Globally, there are subjective evidence linking military spending to huge corruption. However, within the Nigerian state, academia, thinktanks, CSOs, the media have in different circumstances interrogated this trend both empirically and subjective approach. Both approaches have results that suggest, corruption is indeed associated with security spending. This also indicates that defence spending can be interrogated for constructive governance transparency indicator.
Good management of Nigeria’s security sector finance is key to repositioning the state security forces capacity to respond to the citizen’s security needs. However, lack of transparency, mainly in the arms procurement processes breeds corruption and weakens the state strength in response to security threats. There are indications that the Nigerian security personnel tends to be corrupt particularly in the arms procurement.
For the Nigerian state to check corruption in her security expenditures, there is the need for a high level of transparency and accountability in security budgeting and procurement processes. And in doing that, the state must put in place an oversight practice which will thoroughly scrutinize defence budget and spending.
The kind of TRANSPARENCY we advocate is to ascertain whether information on the security and actual spending is readily accessible to the public, and the level of trustworthiness, detail and all-inclusiveness they are. We also pose the question, is the budgetary decision-making participatory, open and visible. Also does the security personnel account for its spending to the parliament and the citizens.
With the escalation of conflicts, having security operation and expenditure expansion as consequence, there exists a renewed discourse and determination by both state and non-state actors over security spending and accountability. And in that debate, transparency and accountability in the security budget and spending continue to be dominant discourse.
It is important to note, characterized opaque security budget and spending is not only peculiar to Nigeria. Globally, nation-states keep their defence budgets away from public scrutiny. For instance, China and Saudi Arabia make very minimal disclosure of their military and defence budgets. Conversely, United States, Costa Rica, Germany, and New Zealand are some of the countries that make public disclosure of their defence budgets.
Consequently, arising from the prevalent insecurity situation in Nigeria, and the increasing state allocation of funds in both regular and supplementary budgets approach to combat the varying conflicts, the CLEEN Foundation convened International Conference on Security Budgeting with a particular focus on transparency and accountability in security budget in Nigeria.
The event brought together, government agencies, security institutions, academia, media and civil society and the citizens to discuss budget implementation, identify accountability issues on public safety and security resource allocation and utilization in Nigeria.
At the events, participants noted, the Nigerian security budgeting and procurement has no direct link to the country defence policy goals. They recommended that the state must have a well-defined defence policy. And in that policy, the state must adhere to the security needs, and must not waste resources on unnecessary things that do not genuinely meet the state security needs.
Some of the participants argued, when Nigeria put in place such a clearly defined policy, there may be a likelihood of the disconnect between the policy, budgeting and procurement practice. Hence, they pointed out, the policy framework is not enough, the state must determine to exercise the political will to make the policy achieve its intended purpose.
Also, the need to train the nations parliament on security and defence budgeting and spending oversight was a core recommendation from the conference. They pointed out, Nigeria has a huge weak oversight of defence budget and spending. And that is because, the lawmakers have no capacity to carry out such role hence such capacity training becomes most fundamental. It is not enough to build lawmakers capacity; the state must show the political to carry out such oversight.
In Nigerian state, the entrenched military privileges obtainable during the military regimes has been transferred to the democratic era, and the state relies on it to restrict proper civilian control of the military, either by parliament or citizens oversight participants noted.
The state relies on the security privileges as a justification for defence spending secrecy, this has over the years resulted in lack of transparency in defence budgeting and procurement. The state in its claims, argues, national security matters must be handled with caution, and citizens interference restrained, therefore, such disclosure is inimical to state security. As a result, it becomes problematic for the Parliament, CSOs, media and the citizens to monitor security spending. The participant recommended, that has to be stopped, they pointed out, the state must realize, in a democratic society accountability is fundamental in measuring governance indicator, hence there should be public disclosure of the security spending.
Security extra-budgetary spending which is usually off-budget spending is not usually appropriated. These are usually funds set aside for special military operations. Participants argued, although off-budget finance often allows the security personnel to breach procurement procedure, it is important they account for how such monies were spent.
At the two-day event, clear findings from the participants discourse are that Nigerian state over the years had weak monitoring, controls and security spending audits, and that leads to corruption in the management of security funds. Nigerian anti-corruption agencies and parliament are usually not eager to investigate the military spending. And the implication is that it gives room for conflict entrepreneur. One of the resource persons at the event said ‘the more Nigerian state puts money into the security sector, the more crisis and quarrel among the security chiefs’.
Audu Liberty Oseni, CLEEN Foundation