DSS and the Quest for National Security
By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
Being obsessed with the security situation of the country, the nation’s intelligence agency, Department of State Service, DSS had lately made another giant stride in an attempt to find a lasting solution to that monstrous hydra-headed problem currently bedeviling the country.
It was on April 06, that participants drawn from various Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, the diplomatic corps, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), relevant security agencies and few selected media executives were engaged at the service National Headquarters for a one-day parley/brainstorming session.
As noted, the session was organized with the sole aim of developing and enhancing mutual rapport and efficient communication synergy between the CSOs/NGOs and security agencies in order to promote cohesion, peace and national security as a whole.
Meanwhile, constituting of this kind of function at this critical moment when the country is faced with unprecedented rising level of security challenges across its length and breadth, is very vital, and thus commendable.
It is obvious that, as electioneering period is approaching, there is corresponding increase in the activities of non-state actors on the other hand, which is of great concern and calls for a multi stakeholders’approach towards containing the situation.
For over a decade, security forces have been battling with insurgents in the northeastern region, while bandits and kidnappers have continued to make some territories in northwestern and north-central states ungovernable, as a result of their rampaging activities.
At this juncture, the CSOs/NGOs have a lot of roles to play in helping the security agencies toward surmounting the challenges, since they are considered by citizens as staunch advocates and crusaders for human rights.
During the session, papers were presented on key issues particularly related to consequences of fake news on national security, need for robust relationships among strategic groups and relevance of early warning to security planning and activities of CSOs as well as roles of stakeholders in achieving election success among others.
While delivering his paper, Mr. Festus Okoye, the INEC commissioner in charge of
voters’education decries how the present security challenge is threatening the smooth conduct of the upcoming 2023 elections. He noted that, the situation might affect voters mobilization as well as deployment of personnel and election materials to some locations considered to be vulnerable due to incessant attacks by criminal syndicates.
He however, assured to work in synergy with security organizations in order to ensure a smooth and peaceful conduct of polls.
Notwithstanding, during the session, participants x-rayed and deliberated on so many impediments/challenges that hinders smooth relationship between the CSOs/NGOs and the security agencies with a view to changing the narratives.
The challenges identified include but are not limited to the non-existent information sharing mechanism/platform between CSOs and Security agencies; inadequate knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by some CSOs and in some instances, non-responsiveness to the Act by Security agencies; lack of sensitization programmes on governance and electoral processes in the rural communities and volatile areas.
Others challenges are dissemination of fake news, hate speeches, misinformation and disinformation which continue to remain threats to national security; irregular attendance by security agencies to functions organised by CSOs/NGOs and lack of knowledge by the CSOs about the existence of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) and its activities/roles.
The long list of these hurdles also included unethical practices of some CSOs which derail national security as well as ignorance and overzealousness by some of them to engage on negative issues in order to incite citizens against Government and mutual suspicion among the stakeholders relating to their intentions.
Subsequently, resolutions reached in order to bridge the gap were bordered around efforts to strengthening of information sharing mechanism between the security agencies and CSOs/NGOs and establishment of genuine synergy among government, security agencies and CSOs for peacebuilding, conflict management and promotion of national unity.
In addition, CSOs were enjoined to make practical and effective use of their platforms to advance National Security, peace and unity and there should be deliberate effort by Security Agencies and CSOs to understand the operations and activities of each other for purposes of national unity and peace of the nation among others.
On its part, the DSS has been very proactive in neutralizing security threats in collaboration with other security agencies through credible intelligence gatherings and information sharing which leads to busting of various criminal syndicates.
Nevertheless, the incidents of fake news and hate speeches dissemination should be curtailed through efficient application of digital literacy, especially at this era of technological breakthroughs where digital tools meant for that purpose are very much available at our disposal.
Mukhtar is a Staff Writer with the Emergency Digest.