The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has written President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to investigate allegations of mismanagement of security votes by many state governors since 1999 with a view to bringing them to justice.

The organization, in a letter dated 6 July 2018 and signed by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, stated that if there was relevant and sufficient admissible evidence on the allegations, the affected former governors should be made to face prosecution while serving governors should be prosecuted at the expiration of their tenures.

To ensure proper investigation of the allegations, the organization urged the President to “instruct the Attorney General and/or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to publish the report of any such investigation including the names of governors that may have benefited from the public funds, and to ensure the recovery of proceeds of corruption.

The civil society organization requested that the President takes this step within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of its letter, failing which it would institute legal proceedings to compel the Buhari-led government to act in the public interest.

It stated further: “Pursuing this matter would ensure that public funds are used properly, and mean state governors would be less likely to misuse or steal security votes, and ultimately improve the ability of state governments to promote, enhance and ensure the security and safety of all Nigerians in their states.

“The lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes is the real cause of many of the security challenges confronting Nigeria. State governments across the country are failing to ensure the safety and security of Nigerians and residents despite huge yearly allocations of security votes to governors. These funds are purportedly appropriated for State security.

“However, despite these huge expenditures on security, many state governors are failing to prevent kidnappings, cultism, assassinations and other unlawful killings, maiming of residents and destruction of property.”

“SERAP is concerned about the growing allegations of mismanagement, waste, and corrupt practices in the spending of security votes by several state governors. Rather than using security votes to promote, enhance and ensure peace and security in their states, many governors have allegedly used and/or still using it as conduit to divert public funds for private gain”, the SERAP added.

Citing the provisions of Section 14 (2) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) to justify its position, the organization pointed out that the most general purpose of state power is to provide security for citizens and other residents and to enable them to lead a life that is meaningful to them.

According to SERAP, many state governments do not include security vote expenditures in their appropriation laws, as they prefer to apply extra-budgetary measures in the allocation of such funds in their efforts to keep the public out of the know on this bogus and suspicious expenditure.

It pointed out further that state governments cannot on the one hand appropriate huge funds each year under the security vote expenditure head while on the other claim that ensuring the security and safety of Nigerians remained the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government.

The SERAP clarified further: “Rather than serving the public interest in terms of enhancing the security and safety of all Nigerians in several states, the allocation and appropriation of security votes would seem to serve the personal, political and pecuniary interests of public office holders entrusted with security votes.”

“SERAP is concerned that majority of states do not disclose how much funds are allocated and expended as security votes by governors. Referring the allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the spending of security votes by several states would help to remove the secrecy and lack of accountability associated with security votes, improve the level of security in several states and contribute to good governance in the country.”

“Apart from contributing to the level of insecurity across several states, corruption in the spending of security votes is also taking away the much-needed resources to provide education, healthcare, clean drinkable water and other essential public services by these states.”

“SERAP notes that each year since the return to civilian rule in 1999, huge public funds are budgeted at all levels of government in Nigeria in the name of security votes. According to our information, the amount appropriated as security votes by state governments in Nigeria range between N400 million and N2 billion monthly.

“Over N1.5 trillion is allocated and expended annually as security votes by governments at all levels in Nigeria, virtually all of which is lost to corruption primarily because the spending of such funds is entirely at the discretion of the public office holder.”

“The allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the spending of security votes by many state governors suggest a fundamental breach of Nigeria’s anti-corruption laws and several provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption including articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 15, 17, 18, 19 and 20, to which Nigeria is a state party”, the civil society group added.

It noted that the Attorney General as a defender of public interest had the powers under Section 174(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against anyone including governors, suspected to be responsible for acts of corruption.