Report: Increase of Nigerian Security Money Graft Destabilizing Country

Published: 29 May 2018

Muhammadu Buhari (From: Chatham House)Muhammadu Buhari (From: Chatham House)

By Jelter Meers

Nigeria’s government has been increasingly siphoning money from a US$670 million military slush fund in the run-up to the elections, leaving the country open to more political instability, Transparency International reported Monday.

A left-over from military rule, the funds, which are known as “security votes,” come from federal and state governments and are disbursed “at the discretion of public officials” – and often in cash.

Because it is meant for ostensibly sensitive issues, the spending is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audits.

While the funds are designed to deal with unforeseen security issues, in reality, many have become “slush funds for corrupt officials,” Transparency International said.

Nigeria’s current administration under President Muhammadu Buhari increased the number of security votes in the federal budget from about 30 in 2016 to 190 in 2018.

In December 2017, they also withdrew $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account for security expenditures, which almost halved the country’s rainy day fund.

Besides fueling corruption, misuse of the funds also means that Nigerian forces have less funding to pay salaries or buy supplies needed to fight Boko Haram and stabilize the country.

Moreover, the graft money often goes to political campaigns that feed tensions at an important time for Nigeria’s democracy: the upcoming elections, according to the report. At other times, the money is simply embezzled into personal funds.

“The security vote is one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today,” said Katherine Dixon, Director of Transparency International Defense & Security.

“Corruption in the crucial sector of defense and security plays right into the hands of those who seek to sow the seeds of instability and terror,” she said.

With over $670 million going to the funds every year, that is more than the annual budget of the Nigerian army and more than the air force and navy combined.

Between 2016 and 2018, there was an increase of $5 million in security vote spending. The report estimates that about $15 billion was stolen from Nigeria’s defense sector by former military chiefs.

Among average Nigerians, the words “security votes,” are synonymous with corruption. While one state official said the funds have become a “cancerous tumor” in the state budget, many beneficiaries of the fund argue that it is necessary to subsidize Nigeria’s overextended and underfunded federal security agencies.