THE controversial issue of security vote came back to the front burner during the recent quarterly policy dialogue on accountability for security votes at the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, Abuja when the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Yusuf Buratai accused state governors of hiding behind their immunity to embezzle the vote.
However, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, though tacitly admitting that his colleagues had often abused the fund, called for accountability.
The security vote is definitely not in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended). It is one of the enduring throw-downs from our prolonged military dictatorship. Military President Ibrahim Babangida had reportedly introduced it, though the country was nowhere near the situation of security breakdown that it is experiencing, especially the North.
With the return of democracy in 1999, the governors still imbued with military mentality continued to unilaterally take any amount they wished from their state treasuries in the name of security vote which were neither appropriated by the State Houses of Assembly nor accounted for.
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Admittedly, most governors used part of the funds to buy equipment and operational vehicles for the police and military formations in their jurisdictions, and also to motivate officers in efforts to contain the rising violent crime rate, particularly terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, herdsmen attacks, cultism and armed robbery. They also used them to secure themselves and families by adopting humongous convoys guarded by mobile policemen, DSS operatives and sometimes, military officers. However, since the funds are never accounted for, audited or retired, some governors feel free to use same to feather their nests.
To that extent, Buratai is correct in his allegation. However, judging from the widespread allegations of profiteering within the security services in their various theatres of operation, it might look like the kettle is calling the pot black.
Only recently, some military officers were arrested for absconding with N600m belonging to the GOC of 8 Division of the Nigerian Army, Sokoto, Major General Hakeem Otiki. Several retired military officers who fought the Boko Haram war have also been tried for embezzlement of funds meant for military purposes.
The time has come for this matter to be settled conclusively. There is no doubt that the security vote is important in the face of exploding violent criminality. It will become more inevitable as state police, correctional services, forest guards and vigilantes become increasingly inescapable.
When the laws are adjusted to bring these bodies on board at the state levels, the governors will not just be chief security officers in title alone but also in deed. But the security vote must be appropriated by the State Assemblies and properly accounted for.