6 January 2013

Nigeria: 'Lack of Coordinating Body Hampers War Against Insurgency'

Security experts have raised concerns over the lack of a coordinating body to spearhead the current fight against insurgency in the country.

Different security agencies are currently involved in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the country. The police, the military, the office of the National Security Adviser, State Security Service, National Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency and the civil defence forces are all involved in what is now termed "counter-terrorism".

But their activities are not being coordinated by a central body, prompting some security experts to warn of possible failure of their efforts. A security officer who prefers to remain anonymous told Sunday Trust in Abuja that a central body is required to oversee the operations of security agencies in handling insurgency.

His comments followed the ongoing controversy among the federal legislators over who should coordinate the security agencies.

The controversy came up in the Senate in the course of considering the report of the harmonization committee on Bill for an Act to Amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and other Related Matters which calls for a coordinating body. The report was presented by Senator Mohammed Magoro-led Senate Joint Committee on National Security and Intelligence; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and Drugs, Narcotics, Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption.

It said the absence of a national coordinator to tackle the problem of terrorism in the country has affected teamwork among the security agencies.

The committee adopted the version by the House of Representatives which recommended that the National Security Adviser should coordinate counter-terrorism efforts. It urged the Senate to consider and pass the bill.

But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Ita Enang rejected the request.

He said: "The Office of the National Security Adviser is not known to law. It is just one of the 20 advisory offices approved for Mr President. Since it is not established by the legislature, the legislature cannot confer any responsibility on it. We should realize that if we make any mistake on this, it will be revisited later".

But security experts have warned that leaving the agencies without a central coordinator is counter productive.

"It is obvious that all the security agencies including the police, NSA, SSS and even the military were involved directly in the terror fight," one senior security official told Sunday Trust. "The fact is that all these agencies have to come under one umbrella so as to avoid suspicion and enhance efficiency. The President has already approved the establishment of a national counter terrorism outfit under the office of the NSA.

He said a recent regional conference on counter-terrorism in Abuja had also recommended creating a regional 'fusion centre' which could help coordinate such activities.

He said there were a number of laws that backed the establishment of the NSA office and empowered it to control other security services including National Security Agencies Decree.

The amended National Security Agencies Decree of 1986 (Cap 278 LFN 1993), provides grounds for the establishment of the Office of National Security Adviser (NSA) and its powers, he said.

Section 1 of the decree says: "The NSA shall take over and perform all the functions of the co-coordinator on National Security specified in section 4 of the Decree."

Similarly, Section 2 of the decree says "the NSA shall coordinate the activities of the National Security Agencies established under section of the Decree that is (a) SSS (b) National Intelligence Agency (c) Defence Intelligence Agency."

The same decree (section 7) appoints the NSA as the chairman of the intelligence community meetings, he said.

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