Blocking Defence Reforms Undermines Buhari’s Anti-Corruption Campaign
The urgent need to expand oversight of defence to defeat corruption.
To be released
4th December 2019
The quest to modernise the Nigerian Armed Forces has gone beyond mere declaration of policy intent by the Nigerian government. Processes for defence transformation have entailed the establishment of relevant committees to generate blueprints for actualising the initiative. We must commend the military for the disciplinary actions taken against officers undermining the efforts of ongoing reforms. The recent court marshall of a senior officer who dispatched over 600 million naira in cash is a case in reference. This demonstrates professionalism.
The prospects of defence transformation can be seen in the efforts of the leadership of the Armed Forces to implement the various recommendations of the transformation committees, as well as the incorporation of the requirements of the Armed Forces in the long-term perspective plan of the government. This is in addition to the palpable commitment of the country’s National Assembly to appropriate requisite financial resources to the defence sector.
Regardless of these prospects, certain structural and institutional problems which could hinder the realisation of the objectives of defence transformation still exist. These include wrong deployment of personnel to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the dichotomy between MoD and Defence Headquarters (DHQ), lack of transparency in procurement and project implementation, personnel recruitment, posting, welfare and kits, among others. However, the main goal of transforming Nigerian Armed Forces has regained renewed salience in the face of the challenging security concerns which the recent terrorist onslaught against military formation portends. Therefore, the issue is not the desirability or otherwise of defence transformation, but whether it is achievable in spite of all the odds against it.
Reforms of the Defence sector are long overdue and painfully needed in the context of mounting security challenges. Opaque counter-terrorism spending will jeopardize Nigeria’s anti-corruption drive and derail the fight against Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). Security votes are corruption-prone schemes, which have done little good except diverting funds. Oil theft continues unabated in the South South which the recent Rivers State Government had alluded to without any response from the military high command. Uncoordinated capital expenditure in the defence budget that has progressed with little or no impact. The National Assembly must strengthen its oversight on defence budget and monitor spendings. Between 2015 and 2019, capital expenditure’s share in the defense budget increased from 9.8% in 2015 to 26.6% in 2019, and is expected to average 27.3% by 2024. Allocations towards the Navy are expected to decrease from 18.8% during the historical period to 17.8% over the forecast period despite a sharp increase of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Allocations towards the army are expected to marginally increase from an average of 37.1% during the historical period to 37.6% over the forecast period which suggests spiral increase.
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and its partners, local and international, have found that unpublished defence budgets are still frequently abused by corrupt officials seeking to benefit from the conflicts with Boko Haram and oil theft in the southern region and then launder stolen money abroad. Many deaths in the conflict have occurred while the military still lacks vital equipment, critical training, and morale. Even the Chief of Army Staff alluded to this recently.
Since 2011, several deaths of military personnel are being recorded in the conflict with Boko Haram, as well as other joint operations across the country. The military is currently involved in various operations in over 31 states across the country while millions have been displaced. These deaths are sometimes linked to poor intelligence, failed platforms and or vulnerability of personnel due to lack of regular and timely dispatch of welfare. An estimated $15bn and still counting has been unaccounted for from the defence sector between 2000-2015 and billions of naira are spent without clear rationale and any external oversight. While President Buhari has made significant moves to take on the secretive and powerful defence sector, the pace of reform in the MoD is slow.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director of CISLAC said:
“More spending does not mean more security. The defence sector is a juicy target for corrupt military leaders seeking to pad their pockets. Without increasing transparency and oversight of our most secret sector, we will not succeed in keeping Nigeria’s wealth in Nigeria. Corruption in the defence sector has only expanded.”
Director, Transparency International Defence and Security said:
“With oil prices low and conflict at a high, defence has become the new diesel for Nigerian kleptocrats. Taking on the defence sector was a bold move by President Buhari. But efforts to bring the corrupt to justice are not enough. Ambitious institutional anti-corruption reforms are needed to prevent the next US $15 billion quietly leaving Nigeria through the back door.”
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre is recommending to undertake a series of reforms that include:
- Public launch of the Integrity Action Plandeveloped by the Nigeria Air Force and make it a working policy document for reforms which it is currently implementing in house.
- Develop a defence sector anti-corruption strategy to address the main enablers of corruption. The MoD and military leadership should create a special Reform Board responsible for ensuring this is executed across the sector.
- Extend public access to defence and security information by amending the Freedom of Information Act. This would strengthen the recent Public Procurement Act reforms and reduce opportunities to abuse national secrecy for personal gain.
- Monitor confidential procurementby establishing a confidential Senate committee and a unit with suitable security clearance inside the Bureau of Public Procurement.
- Regulate secretive security votes. As one of the most durable forms of corruption in Nigeria today, security votes should be abolished or strictly regulated.
- Protect whistle-blowers.The Attorney General should clarify that current protections cover the defence and security sector, and enact these protections in law.
- That the President should as a matter of urgency, brief the National Assembly in particular and the nation at large on the extent of spending on the $1billion authorized by the Nigeria Governors Forum withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) in 2017 for their purchase of intelligence and platforms to fight Boko Haram as a demonstration of accountability.
- That thespecial court for corruption cases be given speedy passage by the National Assembly in the spirit of the anti-corruption drive of the Buhari regime. And given the way and manner this drive has gone to fumigate the public finance sector of governance, CSOs believe that the Buhari government should institutionalize the fight against corruption so that it will survive his regime when he finishes his current and final term in 2023.
- That the President should,as a matter urgency, brief Nigerians on the extent, status and the implementation plan of the National Defence P Citizens are increasingly interested in the way and manner they are secured as well as the accountability infrastructure within the sector.
CISLAC and partners will continue to relentlessly push for greater accountability and integrity of the defence architecture in Nigeria. We are determined to advocate for accountable defence spending, providing of declassified information to the public, increased integrity of defence personnel and civilian oversight of the defence sector in line with international good practice.
Lastly, we would like to encourage the authorities to cooperate with the civil society in a meaningful and cooperative manner. Nigerian national security requires multi-stakeholders’ engagement in line with principles of democratic and participatory governance, which Nigeria has proudly embraced.
In Abuja, 4th of December, 2019
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC