A crisis is an opportunity to make good on big changes. So never waste a good crisis. The late British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill (30 November 1874-24 January 1965) once wrote, “never let a good crisis go to waste”. After the brutal assassination of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (8 November 1938 – 13 February 1976), GCFR, on February 13, 1976, the central government realized that the coup d’état caught the government unawares. To rectify the situation and to prevent future occurrence, the government decided to reform the security apparatus in the country. Earlier the internal security of Nigeria was under the supervision of the Nigeria Police Force headed by Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusuf (1931-2015) from Katsina. Prior to the coup, internal security and intelligence were handled by the police Special Branch, a Secret Police, while external intelligence was conducted by the Research Department (RD), a unit of the External Affairs ministry.
The Central Government then enacted decree 27 of 1976. The decree signed into law by General Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, was for the creation of the National Security Organisation of Nigeria (NSO).
Decree No 27 of 1976, which set up the NSO, said the organization was employed for the following purposes: a) the prevention and detection of any crime against the security of Nigeria; b) the protection and preservation of all classified matter concerning or relating to the security of Nigeria; and c) such other purposes, whether within or without Nigeria, as the Head of the Federal Military Government may deem necessary with a view to securing the maintenance of the security of Nigeria. The decree recognised the powers of the Head of State to make provisions by instrument relating to such matters as the structure, designation, appointment and administration of the organisation as well as the manner in which its powers can be exercised. It also provided that specific officers of the organisation were to be conferred with the powers of “superior police officers”.
The activities of the NSO and the fluid nature of its mandate strengthened its image as an agency whose role covered all aspects of security activities, exercising powers: to obtain by secret sources or other means accurate intelligence regarding persons or organisations whether within or outside Nigeria, engaged in acts of espionage, subversion or sabotage against Nigeria, or engaged in acts which may threaten the security of Nigeria; to identify and where appropriate apprehend or assist in the apprehension of persons believed to have committed any crime against the security of Nigeria. The operational orders of the NSON also laid down the following assignments; to collect, collate, assess and disseminate intelligence information affecting Nigeria’s state security and the maintenance of public order; to detect and investigate all acts of subversion, espionage and sabotage against the country; to maintain records of individuals and organisations engaging in subversive activities; to investigate the reliability of persons who may have access to classified information or material and who may be employed in sensitive or scheduled posts; to advise and assist in the implementation of protective security measures in government establishments and sensitive installations, and to provide personal security to very important personalities.
In setting up the NSO, General Obasanjo recalled the then military governor of the Benue-Plateau state, Colonel Abdullahi Mohammed from Ilorin in Kwara state, to head the newly created NSO. General Obasanjo then replaced Colonel Abdullahi Mohammed with Colonel Abdullahi Shelleng (78) from Shelleng, Numan Local Government of Adamawa state as governor of Benue-Plateau state. Colonel Mohammed had earlier served as the director of Military Intelligence. Colonel Abdullahi who later retired as a Major General served as National Security Adviser to a head of state, General Abdusalam Abubakar, GCFR, and Chief of staff to two presidents, President Obasanjo and Shehu Umaru Yar’adua, GCFR. In 1976, General Obasanjo merged the special branch with the research department and created an office for the NSO at 15, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, which is the present office of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Colonel Abdullahi served till 1979 before handing over to Alhaji Muhammadu Umaru Shinkafi (1937-2016) from Kaura-Namoda, Zamfara State. Alhaji Shinkafi was succeeded in November 1983 when President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR, appointed Ambassador Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi (1934-2007) from Katsina. He was a Nigerian diplomat and security chief. When General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, came to power on August 27, 1985, he appointed Brigadier-General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau as Director-General of NSO. Brigadier-General Gusau later became the Chief of Army Staff and twice National Security Adviser to the President.
What General Obasanjo did in 1976 was in order for that is what obtains in other parts of the world. For example in the United Kingdom, it has a Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO)- Joint intelligence analysis. National Crime Agency (NCA) – Organised crime intelligence gathering and analysis. In addition to having intelligence and surveillance powers, officers from the National Crime Agency can hold any or all three of the powers of an (armed) police officer, immigration officer and/or customs officer. The Agency and its officers have special powers including acting as an enforcement authority for Unexplained wealth orders and access of internet records through the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. National Crime Agency officers are posted overseas in around 50 countries. They operate the UK Protected Persons Service, which includes witness protection.
Security Service/MI5 – Domestic counter-terrorism and counter-espionage intelligence gathering and analysis. Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) – Counterterrorism and protecting critical national infrastructure. National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU)- Domestic counter-extremism and public disorder intelligence gathering and analysis. National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NBIS)- Illegal firearms intelligence analysis. National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) – Economic crime intelligence gathering and analysis.
Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)/MI6 – Foreign intelligence gathering and analysis. Defense Intelligence (DI)- Military intelligence analysis. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – Signals intelligence gathering and analysis.
Shortly after assuming power, General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, enacted the National Security Agency Act on June 5, 1986. The Act disbanded the NSO and created three other agencies.
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCIES ACT—-An Act to disband the Nigerian Security Organisation and to create three security agencies, charging each with the conduct of the relevant aspect of the national security and other related matters.[1986 No. 19.] [5th June 1986] [Commencement.]
1. Establishment of National Security Agencies
There shall, for the effective conduct of national security, be established the following
National Security Agencies, that is to say- (a) the Defense Intelligence Agency; (b) the National Intelligence Agency; and (c) the State Security Service. 2. General duties of the National Security Agencies (1) The Defense Intelligence Agency shall be charged with responsibility for- (a) the prevention and detection of a crime of a military nature against the security of Nigeria; (b) the protection and preservation of all military classified matters concerning the security of Nigeria, both within and outside Nigeria; (c) such other responsibilities affecting defence intelligence of a military nature, both within and outside Nigeria, as the President, or the Chief of Defense Staff, as the case may be, may deem necessary. (2) The National Intelligence Agency shall be charged with responsibility for- (a) the general maintenance of the security of Nigeria outside Nigeria, concerning matters that are not related to military issues; and (b) such other responsibilities affecting national intelligence outside Nigeria as the National Defense Council or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary. (3) The State Security Service shall be charged with responsibility for-(a) the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; (b) the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and (c) such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary. (4) The provisions of subsections (1), (2) and (3) of this section shall have effect notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, or any matter therein mentioned. (5) In this section, “classified matter” has the same meaning assigned thereto in section 9 of the Official Secrets Act.[Cap. O3.] 3. Principal officers of the Agencies (1) There shall be appointed for each of the agencies, a principal officer, who shall be known by such designation as the President may determine. (2) The principal officers of the agencies shall in the discharge of their functions under this Act- (a) in the case of the State Security Service and the National Intelligence Agency, be responsible directly to the President; and (b) in the case of the Defence Intelligence Agency, be directly responsible to the Chief of Defense Staff. 4. Co-ordinator on National Security (1) to coordinate the intelligence activities of the National Security Agencies set up under section 1 of this Act, there shall be appointed by the President a Co-ordinator on National Security. (2) The Co-ordinator on National Security shall be a principal staff officer in the office of the President. (3) The Co-ordinator on National Security shall be charged with the duty of- (a) advising the President on matters concerning the intelligence activities of the agencies; (b) making recommendations in relation to the activities of the agencies to the President, as contingencies may warrant; (c) correlating and evaluating intelligence reports relating to the national security and providing the appropriate dissemination of such intelligence within Government, using existing facilities as the President may direct; (d) determining the number and level of staff to be employed by each agency established pursuant to section 1 of this Act and organising the transfer and posting of staff, especially the transfer and posting of existing staff of the Nigerian Security Organisation established pursuant to the Nigerian Security Organisation Act1976, repealed by section 7 (1) of this Act; (e) doing such other things in connection with the foregoing provisions of this section as the President may, from time to time, determine. 5. Establishment of advisory councils (1) There shall, in the interest of national security, be established two advisory councils, that is to say-(a) the National Defence Council; (b) the National Security Council. (2) The National Security Council shall be charged with responsibility for matters relating- (a) to public security; and(b) generally to the structure, staff and other matters concerning the agencies set up under this Act.(3) The National Defence Council shall advise the President on all matters concerning the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria. 6. Instruments relating to the advisory councils, the structure, etc., of the Agencies The President may by an instrument under his hand make provisions concerning the following matters, that is to say- (a) the composition, membership and appointment to the advisory councils established by section 5 (1) of this Act; (b) the structure of each of the agencies set up under this Act (including the designation and the appointment of the principal officers of the agency concerned) and how each agency is to be administered; (c) how the powers of each agency are to be exercised and the conferment on specified officers of the agencies, of the powers of a superior police officer; and (d) such other matters concerning or incidental to any of the matters mentioned in this Act as the President may deem fit. 7. Repeal, etc.
(1) The Nigerian Security Organization Act is hereby repealed. (2) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, the provisions of this Act shall prevail and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
That was the last time a comprehensive reform was carried out by any government in terms of national security and intelligence.
The main purpose of these bodies is to provide information to policymakers that may help illuminate their decisions options. We call them HINTS. Call them intelligence Agents, operation officers or desk officers, you can equally call them operation officers, analysts, field officers, rogue agents, detail officers or agent provocateurs. Their main duty is to collect information on any situation and report back to the government. The role of intelligence in determining outcomes of battles and wars has varied dramatically across conflicts and time, contributing to wide differences in judgments about the importance of intelligence in war. Some analysts minimize the importance of intelligence while others argue it is essential. General Babangida carried out those reforms in 1986 almost thirty-five years ago.
No doubt the intelligence community is now facing major challenges both internal and external. For some of us who read constantly, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Animar Habid, Daniel Silva, K.J. Howe, Mark Greaney, Brad Taylor, Jack Carr and other spy authors, appreciate the importance of intelligence in the running of government. I do not know whether our intelligence community is fully funded enough but the EndSARS protest now offers an opportunity to fund it adequately. We must reposition our intelligence system to meet the new technological world. Things have changed and they are still changing. The intelligence community must be totally reinvented and it can be done. The first step is to fund it and the second is to train effectively its personnel. The most important step is the complete restructuring of the intelligence community. The EndSARS protest has exhibited the failure of the leadership of the intelligence community in Nigeria. It is left for the government if it cares, to effect this restructure immediately.
The transformation must be a revolution rather than an evolution. The community must be innovative and flexible capable of rapidly adopting innovative technologies wherever they may arise. There has been too much talk about reforming the Nigeria Police Force after the EndSARS protests without thinking about the intelligence community. The Police and the intelligence community go in pari-passu, very closely related. Many people see the intelligence community as only wearing dark glasses and following the president and governors. Their schedule is more than that. They collect data to guarantee our security. In short, they are our foot soldiers.
I do not know the role played by the officers of the three agencies referred to above, that is Defence Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Agency and State Security Service in the EndSARS protests that we have just witnessed. I do not know whether they alerted the government enough before the EndSARS protests began. It is one thing for the security agencies to inform the government of what will happen, it is another thing for the government to take pre-emptive action. I do not know whether the action of our youths and the looters caught the government unawares. It’s about time we reorganize our security apparatus to meets the demand of modern-day technology.
Things have changed to warrant a comprehensive reform of our security apparatus. The internet is here, so is social media. How effective was the monitoring power of our security agencies in the EndSARS wars? How come the youths were steps ahead of the government in implementing the protests? The cyberwar is here in full and I do not know whether our security agencies are aware of the gravity of this war. As predicted we have been told that in the cyberwar that attackers will outpace incomplete and hurried patches, cybercriminals will turn to blockchain platforms for their transactions in the underground, banking systems will be in the crosshairs with open banking and ATM malware, deep fakes will be the next frontier for enterprise fraud and managed service providers will be compromised for malware distribution and supply chain attacks. Do our security agencies have enough equipment to fight this cyberwar?
In the past days, if you sent a letter or someone sent you, it could take days and sometimes even months to reach letter at the destination. In modern times, you can send a letter or important information to anyone in the e-mail all over the world through the internet. And, it often will be delivered to the destination in less than a minute. You can also use other forms of communication, such as VOIP and chat, they also enable you to send any information instantly to anyone in the world. With the internet, online forums also allow people to connect with each other where they can share common interests and talk about what they enjoy. Furthermore, you can share ideas or views with anyone by making an online video call through applications like skype, line, etc. That is the power of the internet and we saw it in use by the youths in the EndSARS protest.
Our security agencies must be well equipped to track these new inventions. The youths by the EndSARS protest have shown how powerful they could be in this internet world. I commend them. They have reawakened our minds to global developments. In a way they are heroes, the government must have to react now by taking a step in being proactive. We do not need to regulate social media. Social media is the way of the world now. We need to embrace it, adapt it, improve on it and exploit it to a positive end. The youths have taught us how to do it.
The EndSARS protest have offered us new opportunities. We must not waste it.
Lest I forget, why should we have police barracks? We don’t need police barracks in this country. It is a colonial legacy. By having police barracks we have quarantined the police personnel from the ordinary Nigerian, hence their brutish, swinish and sometimes beastly behaviour. Allow the police to live among the people so that they can understand the feelings and attitude of the people they are supposed to work with.
By Eric Teniola is a former Director at the Presidency.
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