Transparency International in its latest report says both the federal and states government spend N241bn on security votes annually which aids corruption.
The report, which was unveiled in Abuja on Monday by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, said the security votes were more than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Navy combined.
The funds, known as “security votes” are a relic of military rule, mainly disbursed in hard cash and nominally released for dealing with unexpected security issues.
They come from both federal and state governments, although the vast majority is disbursed under the latter, Reuters reported on Monday.
“The security vote is one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today,” Transparency International’s Director for Defence and Security, Katherine Dixon, said in a statement.
“Yet instead of addressing its many urgent threats, the ever-increasing use of security votes is providing corrupt officials with an easy-to-use and entirely hidden slush fund.”
The group said the spending “is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit because of its ostensibly sensitive nature,” adding that the funds were channelled into political activities such as election campaigns or embezzled outright.
It said federal-level total spending on items identified as security votes increased by 43 per cent in 2018’s budget from 2017 and included payments to a university, a museum commission and a dental technology school.
Reuters checked some of the figures included in Transparency International’s report against a draft version of the 2018 budget, which has not yet been signed into law, and confirmed payments to those recipients were planned and identified as security votes.
Most of the estimated $670m of security votes is disbursed by state governments, with federal spending making up only $51m, Transparency International said. State government changes in disbursement varied, according to the report’s data.
Additionally, the largest security votes each year go to security agencies, and such spending under Buhari is less than under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, the report acknowledged.
“Today, security votes are budgetary black boxes that are ripe for abuse by politicians seeking reelection or officials looking to run for political office,” Transparency International said.