Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State has asked the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, to give him more time to put together details of his government’s spending on security votes.
Responding to a Freedom of Information request from SERAP, the governor said it would require more than seven days to process the request given that the information being sought covered a period of eight years.
Recall that SERAP had in April sent letters to President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 governors requesting them to “provide information on specific details of spending of appropriated public funds as security votes between 2011 and 2019, given the current security realities in the country.”
The letter had requested that they respond within seven days.
The letter to the President and Governors read further: “Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’ It is the security of the citizens that is intended and not the security of select individuals in public office. Transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes are critically important to fully implement this responsibility imposed on both the federal and state governments.
“We are concerned that rather than serving the citizens, the appropriation of public funds as security votes over the years would seem to serve high-ranking government officials at all levels—federal and states. We are also concerned that the practice of security votes entrusts discretionary powers to spend huge public funds on certain elected public officials who may not have any idea of operational issues on security matters.
“SERAP urges you to open-up on the matter and provide information and documents as requested. This will be one step in the right direction. Unless the information is urgently provided, Nigerians would continue to see the appropriation of public funds as security votes and the institutionalization of this cash in ‘Ghana Must Go bags’ practice as a tool for self-enrichment.”
According to a statement by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, Governor Al-Makura’s response was contained in a letter signed by the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
The letter with reference number NS/MOJ/ADM/108/VOL1/65, read in part: “I refer to your letter dated 12th April 2019 requesting information on the spending of security votes by Nasarawa State between 2011 to date. I am directed to draw your attention to the fact that the information being requested covers a period of eight years and will require more than 7 days to process. We shall revert to you as soon as the information is ready.”
In acknowledging the governor’s letter, SERAP thanked him for committing to making the information available and urged him to do so before the expiration of his tenure.
“Thank you for your letter and expressed commitment to disclose details of security votes spending by your State. We urge you to fast-track the process to ensure that the information is sent to us before the expiration of your term on 29th May 2019. This would be a perfect parting gift to the people of Nasarawa, and show the way for 35 other state governors and the federal government that have failed, so far, to respond to the FOI requests on security votes spending.”