In recent times, two camps have emerged regarding Nigeria’s security sector funding. One group believes that the security sector has not sufficiently demonstrated significant value for the money they receive. In the last few years, the security sector has witnessed consistent growth in its budgetary allocations. Therefore, those in this camp believe that the level of performance on the ground abysmally falls short of these steady increases in national financial commitments to containing insecurity. However, the second group believes that a significant source of the sector’s mediocre performance is underfunding. This camp, therefore, advocates for alternative funding sources beyond budgetary allocations and international strategic military support. They also superficially feign blindness to the palpable abuse of security votes at the state level.
Government officials insist that the performance of the Nigerian security sector is severely hampered by its underfunding, despite the sector’s relatively large share of the overall budgetary allocation. They stand the underfunding argument on five pillars. First, they often complain about the non-release of funds for a good proportion of the items in the projects approved in the budget. Second, the Nigerian police, with primary responsibility for managing internal insecurity, are technically incapable of handling the terrorism dimensions due to insufficient funding. Third, the diversion of insecurity management funds by some senior military personnel, politicians, and other public officials into private pockets reduces the size of available funds. Fourth, the absence of a clearly defined security policy and the spending opacity of the sector amplifies the misalignment between defence budgets and attendant implementation expenditures. Possible elevated levels of wastage arising from this misalignment contribute to the scarcity of funding. Fifth, the dimensions and severity of insecurity have been expanding at a pace that is substantially higher than the increases in the allotted budget size.
These expanded insecurity dimensions and their severity stretch available resources beyond anticipated limits. The government’s funding decisions are also frustratingly not keeping pace with these changes. One such example is the security votes. This expenditure item constitutes a statutorily designed fiscal soakaway as the usage of the funds is often at variance with the purpose. According to Transparency International, annually, the country pays a quarter of a billion naira in camouflage cash supposedly for security. The law, however, shields recipients of this largesse from independent audit or legislative oversight of its spending. Transparency International noted that this expenditure bonanza exceeds 70% of the annual budget of the Nigerian police, more than the Nigerian Army budget, and more than the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force annual budget combined. There is no doubt that the continued payment of security votes as-is may be part of the challenge of underfunding in that sector.
Understandably, the military defence budget rose by 145% between 2000-2009 and 2010-2019. Average military spending since the outburst of religious insurgency in the country’s northern parts was approximately two and half times what it used to be before the amplified insecurity experience. However, the refrain of underfunding the security sector, which continuously echoed in the 2000s, has rather than subsiding is increasingly strident. These underfunding concerns appear justified as the average ten-year trend [2010 – 2019] in the Nigerian government dollar-denominated military defence budget has been downward except for the periods between 2017 and now. Defence military budget severely nosedived in dollar terms from $2.42 billion in 2013 and crashing to roughly $1.62 billion in 2017. From 2010 to 2013, average spending was around $2.15 billion. Suppose we assume no significant leakages from the budget; the underfunding concerns become clearer because most procurements are in foreign currency. But the funding situation seems to have significantly improved as the dollar-denominated defence budgets have returned to more than the $2 billion range since 2018. The 2019 military defence budget of $2.15 billion remains the highest since 2016. How have these changes played out on the battlefield?
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [SIPRI] noted that Africa’s military spending in the past decade has increased by approximately 17% and currently accounts for 2.4% of the global total as of 2019. Nigeria is one of the African countries whose increased military spending has made such continental performance possible. Albeit that the share of its military spending to the GDP averaged 0.46% in the past decade compared to South Africa’s 1.1% share of GDP over the same period, Nigeria’s military expenditure is the largest in West Africa and the second-largest in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa as of 2020. Despite this level of financial commitment, Nigeria remains one of the most dangerous and insecure places in Africa and the world as of today. Understandably, the nature of insecurity in the country demands the deployment of strategic solutions beyond military force. Yet even such solutions are undisputedly part of the defence architecture, which also deserves budgetary allocations. It is not worth debating that Nigerians expect the quantum of peace to be proportional to the funds allocated to government agencies and the ministries responsible for actualizing this.
At least five factors frustrate the expected impact of increased military spending on insecurity depreciation. At the core of all of this is public sector corruption, often perfected by the collaboration of the private sector. Other factors include the unhealthy rivalry among the security agencies, the politicization of insecurity and its funding, the late passage of annual budgets and attendant late release of budgeted funds. The last one is the absence of monitoring and control mechanisms on security fund implementation and expected outcomes.
Many Nigerians believe that in the absence of corrupt military personnel and their crony politicians, we would have won the war against terrorism. Several recorded complaints by soldiers on the war front attest to this. Many soldiers complained of how their leaders commandeer them into the battlefield under the worst welfare conditions and without the necessary munitions supposedly purchased for the purpose. Correspondingly, the sleazy arms fund bazaar conducted by the National Security Advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan eloquently affirms the enormity of abuse of the procurement process and the significant shortage of funds for executing security strategies. Second, rampant rivalry among security agencies creates enormous wastage through a series of inefficient duplication of activities and a lack of synergy in intelligence gathering and threats containment. Our security agencies ostensibly operate in silos and are substantially oblivious to what each other is doing, even when both work within the same locality. Some minimally contextualized division of labour in threat management will reliably deliver more significant impacts relative to scale. Third, nothing leads to more wastage of security resources than the politicization of insecurity. For instance, unrolling all the paraphernalia of warfare to catch pockets of supposed dissidents agitating for independence while allegedly taking it easy with thousands of terrorists operating across the entire three geopolitical zones of the North will always lead to less than desirable outcomes. Aside from such hypocrisy is the daringly flagrant diversion of funds meant for military use to political campaign battlefields, as already pointed out. There is no evidence that such criminal conversion of security funds to politics has ceased.
Late passage of annual budgets, a fiscal sickness resulting from both the weak capacity of the government workforce and the intended and actual corruption of the original budgetary estimates also makes it challenging for security fund users to have access to it when needed. Historically, Nigeria’s budgeting process has been fraught with forth and back excursions to adequately accommodate all critical corruption stakeholders in the budget-padding program. Two consequences emanate from this hereditary national malaise: the time wasted in tucking into the budget, monies that will be corruptly shared by those responsible for designing, implementing, and monitoring the budget. The second consequence is the public deception into believing the substantial deployment of all budgeted funds into the insecurity containment programs. But all these are given a fillip by the conscious absence of effective monitoring and control mechanisms. Most times, the often-touted budget implementation monitoring programs merely facilitate an appropriate opportunity for those in these roles to have their share of the budget. That is why Nigerian government workers are neither tried in the courts nor jailed for not delivering 100% of goods and services already spelt out in the budget.
The annual security funds windfall baptized as security votes is another convenient historical way of undercutting the financing of effective threats and criminal counter operations. The security votes are one of those questionable carryover norms of corruption from military rule. In our traditional love for wastage, the national government sprays state governors with approximately 240 billion naira annually, which they do not need to account for by law. There is no evidence that the recipients of these funds ever used up to 10% of it in combating insecurity in their various states. On the contrary, it appears that it is merely a financial cache for creating and arming thugs for political purposes and silencing oppositions. Virtually all state governors use a tiny fraction of the vote to purchase patrol vans for the police in their states and curry favour from police commissioners they cannot directly give orders. Evidence abounds that aside from recurrent spending on salaries, federal government capital budgets rarely trickle down to support police operations at the state level. You can guess the vanishing destinations of those police capital votes. Therefore, governors face unintended blackmail to provide minimal vehicular infrastructure support to the federally controlled police to showcase some semblance of their presence and use of the camouflage cash. Other illicit inflows from such unconventional channels as police roadblocks support fuelling of their cars and trucks.
Without a doubt exploring and taking advantage of alternative sources of security funding will do us a lot of good. However, without addressing opacity issues and poor accountability for security fund deployment, fresh financial additions to the pool will nevertheless leak away while we resort to crooning ‘fund inadequacy’. Security has become a sexy word for dodging audits and proper financial procurement investigations under the guise that such an exercise will reveal the proposed and underlying counterstrategies. But it is only detailed implementation monitoring that presents the most valid pathway to ensuring that funds meant for countering the menace of insecurity and crime undergo justifiable usage continuously. There is a need to extend such tracking and audit exercises to the so-called security votes to cut down on its abuse and elevate its significance and contribution to national security management.
Frontpage December 25, 2017