The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has questioned the spending of security votes by state governors and has asked President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime to initiate a “thorough” investigation within 14 days or face legal action.
Security vote is an arbitrary lump sum drawn monthly by states chief executives in Nigeria for the sole purpose of funding security services within such states. The vote which may run into billions of naira varies from state to state according to the level of security required by the individual state and the fund available.
SERAP says the realities of insecurity around the nation does does justify huge amounts governors draw monthly as security votes.
“SERAP urges you to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor spending of security votes by the 36 state governors,” SERAP said in a letter dated January 1 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest,” it said in the letter copied to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
The organisation emphasised that the mismanagement of security votes has contributed to security challenges.
SERAP believes that probing the spending of the governors will further improve the federal government’s ability to deliver on its primary assignment of securing lives and properties.
Estimating that N241.2 billion is appropriated as security votes yearly, SERAP recalled a recent report by Transparency International (TI) which stated that the funds are either “spent on political activities, mismanaged or simply stolen.”
“Longstanding allegations of corruption and mismanagement of security votes have hugely contributed to the growing insecurity in the country, and the failure of authorities to effectively discharge their constitutional responsibility to ensure the security and welfare of their own people,” the organisation said.
Citing the Section 14 of the Nigerian Constitution, SERAP maintained that governors have failed to discharge their duties of protecting lives by treating the security votes as their personal entitlement.
“Against the background of well-documented cases of abduction, killings and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to end the culture of impunity for allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds meant to ensure the security of life and property of Nigerians.”
“While sitting state governors may enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution, they do not enjoy immunity from investigation. Any allegations of mismanagement of security votes against sitting governors can and should be investigated pending the time they leave office and lose immunity,” it said.
According to SERAP, the findings established afterwards, may be the basis for initiating impeachment proceedings against any indicted governor.
A recent publication by Peoples Gazette exposed how Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra withdrew N4 billion from the state’s security vote account within 24 hours in March 2017.
Financial documents obtained by The Gazette indicated that Mr Obiano withdrew the funds from various Fidelity Bank account numbers 5110032568, 5110032599, 5110032551, 5110032544, 5110032582, 5110032575 with the same account name ‘Anambra State Security Vote’.
All funds were withdrawn at Fidelity Bank’s branch at No 5, Akah Street, Umueze Village, Amawbia, Anambra State on the said date.