How secret emoluments contradict change agenda
• Balarabe Musa, Osoba, Clarke disagree on security vote
• El-Rufai insists National Assembly should make budget public
The controversy over the secrecy surrounding the emoluments of public office holders continued yesterday with stakeholders warning that they contradicted the change agenda of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara and the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai have been squabbling over the emoluments of public office holders.
The entitlements of elected officials at the three tiers of government have remained guarded from the public. But Dogora provoked a debate on the matter when he challenged state governors to be transparent about their emoluments. This elicited a response from El-Rufai and a counter-reaction from the speaker through the spokesperson of the lower chamber, Mallam Abdulrazak Namdas.
The underlying source of row between Dogara and El-Rufai is the security vote of state governors, a provision that is seen as unconstitutional and considered by many as a major source of corruption in the states. As the controversy rages, it may lead to transparency in the emoluments of public office holders.
Shortly after assuming office, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State slashed his security vote from N6.5 billion to N2.5 billion, disclosing that he was freeing money for education and other areas in dire need of funding.
But sources claimed that since his second coming, the issues surrounding the security vote have been shrouded in secrecy. It has been impossible to get the exact figures the incumbent governors take as their security votes.
“The issue at stake is not the amount per se but the judicious use of the voted sum. The question is, do they use the money to better the lot of people they govern? And the answer is no. Often times, it is put to personal use or expended on their lackeys,” a source said.
Former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, at the beginning of his second term in office, described security votes as another way of stealing public funds, saying: “Security vote anywhere is stealing. I don’t believe in it.”
But another source said: “It is not entirely true the security votes are privately appropriated by governors or used to settle their lackeys. I am aware that the money also goes to federal security agencies; the army, navy, air force, police, immigration, etc. and most of the funds are pocketed by the heads of these institutions.”
While an erstwhile Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, defended the security vote, he, however, condemned its abuse. He disclosed that his security vote while in office was N250,000 monthly, though it rose to N500,000, and later N5 million during the election period.
Osoba noted that the management of the vote by current office holders was worrisome due to the way it was abused. He expressed disappointment that highly placed members of the APC were quarrelling over what the party ordinarily should have addressed internally rather than bringing themselves to the public.
His words: “This is part of the consequences of the APC not setting up a Board of Trustees (BoT) which contradicts the party’s constitution. If we had a BoT, the ongoing face-off between the House of Representatives and some of the governors would have been addressed internally as well as related issues affecting the party.”
One-time governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, also decried the way the vote was being mismanaged by state executives. He stated that up to the Second Republic, the Federal Government was in charge of security nationwide, wondering why governors were being given responsibilities that outweigh their capacities.
Balarabe recalled that during his stewardship, he was only entitled to N100, 000 monthly as a security vote. But Chief Robert Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), insisted that the vote was unconstitutional. According to him, no provision in the 1999 Constitution allowed security vote to be enjoyed by anybody.
He stated: “When the military were in power, they needed security votes because they came by way of coups. At any time they could be removed by another coup. So, they needed, at every given time, to know what was happening around them. So, they sought from the military authorities the right to have a special allocation to enable them to use this as a source of security for information against coup plotters.”
Clarke contended that by the time the 1999 Constitution came into effect, there was no provision for security vote, adding: “There may be provision for the upkeep of the presidency or the governor’s house. But you will never find that a special amount of money has been allocated for security.”
Meanwhile, Governor el-Rufai has said it was inconceivable that the lawmakers for seven years ignored the imperative to set an example of transparency in the country.
In a statement yesterday in Kaduna, he said the lower chamber of the National Assembly had responded with predictable tetchiness to his simple and clear demand that the budget details of the federal legislature budget be made public.
The statement, issued by his media aide, Samuel Aruwan, pointed out that “despite the rush to personal attacks on a matter of public policy, we cannot allow the enthronement of the republic of distraction.”
The governor continued: “It is important that everyone who is interested in protecting and advancing democratic discourse should stay focused on the issue. It is strange that persons entrusted with high office will justify their abdication of the responsibility to be transparent in such cavalier fashion.
“We do not believe that most of our esteemed legislators will construe a demand for transparency as aimed at undermining the National Assembly. However, notwithstanding the intemperate response of the spokesman of the House of Representatives, the demand that the NASS budget be made public will not go away.”
El-Rufai further said: “It is not personal, and there is a strong civic constituency that is demanding it. The sooner all of us in public life
recognised that the game has changed, and that segments of civil society and indeed everyday citizens of Nigeria, are much more aware, astute and advanced than the state of our politics, the better for our democratic health.”