Nigerians woke up on Tuesday last week to a rare spectacle of stand off in Abuja between two state armed agents of law enforcement. The scenes were the homes of the immediate past Directors-General of the State Security Service, Mr Ekpenyong Ita and the National Intelligence Agency, Mr Ayodele Oke, where armed operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had gone to effect the arrests of the two former spy chiefs.
Predictably, the armed guards protecting their principals resisted. Most residents, including diplomats, on the Mamman Nasir Street were trapped in their houses, guns were corked, and people could have died at slightest mismanagement of the siege. This was uncalled for. This was avoidable.
It was rare in the sense that the face off wasn't spontaneous. The build up had been rehearsed and choreographed in subtle actions and words over time. There had been no love lost among these agencies. Nigerians had rightly called it inter-agency rivalries.
Did the EFCC take the best route to its destination. Perhaps not. In the enabling law - National Security Agencies Act (Cap 278 LFN), section 14 of the Instrument No. SSS 1 says "the Director-General is responsible to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for proper expenditure and accounting of all funds made available to the Service from the Security Vote or any other source;
"The accounts of the State Security Service shall not be subject to external audit, but the director-general shall, by the first week of March each year, render to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, returns of expenditure, and copy the National Security Adviser."
For emphasis, the law further states that "if any existing Service Regulation is inconsistent with the provisions of this Instrument, the provisions of this Instrument shall prevail, and that regulation shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void". The same provisions are applicable to the NIA.
Flowing from above, if the EFCC had stumbled on any evidence of corruption in any of these agencies, the best approach would have been to compile such and send it to the President, either directly or through the National Security Adviser. If the President is not satisfied with the returns of expenditure that covered this discovery, he could set up a small committee of people knowledgeable in intelligence to investigate the claims. The outcome of such inquiry would now guide the President on the next line of action.
In the case of NIA, the President is said to have inaugurated this month an Administrative Panel that includes Babagana Kingibe, Zakari Ibrahim, Niyi Oladeji and Albert Horsfall. If these tested hands in Intelligence have advised EFCC to put on hold all actions on Mr Oke until the conclusion of their assignment and submission of report to the President, so what is the motivation to arrest him before the President takes a decision ?
Again, if the current Director-General of the State Security Service has written several correspondences to the EFCC advising on the proper processes and procedures to initiate any inquiry into its operations, then why embark on a potentially fatal mission to an armed zone that is the residence of a former Director-General Ekpenyong Ita?
If it's the alleged $2.1b arms purchase deal, the SSS have repeatedly said they were not involved in it as evidenced by the non-invitation of any of their retired or serving personnel by the Presidential Investigateive Panel and that even the publicised findings of the Panel did not recommend any retired or serving personnel of the Service for further investigations. The Panel has since been disbanded.
If it is any presidential intervention fund for purchase of equipment for the security of the country, then those knowledgeable in such matters (and they are many in the country) could be assembled by the President to verify.
This is not a case for klieg light investigation or media promotion of an agency's effectiveness. Worst would be an open court process where the whole world would feast on the potentials, arsenals, past and present operations of a country's Secret Service. This is not a case of fighter jets and armoured personnel carriers. It is about state secrets. The destruction starts from here. Stop it!