Increase Transparency in Security Sector to Defeat Corruption, FG Urged

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  • As TI seeks local advisory group in Nigeria

Abimbola Akosile

A new report released by Transparency International (TI) has revealed that an opaque and secretive security sector will jeopardise President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption drive and is derailing the fight against Boko Haram insurgency.

The report ‘Weaponising Transparency’, which was released by the body in Abuja, has found that unpublished defence budgets and arms procurements are still open to abuse by corrupt officials seeking to benefit from the conflict with Boko Haram and launder stolen money abroad.

The report, which urged the federal government to increase transparency in the security sector, noted that many deaths in the conflict have occurred while the military lacks vital equipment, critical training, and morale.

It also revealed that since 2011, 50,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict with Boko Haram, while millions have been displaced. An estimated $15 billion has been stolen from the defence sector and billions of naira spent annually without clear rationale. While President Buhari has made significant moves to take on the secretive and powerful defence sector, the pace of reform in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is too slow and lacks any strategy.

Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said: “More spending does not mean more security without tackling corruption. The defence sector is a juicy target for corrupt military leaders seeking to pad their pockets. Without increasing transparency and oversight of our most secret sector, we will not succeed in keeping Nigerian wealth in Nigeria. Corruption in the defence sector only helps Boko Haram.”

Director Transparency International Defence and Security, Katherine Dixon, said: “With oil prices low and conflict at a high, defence has become the new oil for Nigerian kleptocrats. Taking on the defence sector was a bold move by President Buhari. But, on their own, efforts to bring the corrupt to justice are not enough. Detailed anti-corruption reforms are needed to prevent the next $15 billion quietly leaving Nigeria through the back door.”

The anti-corruption global watchdog is recommending Nigeria undertake a series of reforms to improve transparency in the sector. These include developing a defence sector anti-corruption strategy to address the main enablers of corruption. “The MOD and military leadership should create a special Reform Board responsible for ensuring this is executed across the sector.”

The federal government was also urged to extend public access to defence and security information by amending the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act; to strengthen the recent Public Procurement Act reforms and reduce opportunities to abuse national secrecy for personal gain.
Government was also among other things, enjoined to monitor confidential procurements by establishing a confidential Senate committee and a well-trained unit with suitable security clearance inside the Bureau of Public Procurement; and to regulate secretive security votes.

“As one of the most durable forms of corruption in Nigeria today, security votes should be abolished or strictly regulated. Protect whistle-blowers. The Attorney General should clarify that current protections cover the defence and security sector, and enact these protections in law,” the report recommended.

TI is also calling on the international community to prioritise anti-corruption clauses in their defence deals, according to the release issued by CISLAC media officer, Onyekachi Eke.

Meanwhile, CISLAC, as National Contact of Transparency International, has been mandated by the TI- International Secretariat (TI-S), Berlin, to facilitate the formation of a full-fledged TI National Chapter in Nigeria.
The formation of a Local Advisory Group occupied by credible organisations involved in anti-corruption efforts is the first major step toward realising this objective, according to a release issued by Rafsanjani.

“This is being pursued within the framework of our new project ‘Tackling Inequalities in Nigeria through Transparent, Accountable and Participatory Governance’, which is being implemented in collaboration with TI- S in Berlin, with support from the Ford Foundation under their governance project”, he said.

The project will support the contribution of various state and non-state actors’ efforts in enhancing transparency, accountability and participatory governance in combating corruption, and its main objective is to strengthen the presence of TI and the anti-corruption movement at large in the country through enhanced accountability, transparency and public engagement.

“Underlying the aforementioned objective is the realisation that, with coordination and support, a vibrant civil society in Nigeria in partnership with relevant government agencies saddled with coordination of anti-corruption efforts in the country will play crucial roles.

“The Local Transparency International Advisory Group Members will provide a forum for Civil Society to offer strategic and substantive guidance on the project implementation, strengthen the understanding of the role CSOs are to play in fighting corruption reinforced by collaboration with other relevant government agencies saddled with anti-corruption efforts coordination and monitor the overall progress and implementation of project activities while and providing guidance for the different outputs”, Rafsanjani added.

To this end, CISLAC is organising a one day orientation programme and inauguration for TI Local Advisory Group Members on the project, which is taking place on May 31 in Abuja.

The purpose of the inauguration is to provide forum for civil society to offer strategic and substantive guidance on the project implementation; as well to strengthen the project understanding of the role CSOs play in fighting corruption and how this role could be reinforced in collaboration with other relevant government agencies saddled with anticorruption efforts coordination.

It will also seek to strengthen the presence of TI and the anti-corruption movement at large in the country through enhanced accountability, transparency and public engagement and monitor the overall progress and implementation of project activities and providing guidance for the different outputs.