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Reforming National Security To Tackle Corruption, Crime And Terror By Ola’ Idowu

July 23, 2015

In the on-going march to deliver change to Nigerians by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the constitutional mandate of guaranteeing the security, welfare and economic well-being of every Nigerian would surely be topmost of his agenda but it would require massive reforms of most aspect of our national security to get this achieved otherwise it did be a struggle to do so.


Reforming Nigeria’s security services to tackle corruption, crime and terror that would guarantee the constitutional requirement of the security and well-being of Nigerians, is so much paramount seeing the massive cases of corruption bedevilling the country that have been either difficult to investigate or prosecute. Crimes cases ranging from homicide, political assassinations, white collar crimes, kidnapping etc. and of course the deadliest of all - terrorism led by Boko Haram. At the moment what we have are duplicitous government agencies doing very little to tackle corruption, a State Security Service (SSS) that cannot generate actionable intelligence to prevent terror attacks or protect Nigerians from the dangers of organised crime, due to a confusion over its real role and service to the nation and a Police force that in some cases is either overstretched, its roles duplicated by other agencies or under-utilised and funded. Put simply, our national security framework is confusing, disorganised, ineffective, backward and not serving the constitutional rights and interests of Nigerians at all.

Let’s start with the bodies assigned at the moment to deal with corruption. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Corruption (ICPC) by the different acts establishing them have so much overlapping functions, that make them a drain on the nation’s purse and confusing as to their functions. The two commissions are primed with tackling corrupt practices including contract scams, while the EFCC’s act talks about financial crimes in banks and money laundering, the ICPC talks about corruption from public officers. In recent cases brought to court by the EFCC, there have been former public officers charged for corruption, money laundering etc. just like what the ICPC was also established for. As part of the reforms to our national security, the act establishing the ICPC in 2000 should be scrapped and the commission merged together with that of EFCC with the establishing act of the later expanded to take up all the roles of the former. Investigative officers working with the ICPC should be transferred over to the EFCC as well as all the physical assets of the former commission. Parts of the budget of the scrapped ICPC is transferred to the now expanded EFCC with more functions and some savings on our national purse made where appropriate. The 2002 establishing act of the financial crimes commission is amended to reflect its new functions, and with full clarity over its role it can then be made to be more effective and fully tackle corruption.

To further take on the hydra-headed issue of corruption and stealing by public officers, the Serious Fraud Unit (SFU) presently under the Nigeria Police Force would need to be upgraded into a full and independent agency. Its functions would be to investigate serious financial crimes particularly those with international dimensions, capital flight crimes, foreign exchange (forex) laundering, large contract scams involving our public agencies and foreign companies or corporations etc. At the moment, the EFCC hardly has any powers to investigate or track monies laundered abroad by corrupt Nigerians except when they have to rely on foreign agencies for help. The SFU when upgraded and made independent of the Police Force, can take on that role from the EFCC and make sure the financial crimes commission are not overstretched in their duties. What you don’t want is the EFCC investigating or prosecuting an individual for a financial crime of N1 or 2 million and then still be involved in investigating a $2 billion crime committed by a corrupt public official. The end up being stretched to limits leading to shoddy investigations and prosecutions. There is a need for a set threshold of financial crime and possible international dimension of the crime, at which point the SFU takes over and does the investigation and prosecution. In saying this though, it does not stop both agencies collaborating in sharing data and technology, as well as investigative processes and procedures.

Corruption makes it difficult to unite Nigeria and make the nation work. It separates the people from government and make many Nigerians despondent and lose hope in the country’s future. Thus its vital the ICPC and EFCC are merged, while the SFU upgraded as an independent agency and empowered to tackle corruption which is a national security threat. That leads us to the issue of organised crimes, homicide, human trafficking etc. In 1976, the National Security Organisation (NSO) was established to as part of its functions guarantee internal security killing off the more investigative oriented Police Special Branch which was merged with it. The NSO came into being due to the brutal killing of then Head of State Murtala Muhammed, and its main function turned out to be the protection of state functionaries rather than Nigerians and unfortunately it has remained so since then. In 1985, the NSO under late Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi for once went against a state functionary when it investigated former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida.

Babangida then was involved in a military hardware company in Kaduna together with his in-law Sunny Odogwu which brought the attention of the Rafindadi led NSO on him. On assuming power in August 1985, Babangida would soon scrap the NSO the following year and started the SSS which returned to protecting just state functionaries and in fact was strengthened to become a full Gestapo organisation. The lowest point of the organisation till date has been its involvement in the October 19th, 1986 murder of the late Dele Giwa who was murdered by a parcel bomb with the troika of Aliyu Gwarzo and A.K Togun (both Directors and Deputy Directors of the SSS) as well as Haliru Akilu of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) all heavily fingered in the barbaric crime. The SSS went on to trample on the rights of Nigerians during the June 12 1993 crisis, the harsh and brutal years of the late Sani Abacha, all the way to their partisan nature since the start of democracy especially during the last elections where they fully showed their hands in support of the state and its functionaries alone rather than for the constitutional requirements of guaranteeing the security of Nigerians. There is no mistaking it, the SSS from its creation and more so under former President Goodluck Jonathan is nothing more than a Gestapo organisation.

It’s thus not a surprise that the SSS cannot provide any actionable intelligence to tackle the Boko Haram terrorism at the moment as well as incidences of kidnappings across the country. They also have hardly cracked any cases of political assassinations, homicide etc. To put it mildly, the SSS as presently constituted has never provided internal security to Nigerians at all, but rather to state functionaries. To reform the organisation, it would have to be downgraded to a function it is always desperate to perform rather than protect all Nigerians. Section 2 (1) (ii) of Instrument No. SSS 1 of 23rd May, 1999, made pursuant to Section 6 of the National Security Agencies (NSA) decree of 1986 which has been re-enacted as Section 6 of NSA Act CAP N74 LFN 2004, empowers personnel of the SSS to provide protective security for designated principal government functionaries including, but not limited to the President and Vice President as well as members of their immediate families. The SSS also provide protective security for sensitive installations such as the Presidential Villa and visiting foreign dignitaries. That is all the function the SSS wants to provide for the state and asking it to do more would be over-stretching the agency. This is also the functions the American Secret Service Protection does for their President, Vice-President, immediate family members etc. excluding state governors in the US, and the reformed SSS should be remodelled on the basis of the US Secret Service Protection.

In reforming our national security, the SSS like I said should be downgraded strictly to that function alone, while a new Federal agency be established to tackle a long range of organised crimes and many more. The Federal Investigative and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB) Alagbon, Lagos state should be upgraded and turned to our own answer of the FBI. The Force Criminal Investigative and Intelligence Department (FCIID) should be extracted from the Police force and merged with the upgraded FIIB who can take over the Yellow House headquarters of the SSS in Abuja as well as keep their iconic Alagbon close location. The different departments in the Police CIID like Administration, Anti-fraud section, Central Criminal Registry (CCR), X-Squad (like a SWAT Squad), Investigation, Intelligence, Legal Section, Forensic Science, Interpol Liaison, Homicide, Anti-Human Trafficking as well as Cyber-Crime Unit (which I have added) are all upgraded into the new FIIB Alagbon and made independent of the Nigerian Police as well as funded from first line charges from our national budget.

There are lots of well trained officers working with the FIIB at the moment who are under-utilised while the country is being ravaged by terror, organised crime, assassinations, armed robbery, and inter-state as well as transnational and cross-border crimes. When we have the new FIIB with field offices (they can take over the physical infrastructures of the present SSS) across all cities in our country, as well as in some strategic towns and smaller cities we can then start talking of generating actionable intelligence to tackle terrorism and organised crimes. The FIIB would be made to recruit graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions with qualifications in Social Sciences, Humanities, Science and Technology and other related fields as their field agents across the country investigating organised crimes, gathering intelligence, handling informants, setting-up undercover security operations etc. to guarantee the security and welfare of all Nigerians unlike what we have with the SSS at the moment. The FIIB would be peopled by experts and agents who can adopt best practices and current security processes and procedures to ensure our safety, disrupt organised crimes and criminals, disrupt terror attacks, stop economic saboteurs as well as the operations and espionage intentions of foreign spies.

For example, the country presently looks helpless in the face of bombings by Boko Haram with the SSS making no single or meaningful arrests so far. The reason is they do not have field agents across the country, neither do they follow up on latest intelligence techniques or methods. Mere reading regularly of foreign news dailies alone can help the SSS gather intelligence let alone there are many other sources of gathering intelligence that can be used to defend the nation. A recent confession by an ISIS bomb maker captured in Baghdad recently has shed some light on how they carry out suicide bombings within the city. From his confession, its obvious that there is no point going to look for Boko Haram operatives in forests at the moment if we want to stop suicide bombings, as they are most likely living within the cities they are bombing at the moment with ease. The Iraqi bomb maker revealed he had his bomb making factory within Baghdad and also kept all the suicide bombers there. Its from the factory he prepares the would be suicide bomber and drives them to their target location to carry out the heinous terror.

If there are bombings in Gombe, Yobe, and Maiduguri regularly, the attention of security services should be focused on abandoned factories, houses, suspicious buildings etc. within the affected cities. In other words, the suicide bombers and the people who prepare them do not come out of any known Boko Haram forests as that would be too much logistics for them, but rather from within the cities they are bombing at the moment. If we had the FIIB as a national agency with field agents across Nigerian cities, it would have been easier to detect such terror activities and easily disrupt them. The State Police Command can continue as they are with their respective departments as well as CID departments, but there would be a delineation of duties between what a State Police command can investigate and what the FIIB can also investigate and prosecute. For example, the recent bank robberies in Ikorodu had inter-state connections which makes it fall under the purview of the FIIB and Lagos state Police Command, thus while the Police do a preliminary investigation, the FIIB would use its resources and field agents to find the rest of the criminals across the country and since armed robbery is a federal crime, they can also go ahead and prosecute them. This helps the different state police commands concentrate on keeping law and order within their states and save them resources (human and money) in investigating many crimes that the FIIB can throw their resources and expertise at.

The Inspector-General of Police can then be in charge of setting Police service standards and frameworks for their operations while the FIIB stays independent as a federal agency with a Director-General in charge. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) can stay in its present form and continue its functions as there is clarity in the role of that particular agency (one of the few security agencies we have with clarity in its function). The Ministry of Internal Affairs is also fully reformed as part of our national security reforms to ensure that our Custom service works effectively, Immigration Services take their duties more seriously and work with the newly created FIIB to identify foreign criminals, and participate together in surveillance activities against cross-border criminals.

In the long run, we would also need to fast-track the National Identity card scheme being handled by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure there is a full database of Nigerians that the security agencies can work with. In the mean time, there are so many collated data of Nigerians, the new FIIB can use e.g. INEC, FRSC, NCC, Telecommunication Companies, State governments etc. to build a full database that they can use for forensic purposes when  investigating crime. Overall, all the security agencies would need to have a framework in place where they can share intelligence, data and information as well as have safeguards in place to ensure the privacy of data in their possession and prevent unauthorised access by staff or outsiders to their databases. Nothing in the long run would work if there is rivalry between the security agencies, the aim should be for all the agencies to cooperate and have plenty of knowledge, information and intelligence sharing between them to guarantee the security and welfare of all Nigerians.


Ola’ Idowu a researcher writes in from the UK.

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