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Black Budgets are Not For Black Men

May 14, 2016

“My right foot was already moving seconds before I fully realized what I was doing. The flying kick saw my instep meet British accent’s temple in a single bone-jarring thud. He gave a shrill agonized scream, one composed of both pain and surprise. Then he dropped to the sauna floor. The Smith & Wesson flew through the air, clattering loudly as it hit the wooden boards. At that split second Eastern Europe threw himself around my neck, pressing his thumbs into my windpipe.”

Chai!

Gehn! Gehn!!

And no, this is not the opening chapter of my upcoming novel or short story. This is straight from the original, de-main, de- main Nick Carter – the Kill Master, one in the series titled “The List”. You remember that spy series abi? Not series like Game of Thrones ‘na ndi otu ya’ oh! Series as we used to know them back in the day. Novel series like The Executioner, James Hardly Chase, Pacesetters, African Writers Series (that wan even get ‘series’ for im name), Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series, Tom Clancy etchetaram etchetaram.

Nick Carter novels were always “Dedicated to the men of the Secret Services of the United States of America”. The title character known (of course) as Nick Carter or by his code, Agent N3 was a super macho, suave, master of all major languages (and some), martial arts expert, sleuth, master sniper, super assassin cum super-secret agent of AXE, a fictional spy agency of the US Government.

Who remembers his three main weapons; his gun, a stripped down German Luger christened ‘Wilhelmina’, his 400-year-old knife, a pearl-handled stiletto macho-named ‘Hugo’ and the ever handy (that is if cocooned in his pants as a third testes can be described as handy) Pierre, a poison gas bomb which when activated with a simple twist, would, within seconds, kill anybody, or anything, that inhaled its odourless and colourless gas.

Meeenn!! I ran with Nick Carter, skirting over electric fences, dodging killer Rottweiler guard dogs. Raced towards my target across manicured lawns, fired Wilhelmina at countless double agents and assailants. Disembowelled would be assassins with a slash of Hugo. Dodged bullets. Raced avalanches. Poisoned evil apocalyptic scientists with a flick of Pierre (while holding my breath for dear life). Crushed many Adam’s apples and balls. Picked up false passports and IDs (plus wads of cash) from all sorts of strange drop points and dangerous rendezvous…. and then there were those steamy and very graphic sex scenes.

Chai!

These memories lived with me. Through primary school. The secondary school and all through mu undergrad days. It was only when I got my first banking job and acquired an affinity for numbers that I asked myself, “bros, how in God’s name did they fund all those covert operations?”

See! It is not as if you can retire an invoice that reads, “N10 Million for Killing British Accent” or “US$1 Million being miscellaneous expenses for hunting down Eastern European”.

Mba nu!

It was with this realisation and subsequent research that I first came across the shadowy term “Black Budget” (what we refer to in Nigeria as “Security Vote”). Shadowy because the USA’s Black Budgets and their details had been subject of conspiracy theories and myths for decades. The myth was finally confirmed with Edward Snowden’s 2012 startling revelations, document/ data dumps and subsequent interview with the Washington Post. For the first time the US public was given an inkling of the scope and size of the CIA’s Black Budget endeavours.

Wikipidea defines a Black Budget as “a budget that is mostly classified due to security reasons and allocated for classified and other secret operations of a nation, a corporation, a society of any form, a national department, and so on. A black budget usually covers expenses related to military research and covert operations, investments in cutting-edge spying technologies, agent recruiting and ongoing operations as well as clandestine spying and surveillance operations.”

Edward Snowden confirmed the USA’s Department of Defense as operating such a budget to fund Black Projects and Black Operations, expenditures it does not want to disclose publicly (for national security reasons of course), with a 2008 estimated Black Budget of US$30 Billion, 2009 estimate of US$50 Billion and a 2012 allocation of US$52.8 Billion. The US government is said to have spent over US$500 Billion on its Black Budget since September 11 (costing the US taxpayer about US$100 Million every day), yet this budget does not include additional funding for the CIA and NSA’s operations done in direct support of the US Military (which in 2012 was US$23 Billion) as well as a circa US$1.2 Trillion defence budget.

So once the initial question as to the source of funding was answered, the next question to naturally follow was, “how do they account for and retire such funds?”

And the answer I found was….well….they don’t.

Really?

Yep! They don’t.

For national security reasons of course. So the Black Budget is revealed to only select members of the Congress Committee who are oftentimes not even allowed to see the actual numbers and brass tacks. Even the little they are allowed to see sef, are availed under the condition that they will affirm under oath not to divulge the details to anyone else.

The US government is said to have started from 2007 to release its overall level of intelligence spending however it does not divulge how it uses those funds or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress. In fact, despite Edward Snowden’s revelations and exclusive interview with the Washington Post, the documents had so much sensitive details that the paper ended up only publishing summary tables and charts of the budget, withholding key details after consulting with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods…..for national security reasons of course.

In response to the Washington Post’s inquiries, the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. responded that “Our budgets are classified as they could provide insight for foreign intelligence services to discern our top national priorities, capabilities and sources and methods that allow us to obtain information to counter threats”.

Abeg make una remember this quote as I intend to come back to it.

So how does the US government mask these details given that a national budget is supposed to be a public document and subject to debate and approval by Congress?

Well it is said that the US Government keeps two sets of books, “one for the general public, one for the generals” masking the Black Budget expenses under pseudonyms, their costs subsequently deleted, their goals disguised.

That probably explains why and how come the CIA spent US$43 Million to build a gas station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan (which is like Nigeria’s Office of the NSA building a single NNPC filling station for N8.471 Billion in Maiduguri – Biko which wan be NSA or CIA own with building filling station and at a cost of N8.471 Billion for that matter??), renting private Villas for contractors in Afghanistan for over US$150 Million per annum (like our NSA spending N29.55 Billion per annum on accommodation for security contractors in Bama), buys a huge supply of ordinary claw hammers at US$436 each (N85,892 each) and a batch of ordinary wrenches at US$9,606 each (N1,892,382 each).

The more I read, the more…..

That was when the “Project Room 103” Penny dropped for me!

You no sabi Project Room 103?

Okay. Make I try summarise.

In 1985, immediately after former President Ibrahim Babangida’s Coup that toppled General Muhamadu Buhari’s government, Ambassador Lawal Rafindadi, GMB’s Director General of the dreaded Secret Service, the Nigeria Security Organisation (NSO and precursor to the current DSS – Department of State Security) was arrested and detained for about 3 years and 4 months under house arrest at the Lagos Garrison Command headquarters Lagos.

The new government had cited (in both their coup speech and subsequent engagements) a number of reasons to justify their incursion, reasons too many and familiar to mention here. So amongst many other actions, a security services investigation codenamed “Project Room 103” was set up to investigate cases of corruption and diversion of funds in the security services, particularly the NSO.

Sounds familiar?

Those of us who were around and aware at the time remember how the whole nation was regaled with revelations from Ambassador Iro Ladan (one of Rafindadi’s assistants at the NSO), that his boss had operated at least eight foreign accounts (some of which were opened under the pseudonym “Manta Sanko Ango” but operated by Rafindadi with a passport that bore that name) in 5 nations or territories with a cumulative balance of £1,777,984.36 as at 1985.

Rafindadi was also accused of transferring US$10,000,000 from the Central Bank of Nigeria to one of his accounts in Switzerland and was requested by his investigators to transfer all the money in that account to a designated account at Midland Bank Plc London.

If my computation is correct, US$10,000,000 in 1985 adjusted for Nigeria’s cumulative inflation in today’s money would approximate US$6.512 Billion.

Likewise £1,777,984.36 in 1985 adjusted for inflation in today’s money would approximate £1.158 Billion.

But I digress.

Rafindadi alleging a witch-hunt, denied these allegations, noting that the subject account had both Ambassador A. I. Atta, the then Director, External Intelligence, DRD, and Saidu Gwarzo, as signatories and that the money was transferred for ‘external operations’ as directed by the then head of state, General Buhari.

The investigators were unperturbed by his denial and defence and in a letter dated April 9, 1987 and transmitted to the then President Babangida, found Rafindadi guilty of corruptly enriching himself with the Security Vote of the NSA and operating different bank accounts outside Nigeria during his tenure as DG of NSO contrary to existing Code of Conduct for Public Officials at the time.

The £1,777,984.36 found in the 8 foreign accounts was then confiscated pending when Rafindadi explained the source of funds given his position as a Civil Servant, a condition he could not meet until his death on 29 November 2007.

The US$10,000,000 wired to a Swiss Bank from the Central Bank of Nigeria was never recovered and probably rightfully so.

Why do I think so?

In its heydays in the early and mid-1980’s the NSO had the responsibility of both external and internal national security intelligence. Given Nigeria’s rising profile at the time as a key member of OPEC as well as a key player in the anti-apartheid and anti-colonial struggles, this would have required infiltrations of several foreign powers and organisations, maintaining contact with, financing and providing arms and training to various rebel leaders in the Frontline States of Southern Africa, like “the African National Congress (ANC), Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army and Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army”.

Revealing details of such spending or capturing its stark details in the National Budget would have provided “insight for foreign intelligence services to discern our top national priorities, capabilities and sources and methods that allow us to obtain information to counter threats”.

But Nigerians never learn.

30 years after Rafindadi’s Project Room 103 revelations we have another Telemundo Black Budget investigation in Dasukigate.

This time around it is US$2.1 Billion, the entirety of the Black Budget under Retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki as the National Security Advisor.

We have heard about payments made from this funds for prayers. Payments made to media houses, payments made to erstwhile ruling party officials.

It is a Black Budget, what do you think Dasuki’s defence will be?

What do you think was Rafindadi’s defence?

What do you think will be the defence of any ex-President or State Governor who ever had a Black Budget / Security Vote at his disposal?

Let us admit that Nigeria is not yet sophisticated enough to run a Black Budget at any level of Government.

The requisite fantastical governance structures and internal controls are lacking and any attempt to investigate something that traditionally does not entail receipted expenditure, officially requires the laundering of funds till its origin is obfuscated will be termed a Witch Hunt.

How do you know that payments for Prayers against Boko Haram is not a Code for a Black Ops?

What country will want to risk such a public trials and risk compromising its national security from the ensuing revelations?

As we dance and shuffle over Dasukigate, do we even realise that our 2015 National Budget had an embedded Black Budget / Security Vote? That the Budgets of the 36 State Governments and Abuja have Black Budgets / Security Votes?

Does anyone know how it was spent?

Of course not.

So biko, for now, pending when we attain moral maturity, enforced by properly articulated and legislated governance frameworks and internal controls, Black Budgets are not for Nigeria.

PMB and all the State House of Assemblies and Governors should expunge their Security Votes.

If we insist on keeping them then spare the rest of us your Telemundo and Codenamed trials.

 

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