President Buhari cannot tell Nigerians that he is sincere in the fight against corruption if the nation’s resources are plundered in the name of security votes under him. Buhari must stop this brazen stealing in the name of security vote if he wants Nigerians to take him and his anti-corruption war serious. “We can’t continue like this. Nigerians must arise to demand for true change, even if it will take a revolution. We must not allow presidents and governors to continue to get away with this stealing. Security vote is the highest level of impunity; it is the level of personalizing power. Local government chairmen and some chief executives of government parastatals also have security votes. It’s time Nigerians demand enough of this madness,” he said.
Nelson Ekujumi, the executive director of the Centre for Rights and Grassroots Initiative (CRGI), told NAIJ.com that if governors allegedly bag a minimum of N500 million as monthly security votes, one is left to wonder what that of the president would be, since the burden of national security still rests on his shoulders. “Again, it borders on transparency and accountability. It is evil of some sorts for governors to be diverting this huge fund when they have not been able to pay workers’ salaries; and are asking workers to take pay cut. They are asking workers to suffer more when they themselves are not ready to let go some of their privileges.
This is against the essence of democracy. If President Buhari really wants to fight corruption this is where the real issue is. “This is why politicians in the country are fighting and killing to be governor and president. If you are receiving this kind of money every month what else do you want? How can somebody be earning N500 million every month as security vote? This money is enough to create employments for thousands of our youths; it can also address our energy problem. If Nigerians really take the campaign for the removal of security votes for president and governor and succeed, a lot of politicians’ scrambling for the offices would not be interested in it when they know there is nothing there other than service. Nigerians should be ready to challenge both the legality and illegality of security votes,” he said. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Governor Rochas Okorocha dancing shoki during APC campaign rally. Dele Adesina, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and a senior partner at Adesina and Co, told NAIJ.com in an interview that he had read the 1999 constitution over and over again and had yet to see any section authorizing the federal government to dole out money to both president and governors as security votes. “I am not aware of any constitutional provision for security vote; either to the president or to the governors. Security against who? Is it against the voters? This was a carryover from the military and one wonder why it has continued under a democratic setting,” he said.
He explained that some years ago, the Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka had lamented that Nigeria was the only country in the world where money is given to presidents or heads of state and governors which is unaccounted for. “This fund is a public fund and under the military there was no legislature. But in a civilian administration we have three organs of governments with distinct functions well enumerated in the constitution. If you study the budget year in year out, you are not likely to find any heading titled ‘security vote’. If there is no constitutional provision, one can conclude that the amount spent on security vote is illegal and unconstitutional,” he said. According to him, in a situation where everybody is apprehensive because the economy is in trouble and the president is crying “there is no money”, the time has come for Nigerians to demand the stoppage of security vote, since there is no insurrection in the country apart from the northeast and recently in the Niger Delta. “The FG is effectively managing security challenges in the country. For states that are enjoying peace and serenity, I don’t know what they need security funds for.
The problem we are having as Nigerians is that there has been no coordinated effort to say ‘this must stop’. People just air their views and resign to their offices and to their houses. The media has also not help in investigating and keeping the issue on the front burner. This is the right time for a well opposition to this. “Once given the money, the governors are not asked to account to anybody, not even to their respective Houses of Assembly. Let people match to these Houses, especially in states where salaries have not been paid for months. There is also allegation that even the bailout funds are being diverted. Everybody is keeping silence because we have grown over the time the culture of silence and permissiveness,” he said.
He explained that the secrecy surrounding security vote is an appropriate issue for President Buhari’s intervention if he is really an agent of change, and that on no account should any government, either at the federal or state level, spend money that is not allocated. “In a democracy, what is not authorized by law is illegal. The House of Assembly of a state has the responsibility to look into the financial affairs of the state government. It is call Appropriation Bill. When it is signed into law it becomes an Appropriation Act. The president presents his own to the federal parliament while the governor presents his own to the state assembly. It will be a manifestation of change for Mr. President to decisively use executive powers to say ‘enough is enough. No more security vote’,” he said angrily.
Read more: https://www.naij.com/863461-governors-bag-minimum-of-n210bn-in-security-votes-annually.html