The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 state governors to provide information regarding the spending of public funds allocated as security votes between 2011 and 2019.
Apart from the Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to Buhari and the governors, SERAP is also seeking to know if public funds meant to provide security and ensure the protection of the lives of Nigerians have been used for that purpose.
“Given the current security realities in the country, we need the information to determine if public funds meant to provide security and ensure respect and protection of the rights to life, physical integrity, and liberty of Nigerians have been spent for this purpose. Our request is limited to details of visible, specific security measures and projects executed and does not include spending on intelligence operations,” SERAP said.
It cites the current security realities in the country as the reason for making the enquiry in the FOI requests dated April the 12.
In a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, it added: “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”.
“SERAP urges you to open up on the matter and provide information and documents as requested. This will be one step in the right direction. Unless the information is urgently provided, Nigerians would continue to see the appropriation of public funds as security votes and the institutionalization of this cash in ‘Ghana Must Go bags’ practice as a tool for self-enrichment.”
“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 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. However, the growing level of insecurity, violence, kidnappings, and killings in Zamfara State and other parts of Nigeria suggest that successive governments—at both federal and state levels—have been unwilling or unable to satisfactorily implement this fundamental constitutional commitment.”
“SERAP believes that there is a strong link between corruption and insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in several parts of the country.
“Available evidence would seem to suggest that many of the tiers of government in Nigeria have used security votes as a conduit for grand corruption rather than spending the funds to improve and enhance national security and ensure full protection of Nigerians’ rights to life, physical integrity, and liberty.
“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.”
The rights group further said it believes that by providing the information, government will help put an end to misconception that security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or stolen.
“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.”