Anti-corruption monitor, Transparency International, TI, has identified security votes as one of the most durable forms of corruption in Nigeria, revealing that government in the build-up to elections expanded the use of opaque $670 million-a-year funds that fuel corruption.
The global watchdog made this claim in a report unveiled in Abuja on Monday by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC.
It said the funds, known as “security votes”, are a relic of military rule, which it said has become “synonymous with official corruption and abuse of power”.
It said the funds are mainly disbursed in hard cash and nominally released for dealing with unexpected security issues. They come from both federal and state governments, although the vast majority is disbursed under the latter.
Revealing that federal and states government annually spend N241bn on security votes, TI noted that the security votes were more than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Navy combined.
Transparency International’s director for defence and security, Katherine Dixon, said in a statement that, “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.”
The group said the spending “is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit because of its ostensibly sensitive nature”, adding that the funds are channelled into political activities such as election campaigns or embezzled outright.
It said federal-level total spending on items identified as security votes increased by 43 per cent in 2018’s budget from 2017 and included payments to a university, a museum commission and a dental technology school.
“Today, security votes are budgetary black boxes that are ripe for abuse by politicians seeking re-election or officials looking to run for political office,” Transparency International said.