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Anti-corruption group says Nigeria expanding use of opaque $670m "slush fund"

Anti-corruption group says Nigeria expanding use of opaque $670m "slush fund"

- The Nigerian government has been accused of massive corruption by Transparency International

- The allegation was made by the global anti-corruption body in a recent report

- The Buhari's administration is said to have spent $670 million (over N240billion) ahead of the 2019 general elections

Global anti-corruption group, Transparency International, said on Monday, May 28, Nigeria’s government has in the run-up to elections expanded the use of opaque $670 million-a-year funds that fuel graft.

The amount when converted to naira is two hundred forty-one billion eight hundred seventy million (N241,870,000).

The funds, known as “security votes” are mainly disbursed in hard cash and nominally released for dealing with unexpected security issues, Reuters reports.

According to the report, they come from both federal and state governments, although the vast majority is disbursed under the latter.

Transparency International’s report said the security votes, a major feature of Nigeria's dark days under military rule, have become “synonymous with official corruption and abuse of power.

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The watchdog’s report comes as President Muhammadu Buhari is gearing up to run for a second term in February 2019.

Efforts by Reuters to reach presidency spokespersons before the report was published was unsuccessful.

“The security vote is one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today. Yet instead of addressing its many urgent threats, the ever-increasing use of security votes is providing corrupt officials with an easy-to-use and entirely hidden slush fund,” Katherine Dixon, Transparency International’s director for defence and security, said in a statement.

The group said the spending “is not subject to legislative oversight or independent audit because of its ostensibly sensitive nature,” adding that the funds are channelled into political activities such as election campaigns or embezzled outright.

It said federal-level total spending on items identified as security votes increased by 43 percent in 2018’s budget from 2017 and included payments to a university, a museum commission and a dental technology school.

Reuters checked some of the figures included in Transparency International’s report against a draft version of the 2018 budget, which has not yet been signed into law, and confirmed payments to those recipients were planned and identified as security votes.

Most of the estimated $670 million of security votes is disbursed by state governments, with federal spending making up only $51 million, Transparency International said. State government changes in disbursement varied, according to the report’s data.

Additionally, the largest security votes each year go to security agencies, and such spending under Buhari is less than under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, the report acknowledged.

“Today, security votes are budgetary black boxes that are ripe for abuse by politicians seeking reelection or officials looking to run for political office," Transparency International said.

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The report comes a day after a leading member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank wrote an open letter to United States of America president, Donald Trump, saying there is an urgent need to save Nigeria's democracy.

In the letter seen by, Frank lamented the state of the economy, Nigeria's human rights record under the present administration, killings across the country and the plight of ordinary Nigerians.

He said that the economy was yet to fully recover from the recession and also accused the Buhari administration of failing to obey court orders.

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