Olusegun Adeniyi writes that the rivalry among security agencies constitutes grave danger to our national security

According to Daura, shortly after the commencement of investigation, “operatives of the DSS, serving on the panel were removed by the NSA, leaving members from the Military, NIA and EFCC to continue the investigation. Thereafter, the DSS acting on intelligence discovered that some ad-hoc members were brought in by the NSA to serve on the committee. These ad-hoc members were later found to be involved in some shady deals, which bordered on corrupt practices. The Service subsequently arrested Mohammed Umar (Air Commodore/rtd), the arrowhead of the members involved in extorting money from suspects under investigation in order to give them soft landing. At the end of investigation, he (Umar) was arraigned in court and is presently being prosecuted at the Federal High Court, Abuja.”

Daura argued that because both Monguno and Magu were unhappy about the arrest and prosecution of Umar, “they decided to embark on a vendetta to investigate the Service on some trumped-up charges, including corrupt practices. The starting point of this was the invitation sent to Ita Ekpenyong and Kunle Kadiri, former Director-General State Services (DGSS) and Head of Account of the DSS, respectively.”

The investigation, Daura contends “was actually a voyage of discovery to fish out incriminating evidence against the Service with a view to depict it and the management as being corrupt.…The Service discovered that this effort by the Commission was part of a clandestine investigation of DSS accounts by a team set up by the NSA in collaboration with the EFCC Acting Chairman in complete violation of extant laws pertaining to financial regulations of the Service.”

Daura quoted the extant laws which forbid what Monguno and Magu were trying to do except with the express permission of the president or the EFCC Board before he declared: “The method (brawn instead of brain) deployed by the current EFCC under Magu is a Gestapo style that belongs to dictatorial regimes. The acting chairman runs the agency based on public rumours, manoeouvres, gossips, political interferences from certain quarters and marabouts.”

In his written and oral testimonies last December, the then acting NIA Director General, Ambassador Mohammed Dauda (who has since been replaced) said there was no official communication to the agency from the EFCC on the exact mission of its operatives to the official residence of his predecessor, Oke and that he got wind of it only from the media. “It was the expectation of the DG NIA that a prior notice would be served on the agency by the EFCC, particularly against the backdrop of the fact that the former DG NIA was still resident in the Command House (official residence of a serving DG NIA), while in the process of handing-over in line with extant practice. By virtue of its status, the Command House is a critical National Security Asset with sensitive documents and equipment. Accordingly, the attempt to storm the Command House to effect an arrest had far-reaching national security implications”, said the report.

The report added: “Resistance against the EFCC by operatives of the NIA consequently served a larger national interest, in order to maintain the sanctity of the agency, its operatives and sensitive security assets in the Flag House. The NIA is a Secret Service, whose operations are clandestine and highly classified. Accordingly, it is imperative to shield the agency from further negative publicitv. He regretted that the EFCC under the Magu has been hostile to and uncooperative with the NIA leading to the massive withdrawal of NIA operatives from the services of the EFCC.”

The last to give evidence though only in oral testimony was Monguno who admitted knowledge of the letter submitted to his office by Daura but disregarded it because “it was written in a distasteful and impolite tone.” Monguno, according to the report, traced the “ongoing investigation by the EFCC as an outcome of the Vice-President’s Panel which discovered the misappropriation of $289 Million Intervention which was released by the CBN to some Security Agencies around 2015” but also added that “he was not aware of the EFCC Chairman’s plan to arrest any of the persons until after the media frenzy and that the resistance made by the Security Agencies during the arrest episode cast some aspersions.”

Monguno expressed concerns about the apparent lack of unity and cooperation which has led to the current state of disharmony amongst the sister agencies. “He said that this resulted due to the National Security Agencies Decree 1986 which has stripped the NSA of the power to check the other Security Agencies that have now become independent of his office due to their now ‘easy’ access to the President. Thus, there is a desperate need to streamline the Agencies and make them answerable to the NSA.”

The most critical part of the report is the claim that Monguno “informed the Senators during the meeting that the President is very aware of the state of things as he has informed him of the situation and also presented evidences of some instances in which his duties were usurped due to the lack of discipline exhibited by the Security Agencies…He harped on the fact that failure to arrest this situation would have transnational implications as the hierarchical structure for command has been compromised.”

Incidentally, I dealt with some of the foregoing issues on 26 November 2012 at that year’s edition of the Chief of Army Staff Conference in Asaba, Delta State to which I had been invited by then Army Chief, Lt General Azubuike Ihejirika. In my paper titled, ‘Terrorism and Inter-Agency Coordination in Nigeria’, which can be found online, I highlighted the fact that years of rivalry between and among these agencies have constituted a serious threat to our national security. But even at that, I did not envisage that the situation could degenerate to the level in which it is today in Nigeria. Just yesterday, some thugs invaded our National Assembly and went away with the Senate Mace in broad daylight despite the high number of policemen (including those carrying bags for our big men) at the place.

The most elementary doctrinal pillar that undergirds national security is the recognition of the primacy of national interest. In that regard, it is the need to preserve the integrity of security agencies as state institutions that equips every president to contain the excesses of security chiefs, especially when their private agenda begin to muddy the national interest or vitiate the integrity of the institutions they head.

In a situation where the personal interests and tendencies of these security chiefs are allowed to blossom uncontrolled, the agencies quickly grow into private armies that clash openly at the slightest opportunity. It is this red line that was crossed by operatives of the DSS, NIA and EFCC on the streets of Abuja in November 2017. When added to inter-agency squabbles between the military and the police—whose men have become easy targets for extermination by armed robbers and sundry hoodlums —we are face to face with the precise reasons why our national security is in tatters.

What is baffling to most observers is how President Buhari has allowed the institutions of national security to be freely carved up into clashing and competing private fiefdoms of ambitious and lawless chieftains who have carried their fights into the public arena. Tragically, it is this dysfunction between the security agencies and the unhealthy rivalry among their heads that has led to the current state of general insecurity in the country. I hope President Buhari will deal with the issue before it is too late!

Adeniyi is Chairman, THISDAY Editorial Board