Ahead of the 2019 Presidential elections in Nigeria, Transparency International and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) have called on candidates to commit to scrapping the unaccountable and secretive “security vote” spending – one of the most durable forms of corruption in Nigeria—saying that they fail to provide real security for citizens.
“Camouflaged Cash”, a new report launched Monday by the groups, estimates that security votes in Nigeria total around $670 million annually – more than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army. This amount dwarfs the US security assistance to Nigeria since 2012 and UK counter terrorism support promised from 2016-2020.
Security votes, used by successive governments since 1999, are opaque funds that are disbursed at the discretion of public officials, very often transacted in cash, without being subject to oversight or independent audit. In theory they are designed to cover unforeseen security needs but in reality many have become slush funds for corrupt officials.
As well as undermining Nigeria’s fight against corruption, the misuse of these funds is fuelling instability. By prioritising security vote spending, less funding is available for Nigerian forces to pay salaries or procure needed supplies, leaving them underequipped to fight Boko Haram. They also offer major potential sources of funding to tilt political campaigns, stoking tensions at a critical time.
Katherine Dixon, Director of Transparency International Defence & Security said: “The security vote is one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today. Yet 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.”
“Corruption in the crucial sector of defence and security plays right into the hands of those who seek to sow the seeds of instability and terror. It leaves armed forces under-resourced in the fight against Boko Haram and feeds groups who may destabilize the elections.”
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, said: “We are calling on all candidates for the coming election to agree to phase out this secretive and dated form of spending. Growing insecurity at a time when security vote spending has increased shows that it serves no positive purpose in keeping Nigerian citizens safe. Any candidates serious about fighting corruption in Nigeria will recognise the need to urgently address the problem of security votes.”
“Ahead of our National Democracy Day a strong commitment from public officials against security votes would help the growing understanding that combatting corruption is a vital element of any serious democratic society.”
Transparency International Defence & Security and CISLAC recommends the Nigerian government:
· Pass federal legislation outlawing security votes at all levels, to be accompanied by legislation specifying budgeting procedures and criteria for security expenditure.
· Establish effective oversight structures to ensure existing spending is appropriate.
· Educate its officials, security leaders and the general public about the risks of using security votes.
· Support state governments to set up Security Trust Funds as a constructive first step to phasing out security votes.
Key stats and findings from Camouflaged Cash include:
· $670 million spent on security votes per year
o More than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army
o More than the annual budget of the Nigerian Air Force and Navy combined
o More than 70% of the annual budget of the Nigerian Police Force
o More than nine times the US security assistance since 2012
o More than 12 times the UK counterterrorism support for 2016 – 2020
· 29 Nigerian states receive an average total of $580 million through security votes each year
· $5 million – increase in security vote spending between 2016 and 2018
· $15 billion – estimated amount stolen from Nigeria’s defence sector of by former military chiefs.