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­­Intelligence community and the new challenge

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Crisis is an opportunity to make good on big changes. So never waste a good crisis.

The late British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill (30 November 1874-24 January 1965) once wrote, ”never let a good crisis go to waste”.

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After the brutal assassination of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (8 November 1938 – 13 February 1976), GCFR, on February 13, 1976, the central government realized that the coup d’etat caught the government unawares. To rectify the situation and to prevent future occurrences, the government decided to reform the security apparatus in the country. Earlier the internal security of Nigeria was under the supervision of the Nigeria Police Force headed by Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusuf (1931-2015) from Katsina.

Prior to the coup, internal security and intelligence were handled by the police Special Branch, a Secret Police, while external intelligence was conducted by the Research Department (RD), a unit of the External Affairs ministry.

The Central Government then enacted decree 27 of 1976. The decree signed into law by General Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, was for the creation of the National Security Organisation of Nigeria (NSO).

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Decree No 27 of 1976, which set up the NSO, said the organization was employed for the following purposes: a) the prevention and detection of any crime against the security of Nigeria; b) the protection and preservation of all classified matter concerning or relating to the security of Nigeria; and c) such other purposes, whether within or without Nigeria, as the Head of the Federal Military Government may deem necessary with a view to securing the maintenance of the security of Nigeria.

In 1976, General Obasanjo merged the special branch with the research department and created an office for the NSO at 15, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, which is the present office of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Colonel Abdullahi served till 1979 before handing over to Alhaji Muhammadu Umaru Shinkafi (1937-2016) from Kaura-Namoda, Zamfara State. Alhaji Shinkafi was succeeded in November 1983 when President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR, appointed Ambassador Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi (1934-2007) from Katsina. He was a Nigerian diplomat and security chief. When General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, came to power on August 27, 1985, he appointed Brigadier-General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau as Director-General of NSO. Brigadier-General Gusau later became the Chief of Army Staff and twice National Security Adviser to the President.

What General Obasanjo did in 1976 was in order for that is what obtains in other parts of the world. For example, the United Kingdom has a Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO)– Joint intelligence analysis. National Crime Agency (NCA) – Organised crime intelligence gathering and analysis. In addition to having intelligence and surveillance powers, officers from the National Crime Agency can hold any or all three of the powers of an (armed) police officer, immigration officer, and/or a customs officer.

Shortly after assuming power, General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, enacted the National Security Agency Act on June 5, 1986. The Act disbanded the NSO and created three other agencies: (a) the Defence Intelligence Agency; (b) the National Intelligence Agency; and (c) the State Security Service.

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That was the last time a comprehensive reform was carried out by any government in terms of national security and intelligence. The main purpose of these bodies is to provide information to policymakers that may help illuminate their decision options. General Babangida carried out those reforms in 1986 almost thirty-five years ago.

No doubt the intelligence community is now facing major challenges both internal and external. I do not know whether our intelligence community is fully funded enough but the EndSARS protest now offers an opportunity to fund it adequately. We must reposition our intelligence system to meet the new technological world. Things have changed and they are still changing. The intelligence community must be totally reinvented and it can be done. The first step is to fund it and the second is to train effectively its personnel. The most important step is the complete restructuring of the intelligence community. The EndSARS protests have exhibited the failure of the leadership of the intelligence community in Nigeria. It is left for the government if it cares, to effect this restructure immediately.

The transformation must be a revolution rather than an evolution. The community must be innovative and flexible capable of rapidly adopting innovative technologies wherever they may arise. There has been too much talk about reforming the Nigeria Police Force after the EndSARS protests without thinking about the intelligence community. The Police and the intelligence community go in pari-passu, very closely related. Many people see the intelligence community as only wearing dark glasses and following the president and governors. Their schedule is more than that. They collect data to guarantee our security. In short, they are our foot soldiers.

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I do not know the role played by the officers of the three agencies referred to above, that is Defence Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Agency, and State Security Service in the EndSARS protests that we have just witnessed. I do not know whether they alerted the government enough before the EndSARS protests began. It is one thing for the security agencies to inform the government of what will happen, it is another thing for the government to take pre-emptive action. I do not know whether the action of our youths and the looters caught the government unawares. It’s about time we reorganize our security apparatus to meets the demand of modern-day technology.

Things have changed to warrant a comprehensive reform of our security apparatus. The internet is here, so is social media. How effective was the monitoring power of our security agencies in the EndSARS wars? How come the youths were steps ahead of the government in implementing the protests? The cyberwar is here in full and I do not know whether our security agencies are aware of the gravity of this war. As predicted we have been told that in the cyberwar that attackers will outpace incomplete and hurried patches, cybercriminals will turn to blockchain platforms for their transactions in the underground, banking systems will be in the crosshairs with open banking and ATM malware, deepfakes will be the next frontier for enterprise fraud and managed service providers will be compromised for malware distribution and supply chain attacks. Do our security agencies have enough equipment to fight this cyberwar?

In the past days, if you sent a letter or someone sent you, it could take days and sometimes even months to reach the destination. In modern times, you can send a letter or important information to anyone by e-mail all over the world through the internet. And, it often will be delivered to the destination in less than a minute.

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You can also use other forms of communication, such as VOIP and chat, they also enable you to send any information instantly to anyone in the world. With the internet, online forums also allow people to connect with each other where they can share common interests and talk about what they enjoy. Furthermore, you can share ideas or views with anyone by making an online video call through applications like skype, line, etc That is the power of the internet and we saw it in use by the youths in the EndSARS protest.

Our security agencies must be well equipped to track these new inventions. The youths by the EndSARS protest have shown how powerful they could be in this internet world. I commend them. They have reawakened our minds to global developments. In a way they are heroes, the government must react now by being proactive. We do not need to regulate social media. Social media is the way of the world now. We need to embrace it, adapt it, improve on it, and exploit it to a positive end. The youths have taught us how to do it.

The EndSARS protest has offered us new opportunities. We must not waste it.

Lest I forget, why should we have police barracks? We don’t need police barracks in this country. It is a colonial legacy. By having police barracks we have quarantined the police personnel from the ordinary Nigerian, hence their brutish, swinish, and sometimes beastly behavior. Allow the police to live among the people so that they can understand the feelings and attitudes of the people they are supposed to work with.

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