Governors of the 36 states of the federation are to meet tomorrow with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) on how to manage their states’ security votes.
Attempts to get governors to react to the implication of the meeting for their states last night proved abortive, as those contacted remained evasive.
But a few of the governors, especially those of Osun and Benue, said they were for anything that would enhance good governance in states in particular and Nigeria generally.
The meeting, coming at the instance of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU)) and slated for tomorrow, April 4, will also have in attendance the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
According to a statement by the Director, Media Affairs, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, AbdulRazaque Bello-Barkindo yesterday, the meeting will take place virtually.
Security vote, which has been a source of conroversy in the country, especially as no accountability is rendered, with regards to spending, is a monthly allocation given to state governments for improved security in their domain.
According to Wikipedia, the security vote is allocated to the 36 states for the sole purpose of funding security services within such states, and the amount allocated is determined by the level of security in individual states.
The statement read: “Governors of the 36 states of the federation are to meet with all the economic and financial agencies in the country, to iron out thorny issues surrounding their states’ security votes, towards establishing a better option of managing the funds.
“The meeting, which is to take place on Tuesday, April 4, according to an invitation issued by the Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Mr Asishana Bayo Okauru, will be virtual, to ensure full attendance by all the relevant officers in the matter.
“Those invited to the meeting include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“Furthermore, the meeting will also consider deepening the management and expansion of the cashless policy which took effect from the time of the redesigning of the national currency, the Nigerian Naira, last year, to further the financial inclusion of all citizens in the ensuing scheme of things, going forward.
“This meeting is called at the instance of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, in its letter of March 30, which was addressed to the chairman of the NGF and signed by the NFIU Director, Modibbo Hamman Tukur.
“The letter said apart from the facilities for national financial inclusion, it is also putting on the table the uniform development and cooperation on the nation, addressing and post code project, which will put Nigeria on the same pedestal as all advanced countries across the globe.
“Also on the agenda is a consensus on harmonizing and updating the national tax collection and business entry standards and its requirements to help respond to the FATF and the EU grey listing in which Nigeria appeared.
“All governors are advised to prioritize the meeting as its contents had been discussed at the NGF emergency meeting of Thursday, March 30, where it was unanimously agreed that a meeting with the aforementioned agencies was imperative.”
Recall that over the years, whatever Nigerians had heard about the real amount being appropriated to state governors in Nigeria as security votes had remained guess work, even as those in the corridors of power have described security votes as humongous amounts of money spent by governors but unaccounted for.
But reacting last night, the Osun State governor, Ademola Adeleke, speaking through his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, said he was not in any way threatened by the meeting.
“Osun State government welcomes any step or decision that will help to deliver good governance through due process and rule of law.
“We are not in anyway threatened with the development. In the few months of his governorship, Governor Ademola Adeleke has ensured transparency and openness in the handling of state finances.
“So hosting a meeting over security votes is not in any way a source of concern to the governor or the state government.
“As you know Osun State is in a peculiar setting with heavy indebtedness and we are already undergoing shoe-string management of little resources available to the state.”
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, also welcomed the meeting, saying it would clear the misconception around security votes.
He said though he had not received an invitation from the Director General of NGF to that effect, he had no misgivings about the meeting.
“The governor said he has not received any invitation from the Director-General of Nigeria Governors’ Forum on the said meeting.
“But if such a meeting is going to hold, he has no qualms with it because there have been a lot of misconceptions about the issue of security vote,” said his media aide, Nathaniel Ikyur.
On his part, Ekiti State governor, Biodun Oyebanji, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, said: “ Since it is a collective decision, it would be better to speak to NGF Secretariat and the body will be in the correct position to comment or react to the issues.’’
Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, who spoke through Kunle Somorin, his Chief Press Secretary, said he doesn’t have any briefing on the matter.
“I didn’t have any briefing on this,’’ the governor said.
Efforts to get the chief Press Secretary to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Richard Olatunde proved abortive.
But a top government official wondered why governors would be afraid to attend a meeting with anti-graft agencies.
“Why should attending a meeting with such government agencies be a threat? Although I am not speaking for my governor, but the governor, Akeredolu I know, can’t be afraid to attend any meeting because he has no skeleton in his cupboard. He has ensured transparency in handling of government finances.’’
Efforts to get Anambra State governor, Chukwuma Soludo, also proved futile, but his Chief Press Secretary, Christian Aburime, said: ‘’I have no opinion on this. The governor is not available and this is a security matter. It’s not something one dabbles into anyhow.
“Let them hold their meeting and issue their release afterwards. EFCC should be in the position to issue a release after their meeting. But for now, I have nothing to say.’’
Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, kept mute last night as his Commissioner for Information and Stategy, Gbenga Omotosho, failed to either pick up or return calls put through his mobile phone. – Vanguard.