Tuesday’s invasion of the National Assembly by operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) generated ripples across the country, and ultimately cost Lawal Daura his job as Director-General of the agency.
Considering the fact the DSS has always been in the news for unpleasant reasons since the advent of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, here are seven things that its new boss Matthew Seiyefa must do
PUT A CHECK ON INDISCRIMINATE ARREST AND DETENTION
The operatives of DSS are fond of swiftly swinging into action without getting their facts right — maybe in a bid to impress their paymasters or for pure political vindictiveness. The case of Abiri Jones, a journalist, among others, readily comes to mind. Abiri, publisher of the weekly source, a newspaper in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, was arrested and clamped in detention without proper trial by a court.
The DSS will do itself a lot of good by doing painstaking investigations before making arrests so as to get the needle of truth, if any, in a haystack of allegations. And when a person is arrested based on allegations, they should be handed over to a court for proper trial as this will enhance their credibility and put to rest the notion that the department is just a mere attack dog.
Since Seiyefa hails from Bayelsa just like Abiri, can we at least hope the journalist is immediately freed from detention?
STOP HIJACKING OTHER BODIES’ JOBS
Under Seiyefa, the DSS should stop seeing itself as an omnipotent body that can order arrest of members of other statutory bodies or organizations without due respect for their modes of operation or laws that established them as independent entities. The brazen arrest of federal judges and three judges of the Supreme Court by agents of DSS, sometime in 2016, for alleged corruption cast the agency in bad light. And despite the fact that the action caused national outrage, the DSS didn’t give a damn. Even if the allegations were true, the DSS by his action, flagrantly hijacked the role of the National Judicial Council. The DSS should know the limits to which it can exercise its powers.
GET THE MEDIA A NEW SPOKESPERSON
Ever since the sack of Marilyn Ogar, no new name has been announced as the DSS spokesperson. This, no doubt, is negatively affecting the public perception of the DSS. This is because the spokesperson should be the one in charge of relaying information or messages from the department to the public. As things stand, the media cannot verify information from the DSS. Too much is shrouded in secrecy, yet even a secret service agency must understand that there’s no harm having just one person as its face, interfacing with the public through the media when necessary.
STOP CONTRADICTING THE GOVERNMENT
Was anyone shocked when the Presidency nominated Ibrahim Magu for confirmation by the Senate and the DSS wrote the upper legislative chamber puncturing Magu’s reputation? Now, this is not to present Magu as holy or unholy; if he had skeletons in his cupboard — and the DSS should know — the agency ought to have written the presidency rather than the Senate. On Magu, the DSS worked not against Magu but against the government!
THOROUGH VETTING OF POLITICAL NOMINEES
Apparently, the DSS screening processes are too lax — the very reason they didn’t know about Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun’s alleged exemption certificate forgery and evasion of compulsory national youth service. Chief Okoi Obono- Obla, Special Assistant on Prosecution and Chairman, Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property in this administration’s touted ant-corruption crusade was accused of using fake SSCE results; WAEC already declared the lawyer’s SSCE result “fake and invalid”.
And the biggest of it all, were it not for the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Maimuna Aiyu, the ex Aso Savings boss would have fooled all of us and become a board member of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) at a time when she’d been nailed by the same ICPC for multi-million–naira corruption! All these costly mistakes of oversight on the part of DSS are making this administration a convenient butt of ridicule. Seiyefa’s DSS will do well to always do a thorough and dispassionate screening of nominees before their appointments are confirmed.
RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW
The DSS should know that the law is leveller. They should respect the pronouncement of court whenever a person is unjustly detained. Sambo Dasuki is an example. Yes, everyone knows it’s hard — almost impossible, in fact — for the ex-NSA to wash himself clean of any of the weighty allegations against him. Still, Dasuki must be prosecuted within the limits of the law; and if the courts say he should undergo his trial from home rather than from detention, the DSS must comply.
Those at the helm of affairs should turn the ACT establishing the department into a sort of Bible they read, and read all over again as this will avail them the opportunity of knowing what exactly they are appointed to do. For now, it looks as if that document is a closed book to them. There is no better time to do this than now, when ‘a new sheriff is in town’.