The DSS and the EFCC are clearly working at cross-purposes and this needless inter-agency rivalry is inimical to nation’s interest. Olawale Olaleye reports
It is hard to tell for how long this had gone on. But one thing is clear to all today: both the Department of State Service (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) see each other more as rivals than complementary agencies, while the intelligence they are meant to provide for the security of the nation has automatically become some form of competition.
The first indication that the two sister agencies may not be into each other came to the fore during the confirmation screening of the EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, who was rejected twice by the Senate because of a very damaging report by the DSS, which disproved his credibility to lead a corruption war.
It was a bad time for the EFCC as Magu’s only defence to the report was that the DSS had played double standards. He said the service submitted two reports – one indicting him and the other recommending him. But that one report has since put the fate of Magu in a position of discomfort as his credibility has been badly impaired.
But if anyone ever doubted the possibility of their rivalry or thought the instance that stalled his confirmation was circumstantial, then, the latest controversy between them is a point to the truth of the rivalry between them.
Media reports had credited the DSS as alleging that a federal government agency was protecting a former special adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Amnesty Programme, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, from prosecution. It alleged that while the said agency claimed to be probing Kuku, it is in fact doing the direct opposite.
The EFCC, for the record, has been on the trail of Kuku for some time now, but Kuku has been in the United States since the loss of the 2015 elections by the PDP, a government he served in a major capacity.
“It is sad to note that, in the course of our investigation, we discovered that an agency, which is also saddled with an investigative authority, is rather creating a platform for criminal fugitives. We discovered, in particular, a fugitive, who is widely known to have looted our commonwealth, still has the audacity to use the machinery of that particular agency to harass and haunt adversaries, who are aware of his loot and heinous crimes.
“From our findings, we discovered that the agency in reference is now in criminal connivance with fugitive Kingsley Kuku, a former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on the Federal Government Amnesty Programme on the Niger Delta. Sadly enough, the agency in question, which claims to be investigating the fraud, is ironically directly and brazenly facilitating the concealment of the looted several billions of naira belonging to the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme.”
That was a huge slam, and pronto, the EFCC admitted to being the one referred to in the DSS statement. Here, it reacted: “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been drawn to a rather salacious news report published in Vanguard and The Punch newspapers of May 2, 2017.
“The report published under two different headlines: “DSS accuses anti-graft agency of protecting Jonathan’s former aide”, and “Jonathan’s wanted aide being protected by govt. agency – DSS”, contained allegations that an anti-graft agency, which is purportedly investigating Mr. Kingsley Kuku, a former Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, is in reality shielding him from the law. The phantom claim is made more ludicrous by the fact that it is attributed to some unnamed sources in the Department of State Services, DSS.”
Ordinarily, the EFCC said it ought not to dignify the reports with a response given that it was not directly named by the ghost sources, the stories are however dripping with innuendos that left little to the imagination regarding the agency under reference.
“While Vanguard stayed within the script of the game of ostrich handed to it by the purveyors of the unsubstantiated report, The Punch took a further step to identify the EFCC as the agency that is known to be investigating Kuku. Punch’s allusion is a fact known to everybody but the authors of the malicious story were either scared of the Commission or too embarrassed by their infantile gambit to name the EFCC.
“For the avoidance of doubt, EFCC is investigating the Amnesty Office managed by Kuku. The Commission was compelled to declare him wanted in July 2015, after he failed to honour an invitation sent to him for interrogation on July 28, 2015. Rather than appear before the team investigating the allegations of fraud against him, he sent a letter, through his counsel, Karina Tunyan, claiming that he ‘is currently in the United States of America to keep an appointment with his doctors’, with a promise to appear on September 30, 2015.
“He never did, and his last known place of abode has remained the US, a different territorial jurisdiction. In February 2016, in a bid to forestall his arrest by the EFCC, Kuku approached a Federal High Court in Lagos, seeking to stop the agency from arresting him on his possible return to Nigeria. The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, dismissed his application as lacking in merit, and upheld the statutory powers of the EFCC to investigate him. It must be stated unequivocally that the EFCC has no personal interest, or business with Kuku, other than the fact that he is a fugitive, who is wanted by the Commission to stand trial in Nigeria. The allegation in the reports that ‘the agency is in criminal connivance with fugitive Kingsley Kuku’ is a blatant lie.”
But soon after the DSS raised the alarm, Kuku denied the accusation and described his purported probe by the security agency as a ruse. He said in a statement that the unsigned statement purported to emanate from “a confidential source in the security agency,” was suspicious and apparently intended to blackmail him over nothing.
He denied sponsoring pipeline destruction and using any anti-corruption agency in the country to fight his alleged enemies or concealing looted funds belonging to the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
But except this rivalry is immediately cultured, it might soon take a more worrisome dimension that could harm the security architecture of the country. Otherwise, how could anyone explain away the fact that two sister security agencies meant to work together and share information in national interest are flexing muscles over which is superior or trying to undo each other?
Even though they have distinct roles assigned by law, neither of them must frustrate their respective investigation efforts.
It is therefore instructive, for emphasis, that communication lapses between the FBI and CIA caused the United States Government the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2003. Reports stated that the Egyptian Intelligence had warned the CIA in particular but a mismanagement of the information between both agencies, whether or not there was rivalry, has left an ugly memory in the US history.
Back home in Nigeria, the current situation between the EFCC and DSS is of course an indication of the absence of an effective leadership, otherwise the two should have been long called to order with each sternly reminded of its place. This unhealthy rivalry must stop, because the intelligence community is a critical section in the nation’s security architecture, just as winning the battle against corruption is a goal that must be achieved. The two agencies must therefore compliment each other and the presidency has a critical role in making this happen.