Ademola Babalola in Ibadan

Governors and top security chiefs in the country are hiding under the security votes to siphon monies to the tune of about N250 billion yearly, a report by the Transparency International (TI) has revealed.

TI, the world leading non-governmental anti-corruption organisation wednesday stated further that the affected public officers are using the issue of insecurity in the land to hide under the security votes and use same as a conduit pipe to divert the public funds.

Mr Adeolu Kilanko, of the Transparency International (Defence and Security Unit) in a report titled: “Camouflaged Cash – How Security Votes Fuel Corruption in Nigeria” presented at the Zonal Official Launch of the security vote report in Nigeria organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre ( CISLAC) in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital yesterday stated that among average Nigerians , the words ‘security vote’ are synonymous with official corruption and abuse of power .

Kilanko called for a legislation to abolish security vote, stressing that “Transparency International estimated that these secretive and unaccounted cash expenditures add up over N241.2 billion annually.

He said “ in just one year , these extra budgetary expenditures add up to over nine times the amount of US security assistance to Nigeria since 2012 ( $68.6 million) and over twelve times the $53.5 million (40million pounds) in counter-terrorism support the UK promised Nigeria from 2016 to 2020 .

“ Looking at it from another angle , security vote spending exceeds 70 per cent of the annual budget of the Nigeria Police Force , more than the Nigerian Army’s annual budget , and more than the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force’s annual budget combined,” he said.

Though top security chiefs and governors were indicted in the slush cash , TI commended some state governors for transiting from security vote to Security Trust Fund (STF) , especially , Lagos State shifting towards using a public private Security Trust Fund to provide supplementary funding to security services .

According to him, it is noteworthy that Security Trust Fund established in Lagos was typically set up by legislation and managed by a board of trustees drawn from government and the private industry.

As part of its recommendations to tackle the growing corruption , TI called for a ban on the use of security votes to be accompanied by legislation specifying budgetary procedures and criteria for security expenditures to meet international best practices.

“ The federal government and Nigeria’s international partners should work with state governments to established Security Trust Funds as a transitional measure . Security Trust Fund best practices should be enshrined in an act passed by the National Assembly, to ensure that their funds are used accountably and in the public interest. The Lagos State Trust Fund could be drawn upon as a model . To succeed , these funds must be professionally managed , cost effective , transparent and free from political and security force interference,” TI said.