February 5, 2022

Rochas and the security vote honey pot



Rochas wants to be president.

So he’s been blaring his trumpet. While seducing the public some days ago, he said Imo state impoverished him. The man, from whom assets have been seized and returned to the state he ruled for eight years, said the state owed him his honey pot.

That honey pot was the 8 billion naira that could have gone his way but which he used to fund a free education scheme. Nigerian politicians, na wa!

But who would blame Rochas Okorocha? In every budget, at all levels, officials are handed honey pots of vast sums of money they can spend as they please. The unlawful idea started from the military era. The military allocated considerable sums to officers in political positions to spend to keep the peace.  Because security was thought to be sensitive and required secrecy, nobody was allowed to ask why, where and how the money was spent. 

When democracy returned, our politicians embraced the illegality. The abracadabra continued. Since then, monies are voted at all levels— federal, state and local; for all arms — executive, legislative, and judicial- to support the security needs and agencies of society. 

The funds are allocated arbitrarily by the legislature. In some states, the security vote majorly controlled by the SSG and Governors Chief of staff might constitute up to 10% of the budget. In many states, these funds are employed to augment the poorly funded federal security services and to run local vigilantes. But they have also been used to run party politics, settle girlfriends and buy houses abroad. The honeypots were designed for under the table use.

Little wonder Rochas said Imo owes him. It’s not difficult for any governor to confuse billions of naira given to him to spend as he pleases with billions of naira he could have siphoned and stashed away in a Swiss bank. So perhaps Imo owes Rochas. 

In many states, teachers are owed. In many states, pensions aren’t paid as and when due. But in all those states, governors, house speakers, commissioners, and many others get billions in security votes which they can use to buy peace or lollipops.

In a country where the police and the DSS are grossly underfunded, sometimes security votes are allocated to institutions like the National Museum. In a year, politicians receive over 300 billion naira honeypots while the police pants for funds.

In 2014, one Nigerian embassy in Europe got 250,000 dollars as a security vote. It had never received any. The ambassador then was a politician who wanted to run for governor in his state. So, perhaps someone decided to give him a campaign contribution through the backdoor. 

The governors justify and excuse security votes. They say without them and the secrecy, there would be chaos. But because of them, many federal security institutions starve their state branches, pushing them into panhandling to the governors for alms. The result is a disoriented and arbitrary system that undermines institution-building and fosters corruption. A system that encourages the growing pay-to-play mercenary habit of some security agencies. 

Security votes are spent in cash. No trails. No audits. No questions. No accountability. In 2009, Anambra state government vehicles were arrested in Lagos. In them were found 250,000,000 million naira cash. The governor denied the knowledge of the funds. Those who know say that is how security votes are transported. When contracts are awarded from the security vote, no tenders, no bids, no oversight are allowed. A contractor or crony is chosen, and cash moves in a government vehicle.

Policing needs reformation. The funding of the police should be transparent. The security vote practice must be scrapped. In its place, the Lagos method— a Security Trust Fund— should be adopted.

The fund will be managed transparently to fill the funding gaps that challenge the security agencies. Imo state has now established a Security Trust Fund.

Hopefully, the Imo government will abolish security votes in truth and spirit. If Imo state had a thriving Security Trust Fund, Rochas wouldn’t have lapsed into the confusion of thinking that the security vote belonged to him and his family. 

Vanguard News Nigeria