– BY Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
I like President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption. It has given the world a view into the management of security votes of the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). It is also leading us into knowing exactly what sort of military hardware our security forces –Army and Air Force- use. It has already made us know what security means when it comes to the management of funds. From what has been dished out so far, fact and fable, truth and lie, we now know that security comes in different forms. It is not just about uniforms, guns, bullets and tanks. But that is just the take off point.
At least, we now know that the ONSA received security votes. I am tempted to say this was security vote available to the presidency. Good! We may have to get Buhari to go further. I am sure it will interest Nigerians to know how much is made available to the current ONSA as security vote and how it is spent. If no one is interested in knowing, I am. Not that I have anything specific to do with the details, but, it will at least enrich my knowledge on Nigeria and the workings of its government.
When we are done with that, we can shift down a bit and lead Nigerians into details of how much each state governor receives every month and religiously too, as security vote. Do you think Nigerians will not want to know how those votes are spent? I am sure they are eager to know, even if for reasons of curiosity, because such monies are neither appropriated nor retired. The closest the Nigerian public came to knowing how much a governor takes home as security vote was through Pa Lamidi Adedibu. He told Nigerians that his quarrel with then Gov. Rashidi Ladoja was because he was denied a share of the N60m the governor took home every month as security vote. After that, a senator, who was once a deputy governor, alleged that his boss took home about N200m ever month as security vote. These are unconfirmed revelations. There are insinuations that some governors take home as much as N250m every month as security vote.
I guess we would also like to know how those security votes are spent and under which budgetary subhead they are captured. After we have known that, we would like Buhari to lead us into exposing how much deputy governors, secretaries to state governments, chiefs of staff, deputy chiefs of staff, speakers of state assemblies, and state chief judges also take from depleting state resources as security votes. We would also love to know how much local government chairmen, elected or selected, take home every month as security vote. I think this is necessary for us, the commoners, to know how exactly poor our states are, and how exactly we are raped.
When we are done with that, we would also like President Buhari to go beyond those and cause an expose on what Nigeria spends as impress for the office of the President. Too tall a demand? Well, leadership of the executive, legislature and judiciary get impress to manage their offices. But what is the value? What is the opportunity cost of this on the economy? These are hidden costs that we bear and overlook while focusing on non-essentials. I have always argued that if the legislative arm is extravagant, it is only because there are things that arm knows of the executive and judiciary, and which they also know that the public does not know. There is information out there that a president of the republic funded a major national discourse, he had summoned, from his impress. That leaves questions needing answers. I fear the details.
Some had called it ‘gate’. It suggests that there are ore gates to be opened. In case we have forgotten, there is Aviation Intervention Fund which needs urgent investigation. There is Rice Intervention Fund. There is Federal Roads Intervention fund. While some persons will still recall the exchange between two top politicians in the past over the road intervention fund, not many remember that the aviation intervention fund became necessary after the serial crash of aeroplanes including Sosoliso, Bellview and ADC Airlines. The fund was meant to help revive ‘suffering’ airlines and enable operators buy necessary spares and ensure regular service of aircrafts. Before then, we had Albarka, Chanchangi, Kabo, Bellview, Sosoliso, EAS which metamorphosed into Air Nigeria.
Interestingly, there is no evidence, anywhere, that any of the airlines were revived with the intervention fund even though it was fully disbursed. So, another gate begging to be opened. Don’t ask why the previous administration did not open the gate because the reason we asked, and voted, for change was because the past admin did not do the change we expected. So, the incumbent admin must do the change.
In any case, it is not like we -Nigerians- would be sufficiently angry with the details that are being ‘exposed’, and would still be ‘exposed’, such that we could do anything. No! We will simply enjoy the naming and the shaming; blame this and that; verbally and keyboardly abuse whoever that is named; make caricature of the episode and entertain ourselves. We will make jokes about them. Then, further discuss them at beer and pepper soup spots. After that, we roll on with life. Sure, life must go on. Such information can’t stop the hand of the clock here.
Our reactions to such details will remain emotive. But like Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo alias 4:30 would always tell his wife, Ovularia Urediya Nwogbo, nee Peterside of Bakana via Isiokpo; “after the rain, comes the thunder”. In this instance, like in most others, we return to reason through what has been done, or is being done, after a wave of emotional outburst that lead nowhere.
For a moment, I think we should begin to think through the probe of security votes with special reference to office of the NSA, and think through what it portends for security of the presidency and of the country. We seem to act in a manner suggesting that whatever the presidency does under security subhead, should be a matter for public discourse. It is public knowledge that not all government expenditure go to appropriation. I am told this is a normal governmental practice world over. Governments keep funds meant for special interventions. They come under different guise. In Nigeria, it is called security vote and that is why its usage and expenditure is not questioned. Doing otherwise would mean to cause a dislocation in the funding of some critical operations and services on behalf of the state.
No parliament, in any part of the world, has ever sat to debate and approve funds for the state to engage in espionage activities. Yet, despite the criminality involved in it, countries still fund it as a critical process in gathering information about competitors. And for reasons bothering on the secretive nature of military supplies, the purchase of military hardware is not usually up for open debate. We had seen that at the NASS during military budget defence sessions. What we have always known, from our federal budgets, is how much had been budgeted for defence. The critical details involving purchases and what goes where are top secret. Exposing those to the public is akin to giving out your military to your competition. If there is need for a clean-up, it has to be internal and strategic too. As it is, we are now ridiculing, and exposing, our military. We are entertained by it. But it does not do our security systems any good.