As part of efforts to ensure security of lives and property across Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has requested publication of 2021 budget for security votes and other allocations for security in the country.
The group also asked President Muhammadu Buhari and 36 state governors to disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians.
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, also urged Buhari and the governors to explain the measures being put in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.
Through a FoI requests dated 26 December, 2020 and signed by Kolawole, the organisation said that the request had become imperative to ensure that the elected officials demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.
According to the request, disclosing details of spending as security votes for 2021 would serve to engage the Nigerian people in an honest conversation about the security challenges confronting the country, and what the federal and state governments are doing to respond to them.
It added that while the authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.
The FoI requests, read in part: “Nigerians have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. The framers of the Nigerian Constitution never contemplated opaque spending of public funds as security votes. Transparency and accountability would ensure that the policies and action that the government will pursue to guarantee the security of Nigerians are truly relevant and effective in keeping them safe.”
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action under the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our request.
“Successive governments have failed to effectively discharge their primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. This is patently contrary to Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”