Given their backgrounds in the industry, the relationship between Dr Edmund Dakorou as Minister of State for Energy and Mr Funso Kupolokun as the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was always going to be difficult. And so it proved. By 2005, it had become clear that the duo could not work together in harmony and their hostility towards each other had become known not only within the oil and gas sector but also in the media.
Against the background that working at cross-purposes in such a critical sector was detrimental to the goal of his administration, President Olusegun Obasanjo dealt with the problem through his National Security Adviser (NSA), Lt General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd).
One afternoon, Gusau invited both Dakorou and Kupolokun to his house. First to arrive was Kupolokun and shortly after, Dakorou joined. Without wasting time, Gusau asked the duo to the dining table where he served them tea. For about five minutes, Gusau said nothing and the silence was deafening since Dakorou and Kupolokun avoided exchanging any words. After sometime, Gusau turned to Kupolokun and said: “Funsho, the president said I should tell you that you are doing a very good job at NNPC and you should continue.” For another three minutes, Gusau continued to sip his tea before he turned to Dakorou and said, “Edmund, the president said I should tell you that you are doing a very good job in the Ministry of Energy and wants you to continue.”
The interlude that followed made both Dakorou and Kupolokun uncomfortable but Gusau took his time before he finally declared: “Gentlemen, the president said I should tell both of you that if you cannot work together as a team, he will sack you together.”
While Kupolokun and Dakorou did not exactly become friends after the encounter with Gusau, that marked the end of their acrimony, at least in the public space; as they learnt to tolerate one another in the interest of the administration they were both serving.
That story becomes instructive against the background of what is currently happening within the nation’s security system where the challenge has been compounded by a fight over turf that is evident at the level of political leadership. Yet, for as long as there is no synergy between these agencies, our collective security as a nation will continue to be endangered. The pertinent questions arising from such a state of affair are: Who takes the lead in times of crises? Who has a global picture of things to ensure that everyone is on the same page? Do they have a shared database to ensure the relevant agencies get the requisite information in real time and act on them?
The manifestations of the dire national security situation can be glimpsed from the violent encounters between farmers and pastoralists in several theatres across the country; the ease with which Boko Haram insurgents invade schools to carry away our female students in large numbers; the rate at which sundry criminal cartels are feeling emboldened as we see in the case of Zamfara State; the intermittent eruptions over religion as well as the perennial settler-indigene sectarian violence. It goes without saying that in environments of fragile peace such as ours, the interlinked nature of security and development is inescapable since the former is a necessary precondition for any socio-economic progress.
Unfortunately, it is the failure of the security and crime detection agencies which accounts for why the military that should ordinarily channel its energy and resources towards protecting our territorial integrity as a nation has had to deploy troops in practically all the 36 states of our country today. What is more disturbing is a situation where senior officials of these critical agencies constitutionally responsible for protecting us would not only be openly trading blames and damaging accusations but would indeed seek to discredit one another in a bid to score cheap advantage.
Although inter-agency frictions have long been apparent under the current dispensation, especially following what transpired in the Senate during the confirmation hearing of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu on whom the Directorate of State Security (DSS) wrote a damning report, it is now evident that the trouble in the sector poses a serious national security threat. Yet, President Muhammadu Buhari has shown no willingness to deal with the problem that festers by the day and puts all of us in danger.
Last weekend, there were reports in some online media quoting both the DSS Director General, Mr Lawal Daura and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana M. Monguno (rtd), as trading damaging allegations. Upon enquiry, I discovered the media stories were based on the Senate “Report of the Ad Hoc committee on investigation of the arrest episodes of Tuesday 21st November 2017 among officers of EFCC, NIA and DSSS” simply dated March 2018, a copy of which I obtained yesterday.
Since President Buhari came to power with the promise to restore the economy, fight corruption and tackle general insecurity in the country, it is hard to believe that those who head the agencies expected to deliver on two of those main planks are not only bitter enemies but are fighting openly to subvert one another, and in the process, the system. That is the only conclusion to draw from the Senate report which then explains why the country has practically been reduced to a killing field where entrepreneurs of violence ply their nefarious trade everywhere, almost unchallenged by the state.
The story started on 22nd November, 2017 when the attention of the Senate was drawn to a botched arrest drama involving EFCC officials and operatives of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) and DSS. Following their investigations, in the course of which the Senators took both oral and written testimonies from all the principal actors, the Senate concluded that the acrimony in the relationship between those manning our security agencies “was noticed from the outset of the investigation, leading the committee to conduct the hearings in camera as well as holding separate meetings with the Security Agencies. This lack of cooperation and cohesion is reflected at a secondary level with the EFCC and the NSA belonging to one group and the NIA and DSS belonging to another group.”
When he appeared before the Senate committee last December, Magu submitted a memorandum and also gave oral testimony. According to the report, the highlights of his submissions were that the EFCC operatives were on a legitimate mission to arrest both Ekpenyong and Oke, for cases bordering on alleged conspiracy, abuse of office, theft and money laundering. But they were obstructed by heavily armed operatives from the two security agencies: DSS and NIA. “Upon arrival at the aforementioned address, the Commission’s operatives met heavily armed personnel of the DSS numbering about thirty (30) with three (3) operational vehicles. In a bid to carry out our legitimate duty, the (EFCC) operatives approached the DSS personnel at the gate, introduced themselves and requested to see the former Director-General, Mr. Ita E. Ekpenyong. Their response to the operatives was ‘No’. Upon further inquiry and presentation of Warrant of Arrest, they responded as follows: ‘We are under instruction from the Headquarters’. A similar situation, according to Magu, occurred at the residence of Oke whose official residence was also defended by heavily armed NIA officials.
Meanwhile, Daura who also submitted a memorandum and appeared before the committee to give oral evidence contradicted the claims by Magu. He traced the standoff between the agencies to the events that occurred in July 2016, “in the aftermath of the inauguration of the probe Panel set up by the NSA, upon the approval of the President to investigate Defence procurement from 2014 to 2015.”
According to Daura, shortly after the commencement of investigation, “operatives of the DSS, serving on the panel were removed by the NSA, leaving members from the Military, NIA and EFCC to continue the investigation. Thereafter, the DSS acting on intelligence discovered that some Ad-Hoc members were brought in by the NSA to serve on the committee. These Ad-Hoc members were later found to be involved in some shady deals, which bordered on corrupt practices. The Service subsequently arrested Mohammed Umar (Air Commodore/Rtd), the arrowhead of the members involved in extorting money from suspects under investigation in order to give them soft landing. At the end of investigation, he (Umar) was arraigned in court and is presently being prosecuted at the Federal High Court, Abuja.”
Daura argued that because both Mungonu and Magu were unhappy about the arrest and prosecution of Umar, “they decided to embark on a vendetta to investigate the Service on some trumped-up charges, including corrupt practices. The starting point of this was the invitation sent to Ita Ekpenyong and Kunle Kadiri, former Director-General State Services (DGSS) and Head of Account of the DSS, respectively.”
The investigation, Daura contends “was actually a voyage of discovery to fish out incriminating evidence against the Service with a view to depict it and the Management as being corrupt.…The Service discovered that this effort by the Commission was part of a clandestine investigation of DSS accounts by a team set up by the NSA in collaboration with the EFCC Acting Chairman in complete violation of extant laws pertaining to financial regulations of the Service.”
Daura quoted the extant laws which he said forbid what Monguno and Magu were trying to do except with the express permission of the president or the EFCC Board (of which he is statutorily a member along with the CBN Governor, Attorney General of the Federation and 15 other stakeholders) before he declared: “The method (brawn instead of brain) deployed by the current EFCC under Magu is a Gestapo style that belongs to dictatorial regimes. The Acting Chairman runs the agency based on public rumours, maneouvers, gossips, political interferences from certain quarters and Marabouts.”
In his written and oral testimonies last December, the then Acting NIA Director General, Ambassador Mohammed Dauda (who has since been replaced) said there was no official communication to the Agency from the EFCC on the exact mission of its operatives to the official residence of his predecessor, Oke and that he got wind of it only from the media. “It was the expectation of the DG NIA that a prior notice would be served on the Agency by the EFCC, particularly against the backdrop of the fact that the former DG NIA was still resident in the Command House (official residence of a serving DGNIA), while in the process of handing-over in line with extant practice. By virtue of its status, the Command House is a critical National Security Asset with sensitive documents and equipment. Accordingly, the attempt to storm the Command House to effect an arrest had far-reaching national security implications”, said the report.
The report added: “Resistance against the EFCC by Operatives of the NIA consequently served a larger national interest, in order to maintain the sanctity of the Agency, its operatives and sensitive security assets in the Flag House. The NIA is a Secret Service, whose operations are clandestine and highly classified. Accordingly, it is imperative to shield the Agency from further negative publicitv. He regretted that the EFCC under the Magu has been hostile to and uncooperative with the NIA leading to the massive withdrawal of NIA operatives from the services of the EFCC.”
The last to give evidence though only in oral testimony was Mungonu who admitted knowledge of the letter submitted to his office by Daura but disregarded it because “it was written in a distasteful and impolite tone.” Monguno, according to the report, traced the “ongoing investigation by the EFCC as an outcome of the Vice-President’s Panel which discovered the misappropriation of $289 Million Intervention which was released by the CBN to some Security Agencies around 2015” but also added that “he was not aware of the EFCC Chairman’s plan to arrest any of the persons until after the media frenzy and that the resistance made by the Security Agencies during the arrest episode cast some aspersions.”
Monguno expressed concerns about the apparent lack of unity and cooperation which has led to the current state of disharmony amongst the sister Agencies. “He said that this resulted due to the National Security Agencies Decree 1986 which has stripped the NSA of the power to check the other Security Agencies that have now become independent of his office due to their now ‘easy’ access to the President. Thus, there is a desperate need to streamline the Agencies and make them answerable to the NSA.”
The most critical part of the report is the claim that Monguno “informed the Senators during the meeting that the President is very aware of the state of things as he has informed him of the situation and also presented evidences of some instances in which his duties were usurped due to the lack of discipline exhibited by the Security Agencies…He harped on the fact that failure to arrest this situation would have transnational implications as the hierarchical structure for command has been compromised.”
Incidentally, I dealt with the implications of inter-agency rivalry on 26 November 2012 at that year’s edition of the Chief of Army Staff Conference in Asaba, Delta State to which I had been invited by then Army Chief, Lt General Azubuike Ihejirika. In my paper titled, ‘Terrorism and Inter-Agency Coordination in Nigeria’, which can be found online, I highlighted the fact that years of rivalry between and among these agencies have constituted a serious threat to our national security. But even at that, I did not envisage that the situation could degenerate to the level in which it is today in Nigeria. Just yesterday, some thugs invaded our National Assembly and went away with the Senate Mace in broad daylight despite the high number of policemen (including those carrying bags for our big men) at the place.
The most elementary doctrinal pillar that undergirds national security is the recognition of the primacy of national interest. In that regard, it is the need to preserve the integrity of security agencies as state institutions that equips every president to contain the excesses of security chiefs, especially when their private agenda begin to muddy the national interest or vitiate the integrity of the institutions they head. In a situation where the personal interests and tendencies of these security chiefs are allowed to blossom uncontrolled, the agencies quickly grow into private armies that clash openly at the slightest opportunity.
It is this red line that was crossed by operatives of the DSS, NIA and EFCC on the streets of Abuja in November 2017 which necessitated the intervention of the Senate. When added to inter-agency squabbles between the military and the police—whose men have become easy targets for extermination by armed robbers and sundry hoodlums—we are face to face with the precise reasons why our national security is today in tatters.
What is baffling to most observers is how President Buhari has allowed the institutions of national security to be freely carved up into clashing and competing private fiefdoms of ambitious and lawless chieftains who have carried their fights into the public arena. Tragically, it is this dysfunction between the security agencies and the unhealthy rivalry among their heads that has led to the current state of general insecurity in the country.
I hope President Buhari will deal with the issue before it is too late