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Still On Security Votes

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When Mr Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), spoke at the induction programme for returning and newly-elected governors, he did not mince words in accusing governors of misusing security votes.
He alleged that some governors deliberately fuelled insecurity in their states just to collect more money as security votes.
He noted that some of the governors “now covertly promote insecurity as justification to inflate their security votes.”
Magu also alleged that there was a link between corruption, banditry and terrorism.
His allegations were contained in a paper, titled,  “Imperative of Fighting Corruption/Terrorism Financing in Nigeria.’’
Magu told the session that a debate on the legality of security votes enjoyed by the governors was ongoing.
“We have also seen evidence of theft of public resources by some state governors,  cashing in on the insecurity in their states.
“Insecurity has also offered the required oxygen for corruption to thrive as evident in the $2.1bn arms procurement scandal involving top military commanders both serving and retired.”
A study carried out by the University of Nigeria, agreed with Magu on the abuse of security votes.
The study is titled “Legitimising Corruption in Government: Security Votes in Nigeria.’’
It was authored by  Obiamaka Egbo, Ifeoma Nwakoby, Josaphat Onwumere  and  Chibuike Uche, of the  Department of Banking and Finance, University of Nigeria.
“The tendency among Nigerian politicians, particularly the executive arm at the various levels of government, to manipulate security issues for political and economic gains is widespread.
“This has been fuelled by the abuse of security votes, an ‘opaque fund’ reserved for the executive which is not appropriated, accounted for or audited through the legislature.
“ Sometimes, a state governor could (mis)appropriate as much as N100 million monthly as security vote.
“Such slush funds are channelled into the secret funding of militias and gangs of government enforcers.’’
The appropriateness or otherwise of security votes was at the centre of discourse at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)  second Quarterly Anti-Corruption Policy Dialogue Series.
The dialogue focused on Accountability for Security Votes.
ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who spoke, agreed with Magu that security vote is an easy and attractive route for stealing public funds.
According to him, it is also a veritable avenue for abuse of public trust, escalation of poverty and underdevelopment and ironically the escalation of insecurity.
“It has pushed up insecurity somehow, that is not to say we do not need security vote.
“In the 2019 budget as appropriated, for example, 162 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had money appropriated for them as security votes.
“These MDAs span boards, centres, committees, ministries, commissions, councils, hospitals, schools, law enforcement agencies, obviously the armed forces and intelligence offices.”
Owasanoye said that the number and categories of MDAs given security votes, suggest that something was wrong with the parameters for determining those who are entitled to security votes.
“This then provokes some question as which MDAs are entitled to security votes and how should security votes be accounted for?
“It is clear from our present approach, that we do not have any rational principle being followed at the moment.
“If there is one, I will be happy that my ignorance will be diminished and removed,” he said.
The chairman explained that it was clear from the current approach to budgeting for security votes, that no principle was being followed.
He said that this is clear from the quantum and range of sums appropriated in the 2019 budget for MDAs, where the lowest amount for security vote was N3,600, while the highest amount was N4.20 billion.
“What on earth can anyone do with N3, 600, and I am not talking of an individual.
“If the N3, 600 is the security vote of an individual, most likely it will take him from somewhere to his house. That is the safest place to be.
“But what on earth can an agency do with N3, 600 as security vote, as appropriated?”
With this disparity, what then should security votes be used for?
Owasanoye opined that it was pertinent because MDAs with budgets for security votes also have separate budgets for other security related matters, such as the production or procurement for security or defence equipment.
“In the case of defence and core security and law enforcement agencies, some of these items and the votes are undoubtedly justified. But the quantum and use is open to scrutiny,” he said.
He, however, explained that it was apparent that security vote was not for any of those other security items mentioned, because they were often separately covered in the budget.
“There is the erroneous impression that security votes are not being accounted for with our recent experience as a country, that almost lost a geo-political zone to insurgency.
“Whereas billions of dollars were appropriated for security, but diverted by corruption to matters like engaging prayer warriors demands that we reflect very closely and ask ourselves whether we can afford to continue on the same trajectory of lack of accountability for security votes.
“We need security votes; we should give the votes to those who deserve to have security votes and we should demand some framework for accountability,” he said.
On his part, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said that security vote was subject to audit and “if it is not done, it is wrong”.
He said that the votes were not votes for defence and were also not meant for the armed forces.
“Strictly speaking, if you look at security votes in the true context, it is not meant to tackle insecurity.
“We have funding for Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. If you have budget lines for these services and organisations, then why security votes?
“However, it can be used for security; but it is not meant to solve insecurity,
“There are other votes which are constitutional which include the contingency fund,” he said.
Buratai explained that even though there was security vote that was generally applied, it must follow the Public Procurement Act 2007.
The chief of army staff said that if security vote was made constitutional and proper guidelines set out on utilisation, the issue will be laid to rest
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, described  security vote as the budgetary or extra budgetary allocation ostensibly for security, received by the President, Governors and Local Government Chairmen.
This allocation he said, is spent without legal obligation to account for how it is spent.
Fayemi said that security votes have not been widely accepted by citizens, because of the assumption that such funds are being abused by state governments.
He said that the problem really is not about the security vote but about its usages and the character of the people administering it.
“Security votes attract more attention because of the seemingly non accountable nature of the expenditure under the budgetary provision.
“There is widespread belief that the appropriation of security votes in Nigeria is unconstitutional and thus illegal.
“This is not correct because in the Nigerian constitution, the executive is entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a budget which is then sent to the legislature for ratification.
“The fact that huge amount of monies are routinely being budgeted and expended in the name of security vote does not make it an illegal practice
“The act of approving any sum allocated to such a heading, covert or overt, legalises the concept. The insinuation that such money is not budgeted for is not true,” Fayemi said.
Like Magu said, the legality or otherwise of security vote is ongoing, and must continue until it properly defined. The earlier the better to avoid misuse and diversion of public funds in the guise of security vote.
Sharang writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

 

Naomi Sharang

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Ex-Senate President’s Body Arrives Nigeria After 33 Months

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The body of Nigeria’s Second Republic Senate President, Dr Joseph Wayas, has arrived Nigeria 33 months after his death in the United Kingdom.
The remains of the elder statesman, which arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on Wednesday morning, were received by his family members; Cross River North Senator, Jarigbe Agom; Hon. Peter Akpanke; kinsmen, and other stakeholders.
The body was thereafter deposited at the morgue of the National Hospital, Abuja, after two years and nine months at a London morgue.
Senator Jarigbe, Hon. Akpanke and the family members of the late former two-time Senate President, were full of praises for Cross River State governor, Prince Bassey Otu, for his spirited efforts in facilitating the transportation of Dr Wayas’ remains to Nigeria.
They also commended the efforts of the Convener of the Who is Who Forum of Cross River North, Papa Dorn Cklaimz Enamhe and his Co-convener, Mr Johnny Agim, SAN, in mobilising Cross Riverians and Nigerians to ensure the successful return of the remains of the former Senate President.
Recall that Senator Wayas, who hailed from Cross River State, was Nigeria’s Senate President between 1979 and 1983.
Late Wayas was born on May 21, 1941. He died on November 30, 2021 in the United Kingdom following a protracted illness. Disagreements among members of his immediate family had delayed his burial rites since then.
Two years and nine months later, his body has been flown home from Heathrow Airport in London aboard a British Airways flight 083 and arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, Wednesday at about 4:40am.
Speaking to journalists on arrival of the body of the elder statesman, the Senator representing Cross River North, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, said “We have come to receive the body of late Senate President, Joseph Wayas, who died two and half years ago, and we just succeeded in bringing the body back to the country through the efforts of the Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Prince Bassey Otu.
“We are going to prepare for the funeral, report back to the Governor, and the Governor is going to take it up from there because the late statesman is the responsibility of the government and he will be accorded a state burial.”
However, he said the issues that caused the delay in bringing the body of the late Senate President back home “have been sorted out finally.”
Meanwhile, the lawmaker also thanked the leadership of the Who is Who in Cross River North led by the Convener, Dr Doncklaimz Enamhe, for their collaborative effort and support as he proceeded to sign the condolence register at Dr Wayas’ Asokoro residence in Abuja.
Also speaking, the member representing Obanliku/Bekwarra/Obudu Federal Constituency, Hon. Peter Akpanke, also said, “We are here to deposit the corpse of our political father, mentor, and former Senate President, Dr Joseph Wayas. His body was flown today into Abuja from the United Kingdom, UK, and was received by the Distinguished Senator and all of us. So we came to the mortuary and the corpse has been deposited.”
On the contributions of the late Senate President to his people and national development, Hon. Akpanke noted that, “He was a two term Senate President without impeachment, impacted the lives of most of the people today, and he brought them up. Like FC Obudu, he brought that school, and built a lot of leaders today, and he was our political leader.”
Meanwhile, the Convener, Who is Who Forum of Northern Cross River, Dr Doncklaimz Enamhe, expressed gratitude to God for resolving everything that caused the delay, and appreciated the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Bassey Otu for his intervention that made everything to go well.
“The people of Northern Cross River under the aegis of Who is Who Forum of Northern Cross River realised that our father and our leader who had passed on two years and nine months back was still in a London morgue. So the first thing we did was to allay the fears of Nigerians by going to view the corpse, which we did in London, then now we have brought back our father.
“Everything has been resolved because the family is back, our leader is here, now we will bury him. Every family has issues once in a while, the good thing is that God has a way of resolving issues. When all of us met the corpse of our father we all became sober, weeping and crying, and to God be the glory our Senator, House of Rep Member, and Governor, they are all together with the Federal Government, the Senate President, and everybody is going to give Rt Hon Joseph Wayas, two term Senate President and acting President a befitting burial.”
Other stakeholders and leaders in attendance included; Senator Eteng Jonah Williams, Rt. Hon. Mike Etaba, Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo, Jonny Agim, SAN, Hon. Cletus Obun, amongst others.

 

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Urges IGP To Stop Ex-lawmakers From Disrupting Rivers Governance

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has asked the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, to caution the ousted 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly against actions capable of disrupting the smooth running of the state by Governor Siminalayi Fubara.
Disclosing this in a press statement on Wednesday, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, reminded the lawmakers loyal to the immediate past governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, that they publicly declared their defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Citing the 1999 constitution in the statement, Mr Ologunagba insisted that by their defection, they had given up their legislative seats in the Assembly and, therefore, had lost the right to meet as the state’s lawmakers, let alone issue directives to the governor.
Mr Ologunagba, in the statement, said, “The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for the umpteenth time, cautions the former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly who lost their seats upon defection from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) @OfficialAPCNg to desist from actions and utterances that are capable of disrupting peace and governance in the State.
“The Party counsels the former lawmakers to wake up to the reality that they are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly by virtue of the self-executory provision of Section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and as such cannot gather or issue any notice to the State Governor in the capacity of members of Rivers State House of Assembly,” he explained.
According to the party’s national spokesperson, the caution followed the former lawmakers’ purported seven-day ultimatum issued from an unknown location to the governor to re-present the 2024 state’s budget already passed and signed into law.
Mr Ologunlagba said the action by the pro-Wike ex-lawmakers’ seeking to assume the powers of the state assembly “is apparently with the intension to cause crisis, undermine and disrupt the Democratic and Constitutional Order in the State in clear violation of Section 1 sub-section 2 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
“Having irretrievably lost their seats upon their defection from the PDP, the political Party platform upon which they were elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly, they cannot enjoy the powers, rights, privileges, recognition and obligations of members of the Rivers State House of Assembly,” Mr Ologunagba insisted.

The party, therefore, charged the IG “to note the subversive action of these former lawmakers and take immediate action to protect the Institution of Democracy, peace and security in Rivers State.”

He also called on the people of the state to remain vigilant and law-abiding and continue working together for the continued stability, peace and delivery of democracy dividends in the state on the party’s platform.

 

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PDP Cautions Amaewhule, Others Over Ultimatum To Fubara

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The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has again cautioned the Martins Amaewhule-led former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to desist from actions and utterances that are capable of disrupting peace and governance in the state.
In a statement issued on Wednesday by Debo Ologunagba, National Publicity Secretary, the party reminded them that they had lost their seats upon defection from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The party counselled the former lawmakers to “wake up to the reality that they are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly by virtue of the self-executory provision of Section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and as such cannot gather or issue any notice to the State Governor in the capacity of members of Rivers State House of Assembly.”
The PDP said that it was constrained to sound the warning against the backdrop of a purported seven-day ultimatum issued by the former lawmakers “from an unknown location to Governor Siminialayi Fubara to re-present the 2024 Rivers State budget which has already been passed and signed into law.”
The statement added: “This action by these individuals seeking to assume the powers of the Rivers House of Assembly is apparently with the intension to cause crisis, undermine and disrupt the Democratic and Constitutional Order in the State in clear violation of Section 1 sub-section 2 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“Having irretrievably lost their seats upon their defection from the PDP, the political Party platform upon which they were elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly, they cannot enjoy the powers, rights, privileges, recognition and obligations of members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.”
The PDP charged the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to note the subversive action of these former lawmakers and take immediate action to protect the Institution of Democracy, peace and security in Rivers State.
The party enjoined the people of Rivers State to remain vigilant, law-abiding and continue to work together for the continued stability, peace and delivery of democracy dividends in Rivers State on the platform of the PDP.

 

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