DECLARATION OF ACTION AFTER A ONE DAY SOUTH EAST FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSION TOWARDS STRENGTHENING ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE NIGERIA DEFENCE SECTOR ORGANIZED BY THE CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC) WITH SUPPORT FROM GLOBAL AFFAIRS CANADA AND TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL HELD IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM OF BAYVIEW RESORTS & HOTELS, IN ENUGU STATE ON THE 17th OF NOVEMBER, 2016
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from Global Affairs Canada and Transparency International (TI) held a one-day Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on citizens’ role towards Strengthening Accountability in the Nigeria Defence Sector (SANDS). The FGD was attended by anti-corruption focused NGOs from Enugu, Anambra, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states. Community influence and opinion Leaders, Council Officials, Youth Groups, Women Associations, Students and Community-Based Organizations. After exhaustive deliberations on the aim of the FGD which is to elicit citizens participation in strengthening accountability in the defence sector. We, the participants:
Recognize that the scale of abuse of Security Votes at State level and Defence Budget at National Level is best left to the imagination when extrapolated from the brazen corruption to which non-discretionary spending is usually subjected to in our country. For instance, revelations from how security funds were allegedly disbursed by the South Eastern Sates suggests that: Enugu spends 600m monthly and 7.2billion per annum while Anambra spends 850m/monthly and 10.2billion per annum, and so on are indication of the abuse to which such discretionary spending is subjected in Nigeria.
Also Recognize that there are no specific projects attached to the provision called security votes and because it is not tagged to any project, and because it is not usually audited or accounted for, their Excellencies spend it on anything but security. They use it to expand their harems, acquire choice properties, or simply deplore it to simply run their perceived or real enemies out of town. This way, “security votes” have become synonymous to kalokalo gaming machine. It gulps billions of naira, every month, without yielding anything to Nigerian taxpayers from whose sweat the budget is drawn. Another name for security vote is slush fund. The freebie is part of the reasons Presidents, Governors and Local Government Chairmen in this democracy have been living like mythical kings over a thousand thrones
Express our Deep Concern over the spread of abuse and corruption at all levels of government; it has been extended to virtually all public agencies, including academic institutions. More than ever before, Nigeria is in dire need of accountable and public-spirited leadership. The governors, many of whom are now seeking public sympathy on their inability to pay the wages of their workers, should urgently remedy their profligate ways.
Note that that the National and State Assemblies should as a matter of urgency begin the publication of defence and security revenue and expenditure to encourage transparency, drill down accountability, stimulate citizens’ participation and openness in governance. This will largely demonstrate to the citizens that government is committed to its commitment at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London earlier in the year.
Also Note that not all security expenditure (properly understood as such) can stand public scrutiny without jeopardising its overarching purpose of maintenance of law and order. But nothing can justify the current situation where the executive at all levels allocate to themselves jumbo sums of money that is spent without any accountability on issues that have nothing to do with the security or welfare of the people. Invariably, security votes have become a clever way by which political office holders, in implicit collusion with, or exploitation by, security agencies, defraud the public.
Further Note that the National and State Assemblies should legislate over security vote that will clearly define how monies will be spent or appropriated for. The law will essentially provide strong accountability framework as well as clear departure from the traditional methods of taking monies without any audit process. Civil society Organizations will organize and mobilize through sustained networks and partnerships.
We Commit to advocate for budget credibility in the defence budget as it remains an important aspect for citizens to engage, it has also become a difficult area to investigate, particularly because of the lack of detailed data availability. Overtime in Nigeria, plans or policies approved in the paper, bear little resemblance to the actual pattern of public financial activity that took place by the end of the budget period.
We Affirm that civil society actors will continue to influence horizontal accountability in two main ways: directly, by encouraging the creation and empowerment of institutional checks and balances, and indirectly, by strengthening the institutions of vertical accountability that underpin them, such as inclusiveness in the development of defence and security policies and strengthening civil military relations. The causal arrow also points in the other direction, however. Weak institutions of horizontal accountability can also undermine vertical accountability, which in turn weakens civil society actors.
We Endorse an improvement in the existing structure of Ministry of Defence as well as strengthening of the audit unit of the Defence Headquarters to ensure some levels of independence for proper accountability. This is important because sound fiscal policy and its attendant fiscal responsibility can have important long-run effects on the security of a nation through its desired impact on growth of productivity, reduction of insecurity and inequality and increased national saving.
Will ensure that awareness are raised continuously in the media as a network of organizations working to strengthen active citizenship towards amplifying the need to move beyond transparency to accountability in the Nigeria Defence budget, spending and reconciliations.
Shall Effectively engage defence budget comprehensively with orderly provision of public resources to public purposes and covering the field, budget transparency refers to the extent and ease with which citizens can access information on the budget and provide feedback to government on revenues, allocations, and expenditures. Comprehensive budgets will be expected to increase accountability and transparency and enable policymakers’ and public scrutiny over the spending of public funds.
Will Support the review of the Public Procurement Act to remove the clause that provides complete exemption for military procurement. The immediate inauguration of the National Procurement Council should be given priority as a demonstration of this administration’s commitment to fight corruption.
Agreed that there is already some failure in governance, Civil Society Organizations and the media therefore must work effectively to promote community governance as a panacea for increasing awareness amongst stakeholders on the need to strengthen accountability in the defence sector. A social media platform will be launched to drive this process.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Comerade Jaye Gaskia
Civil Rights Realization and Advancement Network
Justice Development Peace Caritas