SERAP seeks disclosure of spending on ‘security votes’

April 14, 2019
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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information requests to President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 state governors in Nigeria requesting them to “urgently provide information on specific details of spending of appropriated public funds as security votes between 2011 and 2019.”

In the FOI requests dated 12 April 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “’Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’ It is the security of the citizens that is intended and not the security of select individuals in public office. SERAP believes that transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes are critically important to fully implement this responsibility imposed on both the federal and state governments.”

“We are concerned that rather than serving the citizens, the appropriation of public funds as security votes over the years would seem to serve high-ranking government officials at all levels—federal and states. We are also concerned that the practice of security votes entrusts discretionary powers to spend huge public funds on certain elected public officials who may not have any idea of operational issues on security matters.”

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.

“The huge financial resources budgeted for ‘security votes’ by successive governments—at both federal and state levels–have not matched the security realities, especially given the level of insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in many parts of the country. The current security realities in the country would seem to suggest massive political use, mismanagement or stealing of security votes by many governments.

“SERAP believes that the Federal government and state governments ought to push for transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes both at the federal and state levels, if any such funds are to be properly spent to promote and ensure sustainable peace and security for the people of Nigeria.

“SERAP believes that by providing the information, your government would help put an end to any insinuation that security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or stolen. This would in turn contribute to better opportunities for citizens to assess the level of spending and commitment of successive governments to ensuring the security of lives and property of the people.

“As revealed by a 2018 report by Transparency International (TI), most of the funds appropriated as security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or simply stolen. It is estimated that security votes add up to over N241.2 billion every year. On top of appropriated security votes, governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.

SERAP therefore urged Mr Buhari and the governors to disclose including by publishing on a dedicated website, details of spending of public funds appropriated as security votes between 2011 to date, and specific security measures and projects on which such funds have been spent.

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