DSS, NIA and the peril of collective amnesia
To a larger extent, intelligence gathering and security institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, among others, are performing well because these countries discovered that it was best for proven ‘egg heads’ to be sustained and encouraged to continue to render services to their fatherland. Most persons in the intelligence communities of those countries I have been able to interact with have attested to the fact that they are benefitting a lot from the wealth of experience of these veterans heading their intelligence agencies.
Alas, in Nigeria, instead of calling for rewards and encouragement for those who have distinguished themselves in service to the nation, we pressure the system to spit them away. How can our systems and institutions grow if our unrelenting desire is to see that our veterans and well-trained hands are thrown out of the system?
It was the legendary American best-selling author and ace motivational speaker, John Mason, who said, “Those who can, do! Those who can’t, complain. Stones and sticks are only thrown at fruits bearing trees.” The foregoing suffices to answer those renegades, hatchet men and charlatans who, as part of their ill intentions for Nigeria, have unleashed their attack dogs, especially in the media. Unfortunately, the attack dogs are bereft of productive engagements other than calling for the heads of key players in the Buhari administration.
Instances of such media indolence are recent calls for the removal of Director General of Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, and his National Intelligence Agency (NIA) counterpart, Rufai Ahmed Abubakar.
The NIA as a Nigerian government agency is saddled with the duty of overseeing foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations. With a very strict and robust process for background checks, it is impossible for unqualified persons to be appointed as the agency’s DG. Since his appointment, Abubakar has proven that President Muhammadu Buhari did not make a mistake in appointing him. Without much ado, the NIA under Abubakar has collaborated effectively with other similar and sister global agencies.
It was one of such collaborations that led to the arrest and repatriation of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu back to Nigeria to face justice. Without making noise, the Yoruba Nation campaigner, Sunday Igboho, is also cooling his heels in a Benin Republic prison.
If it is not for mischief, how could some disgruntled elements be calling for Bichi’s sack despite the unparalleled achievements of the Nigerian secret police under him? It stands to be corrected that the IPOB, Yoruba Nation campaign and #EndSARS protest were most of the biggest test or challenges to our internal security in recent times, apart from terrorism and banditry. It is apt to say that the role of the DSS before, during and after the #EndSARS protests under the leadership of the present Bichi prevented Nigeria from degenerating into anarchy. It was also the same scenario in the South East where IPOB almost formed a parallel government, issuing directives to people from the zone to sit at home.
The DSS under Bichi has become so professional that in all their operations to curtail the activities of the aforementioned groups, there were no human rights violations and colossal damage was recorded. Why then are they calling for his sack?
This raises the all-important question: whose interest are these elements serving” Or better still, whose bidding? Or is it a case of the Voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau? It is obvious that they are doing the bidding of some paymasters and merchants of mischief, whose only interest is to ensure a distabilised Nigeria and by extension, the President Buhari-led government.
It can be explained that most Nigerians are finding it difficult to understand the job of the Nigerian Secret Police, DSS, and NIA because their achievements cannot be advertised. But the DSS under Yusuf Bichi has effectively conducted counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations across the country. It has also achieved similar feats in the areas of reducing economic crimes, internet and advance fee frauds, kidnapping, banditry, arms trafficking and militancy.
President Buhari appointed Yusuf Bichi as the Director General of the DSS in 2019 at a low moment for the Department. There was dire need for the appointment of a leadership with charisma, courage, candour and dexterity. It required a man who has the acumen to stare the Service back to the path of professionalism and refocus back to excellence. That era was full of controversies on who ordered what operations.
It was a case of inconsistency galore. Suddenly, as an expert in recruiting credible hands, President Buhari reached and dragged Bichi out of retirement to come and salvage the situation. Almost two years later, evidence, it is said, is the end of argument.
Conversely, the seismic shift from bravado and grandstanding, which almost dented the image of the Service before Bichi was appointed, has given way to a meticulous approach to solving security questions. The trend now is professionalism in the plotting, calibration and conduct of the security roadmap for Nigeria.
This new narrative attracted the attention of a Geneva-based organization to extend an award to Bichi. After the 2019 presidential election, an election monitoring group known as the International Human Rights Commission, Geneva, Switzerland, honoured Bichi with an award. According to the group, “the award was in recognition of the exemplary performance by the Service and its personnel during the just concluded 2019 general elections.”
Under Bichi, the DSS has sustained intelligence gathering efforts and aggressively participated in enforcement/joint operations with sister agencies. Some of its other widely reported achievements include but are not limited to intercepting terrorist elements that try to gain illegal entry into the country as well as disrupting terrorist cells; Intercepting a large cache of arms and ammunition in parts of the country, and investigating and prosecuting high profile culprits of security breaches across the country.
On the other hand, the role and functions of the NIA are roughly equivalent to those of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service (the SIS or MI6), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki) (SVR), the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the French foreign intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) and Israel’s Mossad.
Staff of NIA are regarded to be highly skilled, intelligent and very discreet in their operations. NIA has a manifest albeit covert role of preserving Nigeria’s eminence, pride and dignity through repossessing and intercepting secret information that is capable of imperiling Nigeria’s National Interest and breaching its national security.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the Director-general of the NIA changed the tide. Looking back at the concatenation of events in the last two years as it relates to the fine-tuning of the Nigerian security strategy, you will discover that a lot of impetus has been injected into the security operation of the NIA, especially in the areas of intelligence and counterintelligence.
The NIA under its current DG, Rufai Abubakar, has done so much to identify and sever the supply route and links of Islamic State of West Africa, ISWA. This explains why the threats of ISWA have scaled down for some time. Most of the operation of NIA goes unnoticed because it is not to be announced but be curtailed.
Without a doubt, the combination of Ahmed Rufai-led NIA and Yusuf Bichi-led DSS is providing a new lease of life for Nigerians through proactive intelligence and counterintelligence operations.
As a people, if we continue to criticise and call for the sack and resignation of our best hands, we are by default aiding criminals. All that is needed is sustained support for the NIA and DSS to enable them work assiduously to rid our country of crimes and criminality.
Ibrahim is director, Communications and Strategic Planning, Presidential Support Committee (PSC).