Transparency International (TI) says Nigeria is losing a whopping $670m annually to security votes, being expended by the executive arm of the federal and state governments.
The Africa Programme Manager, Defence and Security unit of TI, Ms Christina Hildrew, revealed this in Abuja on Thursday at an anti-money laundering conference themed: “Impact of anti-money laundering and illicit financial flows: Legislative, Policy and Institutional Gaps to investigate prosecute and convict for AML (anti-money laundering)/IFF (illicit financial flows) charges”.
The conference was organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in partnership with TI and the European Union (EU).
She also called for effective measures on oversight structures to monitor confidential security spending, including procurements.
“Security votes are opaque corruption-prune security funding mechanisms widely used across Nigeria’s three tiers of government. Investigation shows that estimates of $670 million annually, transacted mostly in cash, were security votes spending and it is not subjected to legislative oversight or independent audit because of its substantively secretive nature.
“Yet, this veil of secrecy protects the many officials who misspent security votes, and they channel them into political activities or embezzle them outright. There is a wide issue in the defence sector which is defence ‘exceptionalism’, that is, the public allows 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,” Hildrew said.
She also backed the establishment of Security Trust Fund at state level to support the phasing out of security votes.
Also, the Programme Manager, Anti-Corruption, CISLAC, Mr Vaclav Prusa, said the conference was organised to discuss issues of illicit fund outflow because Nigeria was affected by it more than the rest of other African countries.
Prusa said data showed that more money went out of Nigeria than any other country in Africa, and that as at 2015, it was estimated that about $20billion to $25billion went out of Nigeria annually.
He said that though the present administration had recovered millions of dollars including the $321m Abacha-loot repatriated, the domestic assets being recovered by anti-corruption agencies were not accounted for.
He therefore called for a framework like a database where assets and funds confiscated would be kept for citizens to know about them so that ordinary Nigerians could enjoy the benefit.
“I think that by next year or in six months from now, there will be much more accurate picture of the impact of this government on corruption,” he said.