Recession: How governors loot billions through security vote – Abubakar Tsav explains

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State governors have been accused of being largely responsible for the worsening state of insecurity in several states across the country.

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Giving the damning verdict in an interview with Newsmen, former Lagos Police Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav accused most state governors of not using security votes to secure their states as originally intended by the constitution.

“It is sad that today, insecurity is worsening across many states, and for this, we should hold the state governors accountable as most of them divert security votes into personal use to breed political thugs, hooligans and serve their selfish, political interests thereby putting security of many states in jeopardy,”.

Tsav also spoke on the raging debates over the 15 million dollars found in accounts linked to former first lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, restructuring, calls for creation of state police and a host of others while speaking with Newsmen.

What is your reaction to the ongoing controversy over 15 million dollars allegedly found in bank accounts linked to former First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan?

It is shocking. It is very amazing. What does an individual want to do with that kind of huge sums of money. It is sad that amid recession and biting poverty that one single individual can have such sum in her account.

That money can be spent on building of good hospitals, cottage industries that will provide job opportunities for millions of unemployed Nigerian youths. But then it is not only Patience Jonathan that is involved. There are several other Nigerians that if you have access to their accounts you will see billions and millions of naira.

If you have access to the accounts of most judges in this country, you will faint. These are people that are supposed to be civil servants, then how come you found such staggering sums of money in their accounts. The judiciary stinks. It stinks to the high heavens. The judiciary needs to be sanitized.

Back to the former First Lady, you wonder how she comes about such huge sum of money in her account. Patience never held political office, it was her husband that was the former President, the question we should ask her is this, how did she come about such huge sum of money. I remember it was the same story about her some years ago when millions of naira were discovered to be in her account, after the initial noise, and the hullaballoo, we didn’t hear anything again.

But if you ask me how she came about the money, I will say that woman was a powerful woman when Jonathan was in power, she was almost running her own parallel government, and some of these contractors and others seeking one favour or the other might have been giving her money.

The question that arises and which has become controversial again is about what should be done with the 15 million dollars, some are saying it should be forfeited to the government while others are saying that it is her personal money and that she should be allowed to keep it, what is your own take on that?

I will advise the EFCC to tread carefully. The anti-graft agency should do a thorough investigation into the case, otherwise the former First Lady may have the last laugh over EFCC.

Why did I say this? It is very simple, EFCC can’t unilaterally decide to seize the money without establishing that it was gotten through illicit means or that it was stolen government money. The matter is even made complex because we are yet to have a law in this country, which prescribes or places a limit on the amount of money an individual must have.

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This is why I said earlier that if you have access to the accounts of some Nigerians, you will marvel or shout about billions of naira or millions of naira stashed in some accounts. Like I also said earlier if the anti-graft agency should beam its searchlight on the accounts of judges in this country, Nigeria will shake.

However, if it is proven through diligent investigation that the money is dirty money or looted government fund, then it should be forfeited to the state, that is federal government, then Patience Jonathan should be put on trial. Nobody is above the law. Let justice take its course. Patience Jonathan should be prosecuted if she is found to be guilty.

EFCC can’t presume that the money is stolen without evidence. Somebody must come out to give evidence against Patience. Between the EFCC and the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, they should ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out in order to ensure justice and fairness to all parties.

In view of this development, some people have called for the scrapping of the Office of First Lady, what is your view?

To me, that may be needless. That office has never been constitutionally recognized, and there is no budgetary allocation to the office. So, whether you scrap it or not, what maters is that whosoever is holding that office must strive to be morally upright. She must be God-fearing. She must not use the office to corruptly enrich herself.

I don’t know what an individual wants to do with billions of naira as personal money when millions of Nigerians, your fellow citizens are wallowing in abject poverty. People don’t remember that one day they will die, what do you want people to say about you when the end comes.

Is there any lesson the current First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari  should learn from Mrs Jonathan?

She can learn a lot. She has a lot to learn from it. She has to be extra careful, she has to be conscious of the fact that she would be under scrutiny – it is like she is now a goldfish that has no hiding place.

She should also know that one day she will leave office, and then Nigerians would beam searchlight on her to X-ray her tenure as First Lady.

But I think President Buhari is more prudent, he will be vigilant and careful. He will not like what is happening to Patience now to happen to his wife. As a former military man, Buhari would be more strict and if possible ensure that activities taking place in the office of the First Lady is monitored to avoid scandals.

Former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has called for the scrapping of security votes, claiming that many of the state governors hardly use the money for the purpose it is intended, do you share his view?

I don’t agree with the scrapping of security votes for governors. What we should do is put mechanism in place to monitor how the security vote is being spent by the governors.

The original intention for this fund which runs into hundreds of millions of naira monthly is to be used by the governor to put in place, effective security system in their respective states, to complement the work of the police and other security outfits.

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But today, most state governors divert security votes into personal use. They use security votes to breed political thugs and hooligans. They use security votes to feed and train thugs to attack and harass their political opponents.

This is one of the reasons behind the worsening state of insecurity across the country. We should hold the state governors partly responsible. Many of the state governors are greedy and selfish. They prefer to protect their own personal interests and that of their families than think about the general welfare of the citizens of their states.

We should put legislation in place to ensure that security vote is now audited. We should henceforth, audit security votes. Governors should be made to give account of how they utilize security votes. You know that before now, they don’t give account, governors don’t render account of how they spend or utilize the vote, and this created room for abuse. Henceforth, the vote should be audited from time-to-time.

Still on the issue of states and security, some prople have canvassed the creation or establishment of state police as one of the best ways to tackle insecurity, what is your reaction to that?

Perhaps in other climes, that will work out but certainly not in Nigeria. If you set up state police, state governors will hijack it and turn it to instrument of oppression against political opponents and perceived enemies.

We should also not be poor students of history. Those of us that were around in the First Republic between 1960 and 1966 when state police was in existence knew how state governors or premiers as they were then addressed, used state police as terror machines. They used state police to intimidate and harass political opponents. This was much pronounced in the defunct Western Region especially during the period known as Wetie years when political crisis engulfed the Western Region. That was the period when Western Region was referred to as Wild Wild West.

State police is an open invitation to anarchy, an open invitation to chaos. It will even worsen the present state of insecurity. We should not have anything to do with it. Nigeria is not yet ripe for state police.

Some people are saying that not much is being heard about the budget padding scandal again, that …

Cuts in … Yes it is true. But that is one issue that should not be swept under the carpet. Although, I don’t expect President Buhari to intervene or interfere with the investigation on the matter, but the anti-graft agencies and the police should speed up their investigation.

The whole nation is waiting for their reports. Nobody should think that Nigerians have forgotten. Nobody is above the law. After investigation, and if anybody is indicted, such individuals should be put on trial. We can’t continue with our old ways. This is a new order and Nigerians want to feel the impact of the new order.

The House Speaker, Dogara is not above the law, so are the other four principal officers of the House named alongside him by Hon. Jubrin in the budget padding scandal. If they are found wanting, the law should take its course on them. On the other way round, if it is discovered that Hon. Jubrin, the whistle-blower gave a false information or sounded a false alarm, he too should be made to face the music.

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The question of what should be done to politicians from whom looted public funds has been recovered has become divisive, what do you think should be done to these people by way of punishment?

I believe that any indicted politician, those who have been discovered to have soiled their hands by stealing public money should be banned from holding public office or contesting election again. Banning them would serve as a deterrence. For those clamouring that they should be shot or tied to the stake or hanged, I don’t agree. That will be against social justice. Moreover we don’t have any existing law that prescribes death sentence for looters.

Jailing them is another option. Looters can be sent to jail. Sending looters to jail is also a good deterrence against corruption.

How to spend recovered looted funds has also been a major topic for discussion with …

Cuts in … How can how to spend money be a subject of debate, there are a lot of things the money can be used for. The recovered loot can be used to fix some of our decaying public infrastructural facilities like roads, hospitals. Cottage industries can also be set up to create job opportunities for millions of Nigerian youths roaming the streets in search of elusive white collar jobs. In fact we can inject recovered loot into the economy to help quicken recovery from the present recession we are going through.

There is this claim by some Nigerians that the anti-corruption battle has not recorded much success since we are yet to have any major conviction, that it has all been …

Cuts in … I don’t agree with that. EFCC and other anti-graft agencies have been doing a good job. They should be given kudos. Their own job is to investigate and charge indicted people or suspects to court – that is where their own job ends, and that, they have been doing, it is the judiciary, the courts that Nigerians should hold responsible on this matter. The judiciary is advised to expedite action on cases related to corruption. In a situation where a case drags on for years is not good for us as a nation and it is also not good for the image of the judiciary.

What is your own stand on the issue of plea bargain, some see it as a faster way of ensuring recovery of looted public funds while others claim that it is another way of encouraging corruption?

I only support plea bargain in cases where the looted fund involved is small, but where the money runs into billions, I insist that such be recovered while the culprit should also serve as punishment.

If you just collect money or recover money from looters without imposing sanction on them or punishing them, they may still be encouraged to steal. Where you inflict punishment, people will think twice before getting themselves involved in corruption.

Imagine a very annoying case involving a former governor of Edo State, Mr Lucky Igbinedion who was charged to court over looted billions of state fund, the man entered into plea bargaining and thereafter, the judge just imposed a fine of N3 million on him, what an insult. This is a clear case of travesty of justice, very provocative. Looters must not be spared, they should be punished.

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