2023: Voting Buhari Has Taught North Lesson

Legal practitioners have raised their contempt with the revealed millions and billions of naira governors in Nigeria receive each month as security votes, while insecurity continues to swallow citizens.

Nigerians can longer sleep with two eyes, as they are living at the mercy of kidnappers, bandits, Fulani herdsmen and Boko-Haram who are killing and destroying properties everyday.

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Bordered by this the security votes and rising insecurity, Niger Delta-based groups and lawyers at the weekend kicked against the continued payment of billions of naira to governors of the oil-rich region as security votes.

The groups and the lawyers wondered why they should be receiving security votes when the security situation in the nine states of the region is not improving.

The lawyers- Aluzu Ebikebuna and Oghenejabor Ikimi – spoke to The Nation against the backdrop of a report by an online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, which showed that eight of the nine Niger Delta governors receive about N9bn monthly as security votes.

The groups that also reacted to the report are Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU), and Policy Alert.

Wikipedia had in the report described security votes as a huge amount of money allocated to the 36 states in Nigeria for the sole purpose of security services.

Based on Wikipedia figures on Niger Delta states, Delta State governor receives the highest of N2bn monthly followed by Akwa Ibom State with N1.8bn and Rivers State with N1.5bn.

Imo governor receives the lowest with N333.3 million monthly while his counterparts in Abia get N700m; Edo, N900m; Cross River, N500m and Ondo, N600m.

The monthly figure for Bayelsa State Governor was reportedly shrouded in secrecy, though unconfirmed sources put it at over N1bn.

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It was gathered that the governors are expected to use the “outrageous” amount of money estimated at over N108bn yearly to tackle security threats such as kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, among others in their domain.

Ebikebuna, a Bayelsa State-based lawyer, said the governors had no justification to keep receiving such huge amount of money in the name of security votes. He described the practice as unconstitutional.

Aluzu said there was no place in the constitution for security votes, adding that the law only made provisions for a contingency fund in Section 83 of the Constitution.

His words: “The difference is that, unlike contingency fund, security vote does not need the sanction of the Assembly to be withdrawn from. In a constitutional democracy like Nigeria, its practice is illegal and unconstitutional.

“This illegality is heightened by the fact that its utilization is outside the normal budgetary process in most cases as the funds are unaccounted for. The funds disbursed from security votes are not audited by the Auditor-General contrary to section 125 of the Constitution.

“Governors have continued to use the security situation of their state to hew huge amount of money under security vote. It is almost like a catalyst for security problem in states.”

Ikimi, who is also the Coordinator of Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged (CENTREP), said security votes was illegal as it lacked constitutional backing.

He said payment of security votes to governors should be stopped forthwith because it is a precursor of corruption.

“In the past when there was no security votes, the level of insecurity was tolerable but now that we have security votes, insecurity is at its highest level. Security vote have not come to check insecurity but to worsen it”, Ikimi added.

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A faction of UPU, the apex Urhobo socio-cultural organisation, urged the Federal Government to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to compel the Niger Delta governors to give account of their security votes.

Its leader, Olorogun Joe Omene, accused governors in the region of siphoning security votes for personal use, warning that ” many days are for the thief but one day for the owner of the house.”

He said collection of security votes is akin to “stealing of public funds by trick. Such funds, according to him, could be channeled into tackling the huge infrastructure challenges and poverty in the region.

He said: “The present government at the center should use the EFCC to compel state governors to account for the use of the money. We understand that governors just collect the money and nobody questions its use.

“This is grossly unfair. Look at our roads in Delta, but we blame the Federal Government whereas the money can be used for the development of the state.

“The irony is that if there is a major security breach, people will point fingers at the Federal Government whereas state governments are collecting humongous sums in the name of security votes. What do the Niger-Delta governors do with it.

“How can one man collect so much yet people are kidnapped and killed on a regular basis?”

A non-governmental Organisation, Policy Alert, demanded the abrogation of security votes.

Its Executive Director , Mr. Tijah Bolton Akpan, said governors of the Niger Delta had not properly deployed the “humongous security votes” in a transparent and accountable manner.

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According to him, the state chief executives have “corruptly used the money to fund their political machinery and ambitions rather than use it to adequately support the police and other security agencies.”

He said: ”If they(the governors) were getting all that money then we have to look at it from two angles. First is its accountability and transparency. Second is the actual deployment of the security votes.

”Now at the level of accountability and transparency there is very little that the governors do to ensure that the people know what they use these resources for because when you go to the budget it is provided as lump sum. People cannot know if it is used for buying guns, bullets or vehicles.

”At the level of actual implementation you see the very poor number of security vehicles governors donate to police formations in their states. This tells us that they pay lip service to the issue of security.

‘Some months ago, you saw what happened. We saw people taking to the streets robbing in broad daylight and killing and maiming at will.

”It shows something is lacking. Security is not all about providing the hardware. It is also about the intelligence which the government could help the police with.”

The Nation

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