Munguno: NSA with a midas touch

One menace that seems to keep all eyes ajar all through the night in Nigeria, for almost a decade going now is the perilous activities of the Boko Haram insurgents. About two administrations, so it seemed, confronted the hydra-headed terror group with little results being seen; not until 2015 when the Muhammadu Buhari administration came on board and took one of the most drastic decisions of overhauling the nation’s security architecture.

With the announcement of Babagana Monguno as the new National Security Adviser (NSA) on July 13, 2015, by President Buhari, those in the know of who is who within the nation’s armed forces circle testified that a paradigm shift in the battle against the burgeoning security challenges faced by Nigeria over the years has taken place.

Mohammed Babagana Monguno hails from Monguno Local Government Area of Borno State, one of the local governments that felt most the onslaughts of the Boko Haram. Residents of this town fled their homes, especially around January 2015, for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Maiduguri following the capture of the nearby Bama by the insurgents.

The people of these terror-hit areas and, indeed, almost all Nigerians felt so dejected like never before with hope of freely moving about almost gone until the present administration, in 2015, presented the name of this amiable, humble, complete gentleman and a detribalised Nigerian, retired Major General Monguno as the new NSA.

The son of Mohammed Monguno, who  was a brother to the late elder statesman, Ali Shettima Monguno, a former Minister of Internal Affairs in the first Republic. Monguno attended King’s College, Lagos, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in International Relations. He also has a PhD from a United Kingdom university. He was a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy 21st Regular Course, alongside former Chief of Defence Staff, the late Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.

As a combatant regular officer of the Nigeria Army, he held different prestigious positions in the army as Commander, Guards Brigade, Deputy Commandant, National Defense College, Chief of Defense Intelligence (CDI), Chief of Defense Logistics at the Nigerian Defence headquarters, Commander, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Oshodi Lagos, and most importantly, he was once recommended for the Chief of Army Staff position before his retirement in September 2013 at the age of 56.

As commander of the Guards Brigade, Monguno led the troop that saw the then President Umar Musa Yar’Adua off to the airport on one of his several trips abroad.

On assumption of office, Monguno spearheaded several strategies that injected the needed intelligence and synergy in the war against insurgency and other security threats. For instance, in February 2018, the NSA directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government to immediately set up budgetary allocations for counter-terrorism activities going on in the country.

He noted that the directive precipitated from the review of national counter-terrorism strategy carried out by his office,  and stated that the federal government, through his office, reviewed the strategy as part of efforts required to tackle the menace of terrorism, as it “is a call for action to all national and state MDAs, including non-governmental organisations and all well-meaning Nigerians, to consciously take up their roles as outlined in the strategy. Towards actualising this, MDAs are encouraged to make budgetary provisions for carrying out NACTEST activities. The Office of the National Security Adviser stands ready to collaborate with any MDAs, including facilitating contacts with resource persons both local and foreign.

His impact on the national economic recovery of the Buhari administration is as glaring as the result it yields. His revelation that the country loses about N127 billion annually to cyber-crime has led to the many successes garnered so far in cushioning leakages and the fight against internet fraud. It was Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno who disclosed that Nigeria lost such huge sums of money every year, especially between 2013 and 2014 to cybercrime through software piracy, intellectual property theft and malware attacks.

“Experts have shown that the cost of cybercrime to the nation is quite significant. The 2014 annual report of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, shows that between 2013 and 2014, fraud on e-payment platform of Nigeria’s banking sector increased by 183 per cent. Also, a report published in 2014 by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, United Kingdom, estimated the annual cost of cybercrime to Nigeria at about 0.08 per cent of our GDP, representing about N127 billion. Global tracking of cyber-attacks indicate that Nigeria is among countries with high cases of software piracy, intellectual property theft and malware attacks. This situation is a serious challenge to our resolve to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that the internet brings, while balancing and managing its associated risks,” he disclosed, adding that “considering the borderless nature of cybercrime and emerging cyber-security threats, the only viable way forward in fighting cybercrime is through multi-stakeholder, inter-agency, bilateral and multilateral collaboration and cooperation. ‘’It is in this light that we look forward to the work of the council with all stakeholders to make Nigeria’s online environment safe.

Not forgotten is the success achieved in the 2019 general elections, not to talk of the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the polls, both the victory given to all Nigerians before, during and after the elections. Prior to the elections, Monguno exerted utmost efforts to ensure that Nigerians went about unmolested as the processes for election went on. He ensured that no Nigerian was harassed or hampered in the discharge of his or her civic rights as an electorate, as he guaranteed neutrality of the security agencies and their personnel through the election period, thereby given Nigerians a process devoid of bloodletting.

He emphasised on this at a two-day ‘Election Security Management’ workshop organised by his office in Abuja. However, while he stressed the need for security agents to remain neutral, he also declared that in the face of threats to democratic values and sacred electoral process, security handlers would be charged to be firm and decisive, noting that the firmness would be in identifying, isolating and neutralising threats in the interest of national security.

The NSA observed that there had been concerns within and outside the country on challenges to the capacity of law enforcement agencies deployed on election duty.

Monguno’s decisive stance against electoral irregularities contributed immensely in transparency and fairness achieved at the polls. His maxim that “election rigging can ignite war” proved this much.

Monguno, without doubt, gave a lot to Nigeria that calls for more service by him to the fatherland.

Prior to his appointment as NSA in the second tenure of the Buhari administration, President Buhari in a meeting with some traditional rulers from southern part of the country noted that there was need to change the security architecture of the country, leading to speculations on the social media and the security and intelligence circles as to who could be most suitable and qualified to handle the worrisome security situation in the country.

Considering the fact that the office of the National Security Adviser is the intelligence powerhouse of the security structure, there came a growing discuss as to persons that may by angling to grab the position.

Prominent names alongside that of Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) such as former Interior Minister, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), Major General SD Aliyu (rtd), and Ambassador Ahmed Rufai were on top and sounded so high.

However, while some of these names seemed glowing brighter than Monguno’s, past activities of the power players had to be scrutinized while history is always the mirror to judge who deserves what political space. More Noteworthy is that while the power struggles went on, the seeming quiet President Buhari considered merit and probity as part of the criteria to anoint his NSA, and Monguno is still retained his position.

Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno is married to Nafisah Munir, the daughter of former Nigerian Ambassador to Turkey, Muhammad Lawal Munnir. He also has three children – Amir, Munnir and Samir.

A writer once confirmed Monguno telling him that to be born into a certain family or part of Nigeria is a privilege which does not make one better than anybody. A detribalised Nigerian who speaks Nigeria’s three major languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, with addition of Idoma, the cap, without any iota of doubt, truly fits General Mohammed Babgana Monguno to occupy this critical position at this critical time of Nigeria’s checkered, when intelligence and indubitable security expertise is most needed to curb this  escalating insurgency and multiparous security challenges.

Reverend Semaka is public affairs analyst and civil society advocate.

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