The primary responsibility of any government is first to safeguard the lives and property of citizens. There may be differences in the way countries approach their national security but the ultimate aim is to ensure maintenance of social order.
In order to cater for its diverse and huge population, Nigeria has designed multiple layers of organisations focusing on a different aspect of intelligence and counterintelligence such as domestic, international, and counterterrorism. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) takes charge of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence, while the Department of State Services (DSS) is saddled with domestic intelligence and counterintelligence.
In terms of the origin of NIA and DSS, the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, in fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president in June 1986, issued Decree Number 19 dissolving the National Security Organization (NSO) and restructuring Nigeria's security services into three separate entities under the Office of the Coordinator of National Security.
I have been privileged to visit some Western intelligence communities as a visitor. With what I observed there, I have no choice than to write and appreciate our intelligence chiefs in Nigeria.
Staff of NIA are regarded to be highly skilled, intelligent and very discreet in their operations. NIA has a manifest albeit covert role of preserving Nigeria's eminence, pride and dignity through repossessing and intercepting secret information that is capable of imperiling Nigeria's National Interest and breaching its national security.
President Muhammadu Buhari's appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the Director-general of the NIA changed the tide. Looking back at the sequence of events in the last two years as it relates to the fine-tuning of the Nigerian security strategy, you will discover that a lot of impetus has been injected into the security operation of the NIA, especially in the areas of intelligence and counterintelligence.
The NIA under its current D-G, Rufai Abubakar, has done so much to identify and severe the supply route and links of Islamic State of West Africa, ISWA. This explains why the threats of ISWA have scaled down for sometimes. Most of the operation of NIA goes unnoticed because it is not to he announced for security reasons.
Without a doubt, the combination of Ahmed Rufai-led NIA and Yusuf Bichi-led DSS is providing a new lease of life for Nigerians through proactive intelligence and counterintelligence operations.
The DSS on the other hand, has its main responsibilities weaved within the country and include counterintelligence, internal security, counter-terrorism and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of serious crimes against the state. It is also charged with the protection of senior government officials, particularly the president and vice president with their respective families and state governors.
On the other hand, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Yusuf Bichi as the Director General of the DSS in 2019 at a low moment for the Department. There was dire need for the appointment of a leadership with charisma, courage, candour and dexterity. It required a man who has the acumen to steer the Service back to the path of professionalism and refocus back to excellence. That era was full of controversies on who ordered for what operations.
It was a case of inconsistency galore. Suddenly, as an expert in recruiting credible hands, President Buhari reached and dragged Bichi out of retirement to come and salvage the situation. Almost two years after, evidence, it is said, is the end of argument.
Conversely, the seismic shift from bravado and grandstanding, which almost dented the image of the Service before Bichi was appointed, has given way to meticulous approach to solving Security questions. The trend now is professionalism in the plotting, calibration and conduct of the Security Roadmap for Nigeria.
This new narrative attracted the attention of a Geneva-based organization to extend an Award to Bichi. After the 2019 presidential election, an election monitoring group known as the International Human Rights Commission, Geneva, Switzerland, honoured Bichi with an award. According to the group, "the award was in recognition of the exemplary performance by the Service and its personnel during the just concluded 2019 general elections."
On scale, Bichi has upped the DSS performance of its statutory role to the Nigerian State. In terms of its core role of intelligence and counter-intelligence, internal security, counter terrorism, and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of grave crimes against the State. The DSS, no doubt has performed excellently well under Bichi.
There are many mind blowing covert operations the DSS have carried out without Nigerians knowing. This covert operation has led to uncovering of plots by unscrupulous elements, to foment troubles in parts of the country.
Ibrahim is director, Communications and Strategic Planning, Presidential Support Committee (PSC)