•Daura, not SSS, under probe
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Revelations emerged last night that President Muhammadu Buhari had two weeks before departing for London on a vacation, concluded plans to fire the ex-Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura.
A top presidential source who did not want to be named told THISDAY last night that two weeks before Buhari left Nigeria for the United Kingdom on a 10-day working vacation, he and the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo had reviewed the appointment of Daura and resolved to ease him out.
According to the source, the move to give Daura the boot however, failed because certain influential forces in the corridors of power swiftly moved to block the plan.
The source added however, that whereas such influential forces had thought that they had effectively frustrated the plans to lay off Daura, it was unknown to them that there was yet another undisclosed plan by both the president and his deputy to sack some security chiefs including Daura after jointly reviewing their activities.
The source further disclosed that while the president who returned to the country yesterday evening was away, Osinbajo was always in touch with him, discussing emerging issues with him and both of them agreeing to decisions made before proceeding to carry them out.
The source said it was not only the dismissal of Daura that was jointly taken by both Buhari and Osinbajo, other decisions such as the latter’s order to overhaul Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) as well as last Thursday’s decision of the National Economic Council (NEC) to constitute a committee to come up with how best to decentralise the Nigeria Police had both been pondered by both men.
He said the president always encouraged the acting president to do whatever was necessary to be done and ensured that he fully took charge of the reins of power in his absence.
“Even regarding the overhaul of the SARS which the Acting President announced recently, top sources in the Villa explained that the matter had featured prominently in regular interactions of both the President and the VP and also interactions by both of them with the Inspector-General of Police.
Although Daura may have some explanation to do, the service itself is not under probe, a highly placed official in the Presidency told THISDAY.
The source said the clarification became necessary in view of the fear in certain quarters that a secret service was being subjected to a public probe that might threaten its operations and efficiency in the future.
The source also explained that no substantial incriminating evidence was found following the searches conducted so far in the residences and guest houses of Daura.
However, he said investigating authorities were holding on to suspected depletion of funds he inherited from his predecessor, Ekpenyong Ita.
Another source who confided in THISDAY said all the funds handed over to Daura were in the public domain.
He said: “The monies handed over are a public knowledge. When the director general of such service hands over, copies are customarily sent to the President, the National Security Adviser, the service itself, the incoming and outgoing directors general would have their copies.”
Investigation reveals that Ekpeyong handed over to Daura various sums of money including $21.2m ($21,237,435.72), N12.96 billion (N12,960,480,740.38) of pension fund as well as N2.2 billion (N2,207,647,550.03) in serial account.
There were also various amounts like N2.2 billion) (N2,206,259,191.89 ) for insurance and 20 others.
On what Daura is actually being probed for, the source said: “We are not probing the operations account of the service but certain bulk figures that there may be questions as at June this year when the balance from the fund stood at less than N6 billion from the N12.9 billion that was handed over to him. And there is a law that prescribes jail terms with no option of fine if one diverts pension to any other use.
“Did he divert? If so, who authorized it? Just some basic questions that he may need to provide answers but mind you, this is not a probe of the SSS.”
Daura was on July 24 removed as the head of the secret police by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo following a preliminary inquest into the blockage of the National Assembly by hooded operatives of the service.
He was said to have been placed under house arrest, interrogated and a preliminary report was reportedly submitted to the Acting President.
Daura took over from Ekpenyong Ita in July 2015.
His tenure was somehow enmeshed in controversies chief among which was the much condemned “sting” raid of high court judges and justices of the Supreme Court residents. The prosecution of the cases ended in fiasco.
But an Abuja based security consultant, Ben Adamu, and other high ranking serving officers said the probe if done would be against the tide in any inquiry into intelligence matters all over the world.
They argued that their position was in tandem with the conclusions of the Babagana Kingibe-led committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari last year.
The committee had advised the president, and it was approved, that matters of intelligence should be discreetly handled by a special body of former members of the community and the report turn in to the President for necessary actions.
“This would be a clear case of blatant disregard of the presidential directive arising from the report of the committee, and the norm all over the world”, Adamu said.
“If it goes this way, nobody would volunteer information that could be processed into intelligence, there may be no bilateral collaboration between Nigeria intelligence agencies and some known cracked foreign agencies in the world like the FBI, CIA, MI5, MI6 and more, for fear that they could be exposed, compromised and the lives of their operatives compromised in the course of open probe. And I know that we (Nigeria) have enjoyed that goodwill over years.
“An open investigation by outsiders might just be penny wise, pound foolish. A bubble of pyrrhic victory that would evaporate and expose Nigeria to ridicule.
“Either way, even if there’s misdemeanour anywhere, any inquiry without a presidential
imprimatur in line with the world best practices and as recommended by the committee would be a bastardized effort”, he said.
When huge sum of money was discovered in an apartment in Ikoyi last year and a probe was instituted, a former Minister of External Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, objected to the probe saying such probe would have negative effects on the external security and intelligence operations of the nation.
President Muhammadu Buhari had then set up a three-man panel, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to probe how the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) left about N15 billion in an apartment in Osborne Road, Ikoyi.
In a statement he issued then Akinyemi faulted the composition of the probe panel for being devoid of an external intelligence expert. He also kicked against the plan by the House of Representatives to conduct its own inquiry into the cash recovery.
The statement read: “When the news broke that some millions of dollars had been found hidden in a flat in Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, I was quite frankly indifferent as it has become a recurrent decimal. I was not even bothered when nobody initially stepped forward to claim it.
“But when Ambassador Ayo Oke stepped forward to claim it on the part of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), alarm bells started to ring in my ears. It is one of the sacred traditions of the external intelligence trade to admit nothing and to deny nothing.
“A saving grace emerged when the president set up the Osinbajo panel to untangle the web over the millions of dollars. But the president inadvertently made a mistake. He did not appoint anyone with a history of external intelligence experience unto the panel.
External intelligence operations do not belong into the same security genre as domestic security forces such as the SSS, EFCC and the Police.
“External intelligence officers, otherwise called spies, do not operate under the same operational penalties as domestic intelligence officers. The ultimate penalty for a foreign spy in most countries is death. Countries go to incredible lengths to hide the identities of their agents both domestic and foreign and their operations. No receipts get issued. Budgets are called black budgets because they are never publicly acknowledged.
“It would have been reassuring if the president had appointed a former head of or a former very senior member of NIA to be a member of the panel. Even at this late stage, let me remind the vice-president that a lawyer with a specialty in constitutional law will not appreciate the niceties of international law. It is not too late to appoint a retired head of NIA as a consultant to the panel.
“What has motivated me at this late stage to issue this release is the news that the House of Representatives has now decided to institute its own inquiry to this peculiar mess. This is a dangerous move. In my knowledge in this field, I know of only one occasion when a government, in this case, the United States Government, set up a Congressional Committee, the Church Committee, named after the Chairman, Senator Frank Churchill, to look into governmental operations with respect to intelligence activities.
“In fact, the main issue which was its concern was that did the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ever indulge in carrying out assassinations of foreign presidents?
“Normally, foreign intelligence activities are shrouded in secrecy, and not in the glare of publicity. Now the whole saga has made us a laughing stock in the world. Nigerian agents strewn all across Africa are now in dread of being exposed. Recruiting agents in future in Africa is going to be difficult out of fear of future exposure.
“The following recommendations are to secure damage limitation: It is not too late to call in a former Director of NIA to serve as a consultant to the Osinbajo Panel, no more leaks from the panel, under no circumstances should the report of the panel as far as it relates to the activities of the NIA be made public.
“Under no circumstances should the National Assembly be allowed to conduct hearings into the NIA affair, Osinbajo panel report could be shared secretly with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Should any NIA officer be found culpable, he or she should be quietly eased out. Putting a foreign intelligence officer on trial in an open court is going to be disastrous to external national security interests. If there is no provision to put an intelligence officer on trial in a secret and special court, an executive bill should be sent to the National Assembly to make provision for such.
“Under no circumstances should one security agency be allowed to move against another security agency especially one dealing with foreign intelligence, without the express permission of the president or in his absence the acting president. This should be without any publicity or fanfare.”