Governors’ Security Votes Balloon As Insecurity Worsens – Report

L-R: Osun State Governor, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola; Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade; Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari; President Muhammadu Buhari; Kebbi State Governor & Chairman Progressive Governors Forum, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi (Ebonyi). Behind L-R: Plateau State Governor, Mr. Solomon Lalong; Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun; Nassarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule; Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, during a Sallah Homage visit by the members of the Progressive Governors Forum to the President in Daura, Katsina State, on Thursday, July 22, 2021.

As insecurity worsens across Nigeria, ballooning security votes allocated to all the 36 state governors, politicians and some stakeholders in the security sector under the guise of tackling different conflicts and killings rocking the length and breadth of the country have been called to question by a report of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) released in December, 2021.

The report titled: “20 Years of Anti-Corruption Efforts in Nigeria: A Critical Look”, obtained by Daily Trust on Sunday, specifically disclosed that some governors and some Nigerian elite have enriched themselves through security sector corruption.

Part of the report reads, “Over the last 20 years, governors’ corruption prone, ad hoc security spending has increased to over N208.8bn ($580m) annually.  

“Likewise, federal officials’ access to security votes has also risen sharply, growing from about 30 such funds in 2016 (worth N9.3bn or $46.2m in total) to over 190 (then worth N18.4bn or $51m in total) in 2018.”  

The centre said those that were supposed to pull forces together to see the end of the carnage were seeing perpetual conflicts as more lucrative than peace.

It said major anti-corruption agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had been made lame ducks by the powers that be, including the presidency.

When contacted to comment on the allegation by the CDD, some of the agencies mentioned above faulted the report, while others kept mum or asked this newspaper to give them the whole report to study before responding.

CDD was established in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1997 and subsequently registered in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1999. The organisation aims to promote the values of democracy, peace and human rights in Africa, particularly in the West African Sub-Region.

The centre was established to mobilise global opinion and resources for democratic development and provide an independent space to reflect critically on the challenges posed to the democratisation and development processes in West Africa, and also to provide alternatives and best practices to the sustenance of democracy and development in the region.  

In the latest report critically analysed by Daily Trust, CDD also noted that security sector corruption had weakened Nigeria’s counter-terrorism capacity, allowing groups like Boko Haram, ISWAP, secession agitators, kidnappers and other criminals to thrive.

Our correspondents report that Nigeria has been battling Boko Haram insurgency for about 12 years, during which thousands have been killed, including civilians and soldiers; several persons, including schoolchildren and women, were kidnapped, with many still in captivity while millions have been displaced.

Monumental racket in arms procurement

The CDD report noted that in the last 20 years, military leaders “stole” as much as $15bn (N6.1trn at N411 to a dollar) through fraudulent arms procurement deals.

The report reads: “Thanks to lax legislative oversight, excessive secrecy and the fact that security spending is largely exempt from due process rules designed to prevent corruption.

“Successive presidents’ failure to rein in security sector corruption is a highly consequential anti-corruption failure. It has led to widespread insecurity, verging on instability, and has weakened Nigerian counter-terrorism capacity, allowing groups like Boko Haram to smoulder.

“Over the last decade, political and security elite have monetised the conflicts and the resulting humanitarian crises.

“During the same period, military leaders allegedly stole as much as $15bn through fraudulent arms procurement deals; thanks to lax legislative oversight, excessive secrecy and the fact that security spending is largely exempt from due process rules designed to prevent corruption.”

It said notably, no individual, body or corporation had been convicted in Nigeria for funding terrorism since the insurgency started in 2009 despite promises by the current administration to expose those behind sponsorship of criminals.

Govs complicit

The report further reads: “For their part, state governors have used rising insecurity as a pretext for funding paramilitary and vigilante groups and demanding larger security votes at the expense of health, education and infrastructure spending.

“Because they are able to enrich themselves through security sector corruption, Nigeria’s elite now see perpetual conflict as more lucrative than peace.”

CDD recalled that when the present administration being led by President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015, it vowed to tackle corruption headlong by prosecuting highly-placed individuals and Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) involved in corrupt practices.

In contrast, it said the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) had taken over corruption cases of many politicians who had joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) earlier being handled by the anti-graft agencies; the development some officials at EFCC described as “demoralising”.

The assessment report indicated that the anti-graft agencies – EFCC, ICPC and CCB have recorded some successes.

It said: “Despite realising these and other achievements, Nigerian anti-corruption efforts have also been beset by significant challenges over the last two decades.

“These failures include the continuation of political interference in corruption investigations and prosecutions, the normalisation of security sector corruption and top officials’ unwillingness to do more to prevent corruption and do more to deliver public goods—rather than personal patronage—to their constituents.

“Interference by actors aiming to sabotage anti-corruption law enforcement is common. This type of negative interference can be exerted by the targets of investigations and prosecutions themselves or their lawyers, political supporters, business associates, ethnic kinsmen, friends, relatives, or even sympathetic officials.”

It further noted that compromising prosecutors had been an especially effective tactic, since a defendant automatically walked free if they failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

It said, “Strategic decisions about whether, when or how to prosecute – often taken by agency heads or the AGF or even following influence from the presidency itself – shape the outcome of high-level corruption prosecutions.”

According to the CDD, “In June 2019, for example, the EFCC stepped back from its role in prosecuting former Gombe state governor Danjuma Goje, handing the prosecution over to the Office of the AGF.

“He then withdrew criminal charges from Goje, a ruling party senator who days earlier had dropped his ambition to run for the senate presidency and endorsed the candidate President Buhari reportedly preferred,” it said.

EFCC, ICPC, CCB react

Abdulrasheed Bawa, EFCC Chairman

When contacted to find out whether EFCC’s activities are being interrupted by the executive and whether they are planning to re-take Goje’s case and other cases from the AGF’s office, its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, told Daily Trust on Sunday that he would not comment on the issue because the commission had not read the CDD report.

But a senior officer at the commission explained that the EFCC as an agency under the presidency would follow all laid down procedures in line with its mandate in order to perform to the best satisfaction of many Nigerians.

He said, “You can’t know more than your boss. The commission is a law-abiding agency and it will follow all the laid down rules in handling high-profiled cases.”

ICPC spokesperson, Azuka Ogugua, said he would not comment on the interference of anti-corruption cases by the AGF’s office or presidency until they read the CDD report.

 ‘CCB doesn’t suffer interference, needs reforms’

On its part, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) said it had no cases of interference in its investigations but that it needed legal reforms.

Reacting to the report by the CDD, a Director in CCD, Dr Sylvester Gwimi, said the Chairman of CCB, Prof Isah Mohammed, had never shown any personal interest in any investigation nor had he complained of external influence on his work.

He, however, said CCB faced problem of finance as captured in the CDD report, adding that there was need to review the law setting up the bureau.

According to Gwimi, among the reforms sought is expansion of tribunals of the CCB to cover the six geopolitical zones as the bureau handles elected and appointed public officials at federal, state and local government levels.

He explained that, “The bureau’s powers of arrest and detention should be looked into. This will take care of people failing to honour invitations to the bureau. Equally, some financial institutions are slow or delaying or not willing to provide information.

“Laws should be strengthened to take care of that and powers to freeze accounts at the start of investigation pending final clearances. Presently, many more of the laws needing amendment are at the National Assembly.”

Responding to an inquiry by the Daily Trust on Sunday, Malami, through his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu, said statistical data from relevant anti-graft agencies, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), showed that “there is tremendously unwavering improvement in the fight against corruption with renewed vigour.” 

He said, “For instance, the EFCC recorded over 125 per cent increase in records of convictions of crimes related to corruption in 2021. 

“International Agencies have attested to the fact that Nigeria is getting it right in the fight against corruption. Several reports from reputable, objective and data-driven international organisations are obtainable to verify this claim.” 

On CDD’s allegation of political interference in the work of anti-corruption agencies, Malami said that was the least expected imagination of right-thinking members of the society.

“Information in the public domain where individuals of both ruling party; including former governors, former ministers and serving senators among others are being probed on allegation of corruption is enough indicator to show that the Buhari administration’s fight against corruption is total, devoid of any discrimination and for the greater good of the Nigerian masses. 

“The AGF does not have any historical records of interfering with the activities of any agency he has been statutorily vested the power to supervise. 

“We want to call on Nigerians to disregard such baseless postulations of naysayers who want to tarnish the image of the country.”

A spokesman in the presidency said he would not comment on the allegations by CDD.

Spokesman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, neither responded to phone calls put to his line nor an SMS and a WhatsApp message sent to his line.

Security votes are slush funds for govs – Barr Akpan

Speaking on the CDD report, America-based lawyer, Nkereuwem Akpan, said there was a conspiracy by the political class to keep security vote because it was like a slush fund to spend as they liked. 

Barr Akpan, who since 2010 filed different lawsuits in Nigeria challenging the practice, pleaded with the Nigerian judiciary, particularly the Court of Appeal, to rise up and declare the practice illegal and enforce the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2007. 

He said, “In 2010 I challenged the 36 state governors and the Minister of the FCT to stop these withdrawals and render account to the people before his Lordship, Adamu Bello, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in ‘Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/720/2010 Chief Nkereuwem Udofia Akpan vs Executive Governor of Abia State and 38 Ors.’  

“Among the reliefs sought were that there is nothing in the 1999 Constitution or any other law for the time being in force supporting such high level acts of looting, stealing and profligacy.

“What did the governors do, they simply set aside billions of public funds and hired so many Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to meet me in court. On a typical court hearing I will be alone on the one-side while the entire court room will be filled with lawyers on the other side opposing me. It seemed that it was me against the world. All manner of preliminary objections and all sorts of applications were brought by very well respected lawyers just to scuttle the case.   

“The judge himself was surprised that the various anti- graft agencies like EFCC and ICPC equally opposed the law suit.  

“It was embarrassing when counsel to EFCC told the court that nobody had reported from the states that any money was missing.

“While the ICPC counsel argued that unless I brought a formal petition against each of the governors that they could not investigate or look into the way and manner the monies tagged ‘security votes’ were being spent.”  

He further said for 21 years he had responded to the objections that not all states had domesticated the Fiscal Responsibility Act of the National Assembly as a self-inflicted injury since the act, like the Child’s Rights Act, should apply to all the states.   

He added that the provisions of Section 251(1)(q)(r) of the 1999 Constitution gave the Federal High Court requisite powers to interpret matters pertaining to the revenue accruing to the federation and the provisions of Section 51 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act  2007. 

Way forward

Offering solutions to a wide range of challenges, the CDD report noted that over the last two decades Nigeria had made progress in the fight against corruption, but not near enough to slow its octopoidal expansion.

It stated that: “Nevertheless, the positive effects of capable leadership—as well as the damage caused by undue political influence—are clearly evident. So too is the resilience and commitment shown by Nigeria’s anti-corruption practitioners in the face of major political, legal and operational challenges.

“Looking ahead, additional progress will require fresh high-level impetus, broader cultural shifts and the emergence of a stronger set of disincentives both at home and abroad.

“For the situation to improve, the murky origins of many elites’ unexplained wealth can no longer enjoy the benefit of doubt. Officials should be expected to publicly disclose their sources of income to restore public trust and cultivate the expectation of transparency and accountability in public life.

“Instead of turning a blind eye to the problem, Nigerian and international policymakers should continuously be making reforms and erecting safeguards that make corruption more difficult and less lucrative.

“In the short-to-medium term, there are limited prospects for progress until the presidency, the National Assembly and state governors signal their willingness to become enablers of—rather than obstacles to—long overdue anti-corruption reforms and shifts in politics.

“In the meantime, reform-minded legislators could partner with the EFCC, ICPC, CCB, and the Nigerian Law Reform Commission to undertake needed legislative fixes and improvements to their establishing acts and other key laws that they routinely use to prosecute cases.

“If these changes are modest, pragmatic and balance prosecutors’ requirements with the rights of the accused, they could win broad support from legislators.

“Likewise, legislators could amend key law to address the anti-money laundering challenges posed by crypto-assets or put in place a much-needed witness protection programme.”

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