Appropriation of security votes not illegal – Fayemi
Fayemi, who is also the Chairman, Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF), said this at the Quarterly Policy Dialogue on Accountability for Security Votes in Abuja on Wednesday. The event was organised by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), the training arm of the ICPC. While noting that there is a widespread belief that the appropriation of security votes in Nigeria is unconstitutional and thus illegal, Fayemi declared that “it is not correct”. “This is because, in the Nigerian Constitution, the executive is entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a budget which is then sent to the legislature for ratification. “The fact that huge amount of money is routinely being budgeted and expended in the name of security vote does not make it an illegal practice,” Fayemi said. He said that the act of approving any sum allocated to such a heading (security vote), covert or overt, legalised the concept. “The insinuation that such money is not budgeted for, is not true. “In the State level context, a security vote is a pot of money appropriated by the state legislature. “This amount often appears as a line item (or line items) in the governor’s annual budget request to the state legislature. “The overall percentage of a state’s budget set aside as security votes vary widely,” he said. The governor explained that security vote was basically a budgetary term that covered the discreet expenditure of the activities related to the strengthening of security for the protection of lives and property of the citizenry. “The main objective of the Fund is to support the various law enforcement agencies, mainly through the donation of arms and operational gadgets. “All other states also make regular donations to the security agencies.” He noted that security votes attracted more attention because of the seemingly none accountable nature of the expenditure under the budgetary provision. Fayemi, however, called on the custodians of security votes to manage it judiciously with a good sense of responsibility. “If the security agencies also perform their responsibilities as expected, there will be adequate security in the society and trust will be restored and the clamour against security vote will reduce.” The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai said that security vote was subject to audit and “if it is not done, it is wrong”. He said that the votes were not votes for defence and were also not meant for the armed forces. “Strictly speaking, if you look at security votes in the true context, it is not meant to tackle insecurity. “We have funding for the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces. If you have budget lines for these services and organisations, then why security votes? “However, it can be used for security; but it is not meant to solve insecurity, “There are other votes which are constitutional which include the contingency fund,” he said. Buratai explained that even though there was a security vote that was generally applied, it must follow the Public Procurement Act 2007. He said that there were several criticisms on security votes which were subjected to corruption, embezzlement, and misappropriation. The chief of army staff said that if security vote was made constitutional and proper guidelines were set out on how they were utilised, this issue will be laid to rest.