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BUDGET: $15b unaccounted for in defence sector in 15 years—CISLAC

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AN estimated $15billion has been unaccounted for from the defence sector between 2000 and 2015 while billions are spent without clear rationale and external oversight, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and its partner, Transparency International – Defence and Security (TI-DS) have said.

“More spending does not mean more security. Defence sector is a juicy target for corrupt military leaders seeking to pad their pockets,” said Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director of CISLAC at the end of a two-day workshop organised in Abuja towards strengthening gaps in the 2020 defence budget.

“Without increasing transparency and oversight of our most secret sector, we will not succeed in keeping Nigerian wealth in Nigeria. Corruption in the defence sector has only expanded.”

Rafsanjani said while President Muhammadu Buhari has made significant moves to take on the secretive and powerful defence sector, the pace of reform at the Ministry of Defence is slow.

He reiterated that reforms of the defence sector were long overdue and ‘painfully needed in the context of mounting security challenges.

Opaque counter-terrorism spending, the CISLAC boss noted would jeopadise Nigeria’s anti-corruption drive and derail the fight against Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP).

“Security votes are corruption schemes which have done little good except diverting funds, “he added.

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While noting that uncoordinated capital expenditure in the defence budget has progressed with little or no impact, Rafsanjani stated that the National Assembly must strengthen its oversight on defence budget and spending

He said CISLAC and its partners have found that unpublished defence budgets are still frequently abused by corrupt officials seeking to benefit from the conflicts with Boko Haram and oil theft in the Southern region and lauder stolen money abroad.

“Many deaths in the conflict have occurred while the military still lacks vital equipment, critical training and morale. Even the Chief of Army Staff alluded to this recently,” Rafsanjani said.

Meanwhile, the two CSOs asked President Buhari to brief the nation on the spending of money withdrawn from the excess crude account to purchase intelligence equipment and weapons to fight against Boko Haram in 2017.

They also called for the speedy passage of the special anti-corruption court by the National Assembly, noting that while the passage of the bill is awaited, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) can and should designate some courts as special courts to try corrupt cases as well as designate days for the hearing of corruption cases.

“We are determined to advocate for accountable defence spending, providing of declasified information to the public, increased integrity of defence personnel and civilian oversight of the sector in line with international good practice,” CISLAC said.

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