Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State recently left his audience stunned when he publicly spoke against the allocation of undisclosed huge sums of money to "security votes" by the three arms of government. In an era when governance has virtually become synonymous with loot sharing, security votes have come in handy for the presidency, governors and even local government chairmen: public funds are regularly wasted on so-called security matters.
The secrecy surrounding the votes is tailor-made for fraud. The funds are not supposed to be accounted for in the same way as normal appropriation. Only the chief executive decides when, how, to what end and by how much the funds are deployed. Some governors have been known to simply convert theirs to foreign currencies and ship them abroad in preparation for the "rainy day".
Some others deploy the funds towards the maintenance of their private armies and political thugs who are routinely unleashed on real and perceived political opponents. Others simply play Santa Claus with the funds, intervening in areas that have nothing to do with the welfare of the people. If ever there was any legalised scam designed to deplete the treasury without accountability, the grand swindle euphemistically called security vote takes the cake.
It is therefore heart-warming that an incumbent governor can step out of the iniquitous line and declare as Kwankwaso did that "in Kano we don't have one kobo as security vote". We agree with the governor that all funds must be appropriated, fully disclosed and accounted for.
Nothing stops a state faced with security challenges from spending some money on security as long as such funds are appropriated, disbursement fully monitored and due diligence exercised in accounting for them. We recall that Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha also reportedly scrapped security vote provision last year to fund free education in the state. That is how it should be.
Kwankwaso also spoke out against the practice of wasting public funds on religious pilgrimages. He condemned the spending of around N3 billion for the Hajj operation by his predecessor in 2010 alone. "It's not that they spent the money to send the people to perform Hajj. No. They just took the money because you won't see the names or numbers of the people; you will only see the figures," he said.
With so much poverty shackling the people, the practice of sponsoring an insignificant percentage of the people on pilgrimage with billions of naira that could otherwise have been used to develop infrastructure and make life more abundant for the people does not appear to be a holy venture in our circumstances. We commend Kwankwaso's thoughts on these matters to all those serving in the executive arm of government at the federal, state and local government levels.