Contracting Public Security With a Sense of Justice, By Seember Nyager
Nigerian Security Agencies have begun to insist that Security is everyone’s business. At the latest Presidential Media Chat, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expressed the need for the army of ordinary people to have access to relevant information on security operations.
The Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister recently presided over the meeting of the United Nations Security Council which unanimously declared the need for security efforts to be informed by processes that are inclusive of all parts of society; while the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence has liberally referred to the Tshwane Principles which provides reason why confidentiality of security information should be very narrowly defined.
In the light of all these examples and given the crisis of confidence rocking the Nigerian state, it is a striking paradox that our security outfits do not see the justice and exigency in disclosing how Security funds are being spent to members of the Nigerian public.
The Official Secrets Act 1962 and the National Security Agencies Act 1986 broadly requires information on Defence and National Security to be kept as Official Secrets. Although these Laws have not specifically mentioned public expenditure information within the security sector as falling under such information that ought to be kept secret, a response from the Office of the National Security Adviser to a Freedom of Information Request made by BudgIT Nigeria and the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) indicates that information on security contracts is considered to fall squarely under information whose disclosure would be injurious to National Security. There are however, reasons to believe that significant information on procuring security should be open and placed in the public domain.
The first reason is the questionable performance of security contracts which are procured to ensure the protection of Nigerians and to which Nigerians are privy to. The most obvious examples are the CCTV cameras across Abuja. A media report from the PUNCH observes that the installed CCTV cameras are blind. What is more, there does not seem to be any monitoring of activity captured by the CCTV cameras within the Abuja metropolis. Of what value therefore, are CCTV cameras if they would not be monitored or if they are non-functional? No value.
The second reason questions the exclusive nature of security contracts which seem to provide the best security money can buy to a few institutions and people while public spaces where the majority of Nigerians live and operate from are left bare. A look through the annual appropriation budget released by the Ministry of Finance which remains the only piece of information on security expenditure in the public domain, shows that the better part of the budget of the Office of the National Security Adviser is awarded to the presidency.
In the proposed 2014 budget, the Office of the National security Adviser has a proposed Capital budget of over 44 billion (excluding recurrent expenditure) a significant percentage of which goes to securing the Presidential Air Fleet. Another example is the recent statement on the vast security apparel that would be utilized during the World Economic Forum.
There is no doubt that Nigeria must do its utmost to protect the Presidential crew. We are also not ignorant of the need for Security to be beefed up during world-class fora. Recalling that high profile Public Institutions such as the UN building and the Police Headquarters were attacked in the earlier days of the insurgency also shows the need for increased protection to attack-prone buildings and institutions. The contention in this regard is that Nigerian residents have not felt a similar reaction and commitment to beefing up security in public spaces which have been the more recent targets of terrorist attacks. This sends a loud and unequivocal message to Nigerian residents that seems to follow the statement in George Orwell’s allegory, Animal Farm, that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”
The third reason is a strong suspicion that within the security sector, security deals may be negotiated without adequate planning. This suspicion stems from developments such as the procurement of CCTV cameras in the Abuja metropolis that are for the most part, non-functional and which do not seem to be monitored to spot suspicious behaviour; thus taking away the value of preventing terrorist attacks. Even more suspicion is raised when the public does not know the details of the spending plans for security votes. The rising incidences of unchecked insurgency in Nigeria requires that Nigerian residents should be able to verify the security performance of their government and this would not happen without significant information on how public resources within the security sector are expended.
It is incontestable that tackling insecurity requires resources; it also requires cooperation that stems from votes of confidence. The information at our disposal shows that there is little social justice in the implementation of security contracts. What seems clear from the available information and experiences, is that very little premium is placed on the life of ordinary Nigerians whilst utmost care is taken to preserve the lives of a few. As the primary purpose of the Nigerian Government as captured in our Constitution is to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, we would like to experience a sense of justice in the implementation of security contracts.
There is no better way to build an army of residents to back up efforts of security agencies than to provide them access to public expenditure information in the security sector. The first step to doing that is to stop secret contracts in the Nigerian security sector.
Seember Nyager coordinates Public Procurement monitoring in Nigeria. We invite you to follow procurement monitors in Nigeria on twitter @ppmonitorNG