Budget 2012 (8) – Paramilitary Nation By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai


We conclude our review of the security sector budget today by looking at our several paramilitary organizations, their mandates, operations and budgetary provisions in the 2012 proposals. The paramilitary agencies are the four supervised by the Minister of Interior, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) tucked away under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) under the Minister of Finance, and the Aviation Security Service (Avisec), an administrative creation of that Ministry, post-911.

These seven agencies combined employ about the same number of people as the Nigeria Police Force, and spend nearly as much. Apart from Avisec whose source of funding is unclear from the budget, and the NCS which gets 7% of its collection as “internal revenue”, the five agencies will consume about N195 billion in 2012. The NCS collected some N742 billion in 2011, so it is entitled to at least N52 billion in this year’s budget. Indeed, the NCS is on track to collect about N 1trillion in 2012, which would raise its budget to some N70 billion. And this tally excludes the budgets of EFCC (N11bn) and ICPC (N4.2bn).  When the N70 billion or so for NCS is added to the N195 billion for the other five agencies and an allowance is made for Avisec, the total of about N280bn constitutes key components of our national security spending – making our country a paramilitary nation, if not a totally militarized ‘democracy’!

The prisons system is a key part of the tripod that makes up every country’s criminal justice system – the Police, the Courts and Prisons. Prisons are established to restrain convicted offenders from being a danger to the society, rehabilitating the offenders, deterring and reforming them while in custody, and preparing the persons for reintegration into civil society. A prison system must therefore be assessed on how effectively it carries out these functions, ably assisted by the other criminal justice components.

Our nation’s prisons system came into being proper in 1872 when the British Consul administering the Colony of Lagos opened the Broad Street Prison with a capacity for 300 inmates. By 1910, similar facilities had been extended to Degema, Calabar, Benin, Ibadan, Sapele, Jebba and Lokoja. In the then Northern Protectorate, the Emir’s existing “Gidan Yari” were designated as Native Authority Prisons, and remained so until they were abolished by the Gowon administration in 1968.

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Today the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) is a huge national institution with 144 convict prisons, 83 satellite prisons, 1 open prison camp, 2 borstal institutions, 11 mechanized farms, 9 subsidiary farms, 9 cottage industries, 4 training schools, and 1 staff college, employing nearly 40,000 people in 2006. The NPS is headed by a Comptroller-General of Prisons, assisted by deputies in charge of six departments, supervising 8 zonal commands, and 36 state commands, overseeing 227 prisons nationally. All prisons in Nigeria are federally-controlled, just like the Nigeria Police Force.

The installed capacity of the prisons was about 43,915 beds in 2009, and accommodated about 40,000 inmates – indicating that there is no congestion in our prisons. This national average obscures two peculiarities of our prisons – (1) the disproportionate number of persons detained awaiting trial (ATP), and (2) the excessive concentration of ATPs in, and resulting congestion of urban prisons. For instance, in 2009, the Port Harcourt Prison with a capacity for 800 inmates had 2,500 prisoners out of which only 284 were convicts. Owerri Prison with a capacity for 548 prisoners had 1,200 out of which only 106 were convicts. A research report  published by Amnesty International in February 2008 summarized the situation so succinctly:

“Nigerias prisons are filled with people whose human rights are systematically violated. Approximately 65 per cent of the inmates are awaiting trial most of whom have been waiting for their trial for years. Most of the people in Nigerias prisons are too poor to be able to pay lawyers, and only one in seven of those awaiting trial have private legal representation.”

The ATP problem is proof that our criminal justice system is completely broken. In Ghana, only 30% of the prison population is awaiting trial. In South Africa, it is only 30%, Even Tanzania and neighboring Cameroon are doing better at 50% and 58% respectively, compared with our disgraceful 71% in 2009! If our criminal justice system works better, we should expect to see more convictions and a rise in the ratio of convicts to total prisoner population. It is suggested that the report of the Presidential Commission on the Administration of Justice (2006) be revisited so that all the ATP cases be dealt with to decongest our urban prisons. This will reduce the burden on society of the time wasted, pain inflicted, stigma and loss of opportunities that those detained awaiting trial, suffer only to be found innocent.

And with this, the N56.7bn to be spent in 2012 on our prisons system may well be justified. The food ration budget this year is about N5bn. So we intend to spend N125,000 per prisoner this year (about N340 daily) to feed about 40,000 detainees. Imagine how much better the prisoners will feed, or how much more we can save if 70% of those detained are not in prisons!

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is in charge of regulating the entry and exit of persons into and out of Nigeria, including matters related to the residency of aliens, the permission to work and issuance of passports and similar travel documents to Nigerian citizens. NIS was formed initially by Ordinance in 1958 with seconded officers from the Nigeria Police Force. It came into being as an independent department in 1963 when the Tafawa Balewa government passed a law creating the department as part of the civil service.

Since then, the immigration department has gone through many mutations, and today, is a paramilitary service headed by a Comptroller-General, assisted by deputies in charge of three departments, supervising eight zonal offices, 37 state commands and offices in each of the 774 local governments of Nigeria.

The proposed budget of the NIS for 2012 is N37.4bn made up of N33.56bn for personnel costs, N2.03bn for overheads and N1.8bn for capital investments. Some interesting provisions in the budget include N153.9 million as “security vote”, N175 million for domestic travel, N200 million for border patrol vehicles, N100 million for surveillance, communication and intelligence-gathering equipment, and N35 million for purchase of arms and ammunition! Others are N412 million for reactivation of aircraft, N37 million for solar-powered boreholes and N38 million for solar generators.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps was established by the National Assembly in 2003. Prior to this, it started simply as a civil defence organization during the war as Lagos Civil Defence Committee to sensitize citizens about conduct during air raids, bomb attacks and so on. The NSCDC is now headed by a Comptroller-General who is assisted by four deputies, and eight zonal assistant CGs overseeing 37 state commands. The Corps work with other law enforcement and security organizations in a complimentary role, but in the opinion of many, simply duplicate the functions of, and divert resources that should properly go to agencies like the Police and SSS.

The proposed budget of the NSCDC for 2012 is N56.2bn, comprised of N52.5bn for personnel costs, N2.7bn for overheads and N1 billion for capital projects. Just like the NIS, the budget includes N158 million as “security vote”, N105 million for “publicity and adverts”, N50 million for ambulances, N47 million for anti-riot equipment, N40 million for mobile baggage scanner, N15 million for VSAT communications solution, and N55 million for arms and ammunition!

The Federal Fire Service (FFS) is the fourth “paramilitary” organization under the Minister of Interior, and it is a strange animal indeed. Fire fighting and control are local or at best state matters, and not properly federal. Indeed, a cabinet committee under former SGF, Chief Ufot Ekaette had in 2006 recommended its conversion into a regulatory commission and the hand-over of its assets in Abuja and Lagos to the relevant state administrations. It is only the policy reversals of the Yar’Adua-Jonathan administration that has enabled it to still exist intact. Though its budget is a modest N3bn, including a N10 million security vote, N89 million for adverts, and N490 millon to build a ‘National Fire Academy’! It is time to revisit the Ekaette Committee report, restructure the FFS into a slim regulator and save this annually wasted amount. The FFS as currently organized has no place in  our federal system.

The rest of the budget of the Ministry of Interior consists of the Ministry (N2.5bn), Civil Defence, Immigration and Prisons Board (N204 million), Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Office with N1.3bn under the Ministry and another N8.6bn as a charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund, that is a total of about N10bn.

The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) was founded in 1988 by the Babangida administration with Professor Wole Soyinka as the founding chairman, with the mandate of accident prevention and loss reduction on our federal highways. Its enabling law has gone through several amendments and re-enactments into the national organization it has now become, situated in the presidency and supervised by the SGF.

The FRSC is headed by a Corps Marshall assisted by eight deputies overseeing departments and in charge of 12 specialized units, 12 zonal commands and 164 sector commands all over the country. The proposed budget of FRSC for 2012 is N28.9bn made up of N26.5bn for personnel cost, N1.5bn for overheads and N849 million for capital projects. I was relieved not to find any “security vote” in the FRSC budget, most of the spending priorities and provisions were sensible and did not appear to duplicate provisions in the budgets of the Police and other agencies.

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) began life in 1891 headed by a British Director-General before becoming the department of customs and excise in 1922. The Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1958 established the department under the Minister of Finance. Between 1986 and 1992, the department was placed under the supervision of the Minister of Internal Affairs. Today, it is an autonomous paramilitary organization headed by a Comptroller-General, assisted by four deputies supervising 25 area commands all over the country.

The main job of the NCS is trade facilitation, checking smuggling and earning revenues for the government through the oversight of imports and exports. The NCS is funded off-budget via a 7% deduction on revenues collected – an incentive system that has led to rapid increases in revenue collection. The budget of the NCS this year will be between N52bn and N70bn! With the implementation of ASYCUDA++, installation of scanners, intensive training and incentivizing of personnel, it is expected that the NCS will discharge its statutory functions better, for the benefit of Nigeria.

For the past 8 weeks, we have looked closely at the amounts proposed to be spent by all the agencies charged with protecting our lives and property. Combined they will cost us at least N3.1 billion daily, including weekends in 2012. We are therefore entitled to expect to sleep well, but we don’t. Some of them have become greater threats to our freedom and peaceful coexistence than the insurgents that we fear. They must re-strategize to protect us better, and justify what we spend on them.

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