An official of Transparency International (TI), a global anti-corruption organisation, has estimated Nigeria’s annual spending on security votes to N241 billion, noting that many government officials channel the funds into political activities.

While addressing participants at a workshop in Abuja on Wednesday, Christina Hildrew, Africa Director for TI’s Defence and Security Programme, said the President, state governors and chairmen of the 774 local governments in the country spend this amount annually.

Hildrew said many officials divert funds under the guise of security votes.

She added: “Security votes are opaque and corruption-prone and the security funding mechanisms widely used across Nigeria’s three tiers of government; a significant percentage of the country’s overall security spending — the secretive — unaccounted for add up to an estimated $670m annually.

“Transacted mostly in cash, security votes’ spending is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit, because of its ostensibly secretive nature. Yet, this veil of secrecy protects many officials who misspend security votes, channel them into political activities or embezzle them outright.”

She also called for transparency in defence budgets, emphasising the importance of taking national security seriously and holding those controlling the funds to account.

She said: “So, there is a wide issue in the defence sector which is defence ‘exceptionalism.’ That is the public allows the defence sector to be unaccountable for what they spend because of national security issues.

“However, the defence sector should not be unaccountable to the citizens it is meant to protect and serve. So, we call for additional legislative oversight of the defence sector and we think it is important that not only parliamentary committees and audit committees and civil society have a say in how the security funds are decided, but checks and balances are also put into the system so that there is accountability and transparency of what security expenditure is going to occur to ensure that it protects citizens.”

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