Despite the apparent recession the country is currently in, state governments have insisted on collecting their monthly security votes, investigations by Punch have revealed.
This is coming on the heels of calls for the cancellation of the funds.
Checks by our correspondents on Saturday showed that the state governors were not favourably disposed to the idea of jettisoning their security votes so as to cut down their expenditure and use the funds for other pressing needs.
Most of the state governments are owing workers’ salaries.
Security votes are the special funds which run into billions of naira which are disbursed to state governors every month to be spent at their (governors’) discretion.
Last week, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, raised the alarm that the country was “technically” in recession.
Adeosun had told the Senate that the current indices in the country indicated that there was an economic downturn.
The development made the Nigeria Labour Congress and economists to demand a prune down in government spending and the abolition of security votes for the President and governors in the country.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, had told the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja that security votes had become an avenue for siphoning public funds.
He had said, “The issue of security vote is another form of corruption; in fact, there was a particular state which took N1bn in one month as security vote.
“It is an avenue for corruption. In good governance, all monies spent by government are budgeted and transparently spent.”
But the various state governments, who spoke with our correspondents on Saturday, asked Nigerians to perish the thought of their governors doing away with security votes.
The Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, said the state was not contemplating cancelling security vote, especially with the current security challenges it was facing.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Charles Aniagwu, in a telephone interview, Okowa noted that the primary purpose of the government was to protect lives and property of its citizens.
Also, the Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Patrick Ukah, argued that the fact that the current economic realities were not favourable did not mean that the society should be left in a state of chaos.
However, Aniagwu said following the current economic hardship in the country, Okowa had drastically reduced his security vote in order to meet up with the business of governance in the state.
He said, “Statutorily, 10 per cent of the allocation is voted for security. Such funds enable the state to act proactively during crisis and to assist security agencies within the state.”
The commissioner maintained that security votes for governors should not be subjected to debate because of its importance.
He said, “The fact that the economy, at the moment, is in a bad shape, doesn’t mean we should live in a state of chaos.
“Nobody can advocate for the cancellation of security vote, especially with the present security challenges in the state.”
The Ondo State Government, also, on Saturday, declared that it was impossible for the state to cancel security votes for the governor because there would be instability and insecurity if such a decision was taken.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, said it was impossible for any governor to receive the security votes and not spend it on the security of lives and property of the people of the state.
Akinmade, who did not disclose the amount which the state collected for security votes’ said, “anybody that calls for the cancellation of security votes is either ignorant or doesn’t know the workings of the government.”
He added, “The security vote is not meant for the executive to spend anyhow, it is the money the government uses to finance the security needs of the state.
“The money is very important because something may happen in any part of the state which can affect security of lives. The government has to wade in quickly, it is the money they use to for it.
“They also use the money to buy security equipment for the security agencies in the state.
“It is not only the governors that collect security votes, the President, the Vice-President, the Senate President, even chairmen of the local government councils, have security votes. They need this money to tackle security issues in their domains.”
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Mr. Christian Ita, on Saturday said the state would not cancel security vote.
Ita said beside the security challenges which the state was currently tackling, it would be out of place to cancel the vote because it would be difficult to predict the crime situation.
“In situations where you have security responses, you must continue to spend money. So, we are not considering scrapping security votes,” he said.
A similar response was obtained in Plateau State. The Special Adviser on Media to Governor Simon Lalong, Mr. Mark Longyen, said that the government had no intention of scrapping security votes.
He said that the state ran the risk of being overrun by the enemies if it did so.
He said, “Security vote is a constitutionally stipulated provision for the smooth running of any government.
“So, no state, Plateau inclusive, should even contemplate its abrogation at this time of increasing security challenges. Otherwise, we run the risk of being overrun by the enemies of the state one day.”
Bauchi State too is not contemplating jettisoning its security vote.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said, the Mohammed Abubakar-led APC government would not cancel security votes.
He said “I can confidently tell you that the Bauchi State Government will never scrap security votes and no government in Nigeria will.
“They cannot scrap it because every state has one form of security issue or the other to contend with. Thus, no state can survive without its votes for security.”
In Lagos State, it was gathered that the stoppage of security vote for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had not been discussed at the state executive council meeting.
A commissioner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said since the state had been able to survive the challenging times in the country, it was not felt that the vote should be scrapped.
He said, “Why should we stop the security vote? There is no need for that. Our governor has been managing the state’s resources well.”
But the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, said, “There is no such thing as ‘security vote’ in Lagos State.”
He added, “We do not have such vote head in the budget. Lagos State adheres strictly to the tenets of good governance and international best practices.
“Furthermore, the Lagos State Security Trust Fund is a private-sector driven initiative with its own board, which ensures that the money donated by Corporate Lagos or individuals is judiciously used to safeguard lives and property in the state.”