The primary responsibility of any government is to safeguard the lives and property of citizens. There may be differences in the way countries approach their national security but the ultimate aim is to ensure maintenance of social order.
In order to cater for its diverse and huge population, Nigeria has designed multiple layers of organisations focusing on a different aspect of intelligence and counterintelligence such as domestic, international, and counterterrorism. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) takes charge of foreign intelligence and Counterintelligence, while the Department of State Services (DSS) is saddled with Domestic intelligence and Counterintelligence.
In terms of the origin of NIA and DSS, the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, in fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president in June 1986, issued Decree Number 19 dissolving the National Security Organization (NSO) and restructuring Nigeria’s security services into three separate entities under the Office of the Coordinator of National Security.
I have been privileged to visit some western intelligence communities as a visitor. With what I observed there, I have no choice than to write and appreciate our intelligence chiefs in Nigeria.
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 severe the supply route and links of Islamic State of West Africa, ISWA. This explains why the threats of ISWA have scaled down for sometimes. Most of the operation of NIA goes unnoticed because it is not to he 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.
The DSS on the other hand, has its main responsibilities weaved within the country and include counter-intelligence, internal security, counter-terrorism and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of serious crimes against the state. It is also charged with the protection of senior government officials, particularly the president and vice president with their respective families and state governors.
On the other hand, 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 for 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 after, 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 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.”
On scale, Bichi has upped the DSS performance of its statutory role to the Nigerian State. In terms of its core role of intelligence and counter-intelligence, internal security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of grave crimes against the State, the DSS has performed excellently well under Bichi.
In its duty of protecting the senior government officials, particularly the president and his family, and state governors, the DSS has also proven its mettle.
According to the 1999 Presidential Proclamation, the DSS operates as a department within the presidency and is under the control of the National Security Adviser. In this regard, the DSS’ under Bichi’s leadership has contributed immensely to the ongoing fight against insurgency in the North East, banditry in Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger, especially in the areas of intelligence gathering.
There are many mind blowing covert operations the DSS have carried out without Nigerians knowing. This covert operation has led to uncovering of plots by unscrupulous elements, to foment troubles in parts of the country. Most times, when security activities are stepped up in some areas of the country without formal announcement, it is the hand work of the DSS.
For the DSS under Bichi, the crux of its duty is not to announce everything but to ensure that Nigeria and Nigerians are protected and safe!
One of such was manifested in the sudden disappearance of kidnappers on Kaduna-Abuja highway. Before Bichi was appointed, things got so bad on that axis that even the high and mighty were helpless. Thousands were kidnapped, with many of them killed, not counting the billions of naira paid out in Ransom to the kidnappers.
In collaboration with operatives of the Intelligence Response Unit of the Office of the Inspector-General of Police, the DSS was able to supply the information that led to the high profile arrest of kidnap, Chukwudumuje Onuoamadike, aka Evans in 2018.
Also, the DSS was instrumental to the arrest of the notorious North East kidnapper, Hamisu Bala, widely known as Wadume, two weeks after he was freed by soldiers from the custody of the police in Taraba state.
This is the era of heightened intelligence gathering mechanisms at the State Service. There have been major breakthroughs in the infiltration of kidnappers den, while high profile arrest has been made. Now travellers can travel on Nigerian roads without qualms.
Today, the DSS is no longer a law unto itself but has become exceptional in obeying court orders and upholding constitutionalism. In the sad past, that was one of the areas Nigerians had grouse with the DSS. Today, the story is different.
DSS and NIA have performed excellently in managing political terror gangs bent on destroying our great country. The efforts by the two intelligence are highly commendable. This explains why the two agencies have won several international awards, including those of the FBI and CIA.
Ibrahim is director, Communications and Strategic Planning, Presidential Support Committee (PSC).