The Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), the research and training arm of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), has held the 2nd edition of its quarterly Anti-Corruption Policy Dialogue with a push for accountability in the handling of security votes by relevant government officials.
The event which was held at the ICPC Auditorium in Abuja had in attendance dignitaries such as the Governor of Ekiti State Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai and others.
In his keynote address titled: Security Votes: Are they Necessary? Are they Legitimate?, the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said that without security there could not be development, which explained the different modalities put in place by government to cover security matters which include security vote.
Dr. Fayemi said that security vote
was an elastic term as anything that had to do with development had to do with
security and vice versa.
“Security vote is not defence vote, it is broader than that; but it can be used for defence”, he said.
On the legality of security vote, Dr. Fayemi said that by virtue of its appearance in the budget, the security vote was legal but that did not undermine the importance of accountability in its spending.
Speaking on the abuse of the security vote, Dr. Fayemi stated that the fear of abuse often stemmed from the secrecy around security vote while clarifying that if some revelations of how it was applied were made, national security might be in jeopardy.
However he gave this advice, “We should adhere to international best practice by ensuring that every government expenditure is appropriated for by the Legislature”.
In his conclusion, Dr. Fayemi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said “Evidence of security vote is still scanty and I will enjoin ICPC to conduct a more comprehensive empirical study that will form out integrity issues and look at what the global practices are. On our part, I will direct the Nigeria Governors’ Forum secretariat to collaborate with ICPC in conducting such a study.”
In his address, the ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye said the Commission decided to focus on security vote as it was ‘an easy and attractive route for stealing public funds and a veritable avenue for abuse of public trust, escalation of poverty and underdevelopment, and ironically, escalation of insecurity’.
Prof. Owasanoye revealed that in the 2019 budget, as appropriated, 162 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had security votes with the lowest amount being N3, 600 while the highest is N4, 208, 760, 159.00. These MDAs include Boards, Centres, Committees, Commissions, Councils, Forest or National parks, Hospitals, Polytechnics, Secondary Schools, Universities, Law Enforcement Agencies, Armed Forces, Intelligence Services, etc.
He however, said that as a result of
the above, it was important to take a second look at the parameters for
determining MDAs entitled to security votes.
Owasanoye declared that the outcome of the dialogue would assist ACAN to produce a policy brief with actionable recommendations for stakeholders in all arms of government.
While delivering his welcome address, the Provost of ACAN, Prof. Sola Akinrinade, encouraged stakeholders to deliberate on corruption prevention mechanisms in the utilisation of security votes.
In his words, “Our rationale for encouraging participants to focus their suggestions on preventive measures is simple: this is to help ensure that security votes are not abused in the first place.”
In his goodwill message, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai described the dialogue as ‘apt and timely’. He went on to note that the security vote was not meant to tackle insecurity as there were budget lines for all armed forces and security agencies.
He however stressed that whatever
the vote was used for should be subject to audit, as failure to do that was
Lt. Gen. Buratai called on the National Assembly to move to legalise the security vote by providing proper guidelines on how it should be utilized.
“Every fund given to the Nigerian Army for security is always properly accounted for,” he declared.
In his own goodwill message, the Vice-Chairman Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, encouraged ICPC and other anti-corruption agencies not to relent in their effort to rid Nigeria of corruption, while encouraging Nigerians to always play their individual roles for a corruption-free nation.
While delivering a paper on Corruption Risks in the Utilisation of Security Votes and How to Mitigate them, the Secretary to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede described the security vote as”slush funds made available to the whims and caprices of CEOs of MDAs”.
He said that the major risk associated with the security vote was the fact that it was not usually accounted for, an assumption by its handlers which he called ‘a myth’. He therefore reminded the audience of the case of a former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame, who had been convicted on issues relating to security vote.
Mr. Olukoyede also revealed that there was no legislation stopping the criminal investigation of security vote utilisation.
On ways to mitigate the risks, Olukoyede proposed a total abolition of the security vote. He said the expression should not be used, especially if the fund would not be strictly used for security. He also proposed that the processes and procedures of budgeting for and handling of the security vote should be reviewed.
In his presentation on Entrenching Accountability in the Utilisation of Security Votes, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Mkpe who was represented by a Deputy Director, Mr. Emmanuel Abbey, said that if people had any sense of accountability, they would not wait for to be asked before accounting for public funds at their disposal.
He charged CEOs to ensure that accountability began with them and monitor to see that all their subordinates complied.
According to him, “Security vote should be accounted for, however, security-related issues especially those that could jeopardize national security should be treated with utmost confidentiality”.
At the end of the ideas-sharing session which saw a lot of brilliant contributions from some of the discussants in attendance, it was agreed that security votes should be accounted for, and be made available to only MDAs with security-related functions or mandates. It was also agreed that an act of parliament be proposed for the legalization of accountability in the handling of the security vote.