A Nigerian senator says it is unacceptable for public officials to use the fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram as a pretext for taking public funds.
Shehu Sani, deputy chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debt, called on President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to ensure that governors, senior security officers and other officials involved in misappropriating funds earmarked for security purposes face the full rigors of the law.
Sani, a former civil rights activist who played a key role in talks with Boko Haram representatives to end the insurgency, said that "some people highly placed in government have turned the whole insurgency into an enterprise for profit-making. They have exploited the security situation in the country to plunder the resources of the country and enrich themselves. ...
"We have seen how hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money were siphoned off from the ministry of finance, the national security agencies, the military, the police and even state governors,” he continued.
Sani’s comments came after Buhari ordered the arrest of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for allegedly stealing more than $2 billion in public money.
The government accused Dasuki of awarding fake contracts worth more than $2 billion for fighter jets, helicopters, bombs and ammunition that were never supplied to the Nigerian Air Force. It said his office also awarded $2.4 billion in failed contracts.
But supporters of the opposition People’s Democratic Party say the accusation against Dasuki is politically motivated. They contend that Buhari holds a grudge against Dasuki that has its roots in the president’s former military regime.
Sani said government officials in areas where Boko Haram militants operate devised ways to use security challenges the country faces to commit financial malfeasance.
“The governors do allocate heavy sums of money, which they call security funds ... for which they dip their hands in public funds. ... You also see the police making heavy budgetary demands from the national assembly, and then you see army generals themselves making heavy financial requests from government," he said. The money they get "is never used on the front lines."
“What this government can do is to widen the net, not only to reach out to the former national security adviser, but also to go after the elements in the police and the army and even in the political realm," Sani said.
"This is one of the reasons why the Boko Haram insurgency refuses to go away — because there are people who see it as violence and there are also people who see it as an opportunity to make money, and this is the situation we find ourselves [in],” he added.
Recently, the Nigerian Senate called on the Buhari government to probe his predecessor’s administration to recover funds siphoned from poverty alleviation programs, including the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program.