‘NIA saga could damage Nigeria’s foreign intelligence’
Deputy Chairman of the 2014 National Conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, wants the Federal Government to show restraint while investigating the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) over money found hidden in a flat in Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Akinyemi in a statement issued yesterday said he was alarmed when the NIA under the former Director- General, Ayodele Oke, stepped forward to claim ownership of the N13 billion the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) found in a private residence last month.
According to him, it is one of the sacred traditions of the external intelligence trade to admit nothing and to deny nothing. He added that a ‘saving grace emerged’ when President Muhammadu Buhari set up the Vice President Osinbajo-led committee ‘to untangle the web over the millions of dollars.’
But Akinyemi, a professor of Political Science who once served as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the President “inadvertently made a mistake” by failing to appoint anyone with a history of external intelligence experience unto the panel. He stated that external intelligence operations do not belong into the same security genre as domestic security forces like the SSS, EFCC and the Police.
“External Intelligence officers, otherwise called spies, do not operate under the same operational penalties as domestic intelligence officers. The ultimate penalty for a foreign spy in most countries is death. Countries go to incredible lengths to hide the identities of their agents both domestic and foreign and their operations. No receipts get issued. Budgets are called black budgets because they are never publicly acknowledged,” he said.
“It would have been reassuring if the President had appointed a former head of or a former very senior member of NIA to be a member of the panel. Even at this late stage, let me remind the Vice President that a lawyer with a specialty in constitutional law will not appreciate the niceties of international law. It is not too late to appoint a retired head of NIA as a consultant to the panel.
“Normally, foreign intelligence activities are shrouded in secrecy, and not in the glare of publicity. Now, the whole saga has made us a laughing stock in the world. Nigerian agents strewn all across Africa are now in dread of being exposed. Recruiting agents in future in Africa is going to be difficult out of fear of future exposure,” added.
Akinyemi, however, made recommendations, which he said could serve as damage control.
He said: “It is not too late to call in a former Director of NIA to serve as a consultant to the Osinbajo panel; no more leaks from the panel.
“Under no circumstances should the report of the panel in as far as it relates to the activities of the NIA be made public.
“Under no circumstances should the National Assembly be allowed to conduct hearings into the NIA affair. The Osinbajo Panel Report could be shared secretly with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.
“Should any NIA officer be found culpable, he or she should be quietly eased out. Putting a foreign intelligence officer on trial in an open court is going to be disastrous to external national security interests. If there is no provision to put an intelligence officer on trial in a secret and special court, an executive bill should be sent to the National Assembly to make provision for such.”