By: Kehinde Akintola – Abuja
Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr. Auwal Ibrahim Musa on Wednesday tasked Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Media on the need to carry out effective oversight on the utilisation of budgetary allocations approves for the defense and security sector in Nigeria.
Mr. Musa who gave the charge in Abuja during the one-day Defence and Security Anti-Corruption workshop for CSOs and the Media, alleged that the cartel behind this ordeal are highly placed persons in society and their collaboration with security personnel who are in the business of trading arms and ammunitions is very worrisome particularly considering the level of impunity that goes with crime.
He explained that the workshop was designed to enhance our knowledge on probable areas within the defence and security sector budgetary processes, expenditures, gender inclusion in recruitment and decision making, and effective oversight of the sector.
“The workshop will further improve the capacity of participants to better understand areas of possible corruption
risk and to flag same as evidence while demanding for effective systems to improve our defence and security architecture.
“In this period of elections, as patriotic citizens of this great nation, we must set agenda for aspiring political leaders to commit to transparent and accountable security systems that will advance protection of lives and properties, which is a priority in governance, as provided for by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“We must not sit and fold our arms while a corrupt few embezzle monies meant for the welfare of security personnel, procurement of arms and ammunition while the challenges of insecurity continue to threaten our very existence. Many people have been killed, manned, kidnapped, robbed of their loved ones, properties, and sources of livelihood.
“Banditry, terrorism and kidnapping for outrageous ransom has become a norm in Nigeria while road travellers and train stations users have become the soft target. The cartel behind this ordeal are highly placed persons in society and their collaboration with security personnel who are in the business of trading arms and ammunitions is very worrisome particularly considering the level of impunity that goes with it.
As heated as the polity is today, this is the right time to demand commitments from those seeking various leadership offices. We must as a matter of urgency begin to question the actions and in-actions of government and to demand accountability for budgetary allocations meant for defence and security.
“It is time that the quest for reform in our defence and security institutions transcends from mere words to an all-inclusive participation particularly in formulation and effective implementation of policies for the actualisation of the transformation that citizens desire in our defence and security sector.
“We must not fail to acknowledge the disciplinary actions taken by the leadership of the defence and security sector against erring officers who would rather undermine, than uphold the ethics and values of our security institutions.
“Nevertheless, there is still so much more to be done structurally such as wrong and prolonged deployment of personnel in battlefield, lack of transparency and accountability in fund management, procurement and project implementation, personnel recruitment process, personnel welfare, sub standard kits and equipment, among others.
“CISLAC and its partners will continue to push for greater accountability and integrity in our defence and security sector because it will require a multi-stakeholder engagement in line with the principles of democratic and participatory governance, to achieve the level of reform we desire.
“We will not relent in advocating for an accountable defence and security expenditure, classification and declassification of information for public consumption, increased integrity and professionalism for personnel and an uninterrupted civilian oversight of the sector in line with international best practices,” the CISLAC helmsman noted.
In his presentation, Professor Freedom Chukwudi Onuoha of the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka, affirmed that the role of CSOs and other Non-State Actors including the Media have multiple roles to play in a society.
He also expressed grave concern over low budgetary allocation for capital expenditure vis-a-vis high recurrent expenditure in the annual budgetary allocation.
While frowning at the Nigeria’s ranking on the exposure to defense sector corruption, he expressed reservation over the chaenges associated with the extant procurement system and the potential corruption in the defense sector, noting that Nigeria corruption index is very high.
He added that the actors involved in the corruption outside defense sector are more involved in the endemic corruption in the sector, especially Nass members.
To this end, he underscored the need for the CSOs and Media on the need to play the role of ‘watchdog’ to be involved in the budget preparation before and during budget process, by monitoring of Government’s policies and actions as well as holding government accountable; ensure effective implementation of the budget via expenditure tracking and performance monitoring activities.
He said: “increasingly in the context of Nigeria, we have seen unprecedented increase in the nature and scope of conflict and violence that have resulted into innumerous death, displacement and destruction. But correspondingly also, we have seen consistent increase in the nature and the scope of budgetary allocations to the defense sector.
“However, Nigerians are beginning to query whether we are getting value for our money in the sense that in the last 5 years, between 2015 and 2022 are close to N12 trillion, have been spent on defense and security sector.
“However, it appears that was though the more we spend the money, the more we are having security challenges. And so, people are asking questions. We need to know more in terms of these allocations that are giving to the defense sector, whether these allocations are enough. If they are enough, then why are we not seeing a complete turn around in terms of our defense and security forces being able or capable of defeating all the violent security challenges confronting the country.
“If they are not enough, then people can ask questions, why is it not enough and what kind of capability do we need to acquire as a nation to be able to do that?
“But I think that the sentiment you see across the CSOs is that the money may not be enough, but its also clear that it seems we are not having the kind of security service delivery in terms of accountable and responsible security service delivery to the larger populace, commensurate to the amount for money that have been expended in the last 5 years.
“So, there’s basis for questions and there’s basis for us to ask how are we getting this budgetary allocation to the defense sector and what is the nature of the releases and what’s the nature of the expenditure over time. And are there gaps that potentially create opportunity for us to have corruption in the defense sector?
“This is the fundamental reason for this training and discussion today. But more importantly is to throw the challenges back to the Civil Society Organizations because they suppose to serve as the watchdog of the society. So, they need to ask a lot of questions, in terms of who’s appropriating what to the defense sector? Who’s using what, when and how are we getting value for our money and more importantly, the monitoring and tracking the performance in terms of the budgetary allocation, budget releases and budget spendings,” Professor Onuoha stressed.