Department of State Services (DSS) in the last three years under the leadership of the Director General, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, has witnessed a level of development and staff capacity enhancement through training and strategic partnership. The service has, however, continued to receive criticism from different quarters, CHIZOBA OGBECHE writes.
The appointment of Yusuf Magaji Bichi, on September 13, 2018, as the Director General, Department of State Services (DGSS) marked the beginning of a new era in the service.
On assumption of office, Bichi declared commitment to create a friendly work environment, enhance staff capacity through training and welfare as well as ensure the DSS remained a democratic complaint intelligence agency.
While addressing the DSS management, Bichi called for support for his administration and stronger ties among the staff
“While calling for stronger ties among the staff, he pledged to work with them as a team. He stated that his vision is to build a well disciplined, professional and highly motivated DSS with particular reference to staff welfare.
“Bichi also affirmed that the Service will support government agenda on rebuilding the economy, stamping out insecurity and fighting corruption. He enjoined the Staff to refocus their intelligence collection efforts in this direction.
“Similarly, he implored the management to ensure that the Service respects rule of law and human rights,” the DSS Public relations Officer (PRO), Peter Afunanya had disclosed in a press statement.
In achieving the vision DGSS has employed infrastructure development, training, and strategic partnership.
Not many knew Bichi before he became the DGSS in 2018. Before then, he was just an easy gentleman who had started and finished 35 years of public service in the intelligence agency.
However, Bichi had made a steady and enviable career in the SSS where he had risen to the highest rank and won accolades for his unblemished service.
Born in 1956 in the ancient city of Bichi, Kano state, he attended Danbatta Secondary School and the College of Advanced Studies, Kano.
An alumnus of the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he studied Political Science and graduated in 1981, he started his career in the Security Division of the Kano state cabinet office.
He later transfer his services in 1984 to the then National Security Organisation (NSO) now State Security Service (SSS) aka DSS.
As a young officer, his sterling performance and dedication to duty stood him out. He was subsequently nominated in 1988 to receive further trainings in intelligence processing and analysis and other aspects of counterintelligence in the United Kingdom.
Aside adopting cooperation as basis for inter-agency relationship, he harps on effective and proactive communication as bedrock of public and media engagements.
In support of the ongoing fight against terrorism, insurgency and other threats against national security, the DGSS has steadily supplied timely and actionable intelligence to sister agencies.
He is, no doubt, an intelligence officer, known for his disposition to mentor young and upcoming officers.
He is creative and innovative and his personality has positively affected the service leading to several reforms since his assumption of office as the DGSS.
Blueprint Weekend checks indicated that the Bichi as a highly detribalised Nigerian doesn’t have close aides that are Muslims or Hausas.
“His three drivers are Christians. Two of his Secretaries are non-Muslim Southerners. The Chief Detail to the DG is Igbo. The heads of his Protocol are Christian Southerners just like the Public Relations Officer,” a close associated had stated.
Staff welfare is fundamental to his management style and he does not accept irregularities as norms. This manifests in his operational plans and intelligence collection designs.
On assumption of duty as DG, he gave effect to the numerous restructuring of the Service- ranking, allowances and salaries. His tenure has really witnessed a lot of changes.
Staff welfare and motivation, collaborative and strategic engagements with sister agencies and stakeholders are on the rise.
To address lingering staff accommodation challenges, Bichi has not only embarked on acquisition and construction of new structures but has engaged in extensive renovation of dilapidated service property cross the states.
They include: newly acquired accommodation for directors; newly acquired 20 units of two bedroom staff accommodation in Abuja; newly constructed 96 units of two bedroom staff accommodation in Abuja; and the newly constructed seven units of two bedroom; 20 units of one room self contain staff accommodation in Abuja; and the renovated accommodation and facilities in Abuja.
The DGSS has also sustained the purchase of operational, official and other utility vehicles to ease mobility and enhance capacity of service operations; creation of new departments and expansion of portfolios to accommodate officers; introduction of biometric documentation systems; Information Technology (IT) facilities for various administrative and operational purposes; as well as massive conversion and upgrading of qualified staff.
Others are: landscaping and beautification of the National Headquarters; formation of the Special Intervention Squad (SIS) and Tactical Teams to respond to emergencies; continuous expansion of the service health facility and purchase of modern medical equipment for enhanced staff welfare.
He has also attracted projects from strategic stakeholders including the NNPC sponsored State of the Art Health facilities at the Service’s Medical Centre, VGC; and the construction of the DSS Museum of National Security by Lubrik Construction Company (LCC) as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Capacity for efficiency
In keeping faith with career advancement and for professional knowledge the DGSS has sponsored local and international training programmes for personnel to enhance their capacity to surmount emerging threats.
To ensure training and capacity development of personnel remained unimpeded even by restrictions on travel and gathering occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic arrangement were put in place for personnel to participate in online trainings, webnars and workshops organised by its partners including the United Nations Office on Europe (CoE), INTERPOL, among others.
Additionally, there have been various tactical and operational in-house trainings organised to develop and boost the capacity of personnel to address security threats in their areas of responsibility such as Protection Operation Course (POC); Tactical Operations Courses; Advances Weapon handling; Advanced Surveillance Operation Course as well as workshops for various senior management cadres.
Public commentator Austin Aneke in his article: A Brief History Of Impunity And Lawlessness By SSS (aka DSS) claimed, “Several acts of impunity have historically been linked with Nigeria’s SSS (aka DSS). SSS is organised, designed, programmed and weaponised to protect the state and oppress the people, just like the Nazi Schutzstaffel.”
He further claimed the DSS jettisons tenets of rule of law in trials of suspects, “as the accused was assumed guilty until proven innocent rather than innocent until proved guilty.”
However, the Convener, Save Nigeria Movement (SNM), Solomon Semaka, discredited the assertion by Aneke in his comment: Imagine A Nigeria Without DSS, stating that: “Aneke’s treatise not only reeks mischief but exhibits all shades of ignorance or failure to acknowledge the role of the Service in safeguarding the nation’s stability.
“Not many understand the role and relevance of the SSS in Nigeria and Austin Aneke is sure one of those who do not. Little wonder he displayed this ignorance in the piece he authored.
“At least, Aneka accurately stated that the SSS is organised, designed, programmed and weaponised to protect the State.
“However, the supposition that the agency oppresses the people it has a constitutional role to protect is indicative of the fact that he suffers from the Dunning-Kruger syndrome.”
Semaka further stated that, “It is worthy to note that the mission of the DSS is and has remained the protection and defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against domestic threats while upholding and enforcing the criminal laws of Nigeria.
“In the course of discharging this role, the DSS has constantly adapted to various functions necessitated by mitigating the evolving security threats including terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria.”
According to him, “Curiously, Austin Aneke and his likes in the Diaspora are mostly responsible for disparaging the Nigerian government and its revered security institutions.
“Nigerians who live in Nigeria, who face the threats posed by imperialists, separatists and religious extremists are thankful to the DSS and other security agencies for their loyalty and sacrifices to country and citizens.
“As we pace towards a stable democracy and a system that runs on the rule of law, it is important for citizens to censor security agencies on the basis of fairness.”
…Famous for pursuing civilians?
On her part, a guest columnist in a national newspaper Abimbola Adelakun also took a swipe at the secret police stating that: “Nobody in Nigeria today associates the DSS with intelligence-gathering, stealthy and efficient operations, and the promotion of national security.”
Abimbola in the publication titled: What does the DSS really really do, claimed that the DSS was only famous for pursuing the civilians who overreach themselves by protesting Nigeria’s woes.
“Nigeria has never been more threatened by insecurity than now, and you cannot but wonder what these so-called intelligence cum security agencies really do that justifies their existence,” she queried.
In a swift reaction to the said article, the DSS spokesperson restated that the service was primarily charged with the detection and prevention, within Nigeria, any crime against the internal security of the country.
Afunanya said the service was also saddled with the role of protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters and such other responsibilities affecting internal security or as may be directed by appropriate authorities.
The DSS PRO stated, “…For me, I believe that people who have made up their minds about certain issues will hardly see the other side of the matter even in the face of glaring facts.
“While you may hold tenaciously to your opinions as duly expressed in the said article, I will educate you and many others who do not understand or appreciate what the DSS does.
“This is because I know, for sure, what it does. I also know what it wants. The DSS, by nature, is not flippant, loquacious or quarrelsome. It works by the rules.
“Its mandate is clearly spelt out and in case you do not know, you are kindly referred to the 1999 Constitution – Section 315(5); National Security Agencies (NSA) Act 1986 Cap. 74 and the SSS Instrument No.1 of 1999 as set out in Section 2 (3).”
Service has evolved positive attitude – Onda
Editor-in-Chief, Dialogue Magazine, Agi Onda, while writing on the achievements of the DGSS argued that the secret police has evolved positive attitude.
Onda in an article titled: Alhaji Y.M. Bichi The Nigerian Generalissimo, stated that, “A key element of the DSS currently under the leadership of Alhaji Y.M. Bichi is its transformation and dynamism, so much that the DSS has metamorphosed into a professional and less controversial intelligence agency in Nigeria today.
“Indeed, the secret police has evolved positive attitude and mentality in the last two years, just after the 2019 general elections, through the enlargement of inter-agency collaboration and liaison, which has resulted into timely and proactive actions on national security.
“Incredibly, the DG’s secret for holding Nigeria together in spite of the unprecedented security challenge in the last couple of years is his robust training, sense of patriotism, human capacity building and integrity, all of which have been marshalled in the deployment of intelligence to securing the nation’s sovereignty.”
DSS doing herculean task
Also, speaking on the achievement of the DGSS in the last three years, a staff of the agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the service has been doing a herculean task in discharging its constitutional responsibilities.
“It is however unfortunate that most people do not realise how much sacrifice the service and its operatives have made.
“One key area the service’s achievement is outstanding is in the maintenance of national unity. No doubt the indivisibility and indissolubility of the country provided by the Constitution rests on the DSS.
“The criticisms in some quarters that the DSS has failed in its duty as an intelligence agency is unfounded. The service has continuously implemented strategies that have not only been successful in tackling insecurity, but are saving the nation from collapse.
“The way and manner it managed the EndSARS incident and even the human rights community has remained outstandingly commendable. Nigeria has not collapsed due largely to the singular efforts of the agency.
“That the DSS does not advertise its achievements is not a reason to castigate it in thankless ways. Most people would not know how much it stretches itself to protect the internal security of the country.
“Those that know are aware it is the eyes and ears of the nation. It is a gate keeper. The DSS is a pillar of support for Nigeria’s democracy. Since assumption of Bichi as its DG, the accusation of rights abuse has reduced drastically.”
Speaking further the senior officer said, “The agency has maintained a robust strategy that is fighting kidnapping, banditry, arms trafficking and militancy, amongst others.
“It has sustained intelligence gathering efforts and aggressively participated in enforcement/joint operations with sister agencies.”
According to the officer, “Without any shred of doubt, the current DG, since his assumption of Office, has brought lots of positive changes to the DSS. Things can only get better as time goes on.”