Still on the opaque NIA matter
Like most Nigerians who value the place of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), in the scheme of our national affairs, I have been worried with the dimension the crisis occasioned by the leadership change at the agency seems to be assuming. I have known the former Acting Director General of the NIA, Ambassador Muhammed Dauda for the past 23 years. Besides my personal encounters with him, I know him as a very brilliant and highly reliable officer.
Until his rather unceremonious exit recently, I also know as a matter of fact that, Dauda has a service career devoid of any blemish, and is the most senior director in the service. As a career ambassador he has distinguished himself as a capable hand, qualified to hold any public office. I must also confess that I know the incumbent Director General, Abubakar Ahmed Rufai as a gentleman. He may not have been as outstanding as Dauda, given his rather checkered career in the NIA, leading to his stunted progress and eventual exit.
That he could not come out so clean as Dauda from his tour of duty at the African Union Intervention Force Headquarters, later United Nations in Darfur has been a carefully guarded secret amongst staffers. It was therefore obvious for those of us who know him that something may have gone wrong somewhere, to replace Ambassador Muhammed Dauda with Abubakar Rufai Ahmed. We also know that his antecedents do not qualify him for such a weighty responsibility. Events later revealed that, there were a lot of intrigues employed in removing Dauda and replacing him with Rufai, besides the obvious fact that a lot of moral questions hang over it. All the same, I had hoped that, in spite of the seeming world of differences in their capabilities, they are both aware of their duties to the nation and to the NIA in particular, and would have resolved matters in the best tradition of the agency.
When in obvious moves for vendetta, Ambassador Dauda was “dismissed,” by Rufai, relying upon purported recommendations of a committee, I was no longer in doubt that the NIA is in serious trouble. When the world was still celebrating Dauda’s rare show of statesmanship by his revelations about a planned scam, and saving the country $44 million from some light-fingered presidential aides and soul mates, it is rather ironical that those who attempted to steal the money are being pampered by a government that claims to be fighting corruption. In fact, the expose by Dauda has been effectively swept under the carpet, while he has become a virtual pariah. I restrained myself from saying anything because I feel the NIA, is the custodian of Nigeria’s international dossier and should be insulated from open media exposures and public ridicule.
I have decided to open up so that Nigerians are not carried away by the pretentions of the Government that Dauda is a villain and the others statesmen. The NIA has gone out of its way to hire a media strategist at a whopping cost of N20 million. I understand a publisher and self-acclaimed strategist has been briefed to do the job, and I can see he has started, albeit on the wrong footing. Nigerians need to know that the government is merely playing the ostrich with the changes at the NIA. It is an open secret that, such issues as the cover-up over the discovery of the initial $43 million at Osborne towers, the battle to steal another $44 million, the imbroglio following the unceremonious sack of Ambassadors Ayo Oke and Muhamed Dauada and the subsequent exposures by Dauda may further damage the already bad international image of the President Buhari administration, as the litany of corruption cases involving people very close to him may shock the world.
The prelude to the expose could be found in the lingering question as to why Muhammed Dauda is seen to being persecuted, while Ayo Oke is being glorified and allowed to enjoy the spoils of his era. Somebody else will address the real issues, but I have a duty to raise some posers, which may eventually serve as the clue that will expose the whole rot that bedeviled the NIA from the time of Oke, through Dauda and the current DG. I do not have to say that, the constitution of another committee to review what the Vice President, a Professor of Law, did with his committee was a mere smokescreen to the actual dismantling of the NIA by the cabal.
If one may ask, is the appointment of the DG of the NIA supposed to be based on laid down procedures, and were those procedures adhered to in the case of Abubakar Rufai Ahmed? Does the appointment violate the provisions of the law, which prescribe that the appointment of the DG shall be based on the recommendations of the NSA? I am privy to the fact that the NSA was effectively shut out of the whole process by the cabal.
Why was the 32 years’ tradition of the NIA in the appointment of DGs, which has always been from amongst serving directors, and always the most senior director being violated just to accommodate a retired deputy director? Nigerians should be interested in knowing why the vetting process in respect of Rufai was incomplete, as nobody went to Chad or Darfur, nor contacted those who grew up or schooled or even worked with him. Nigerians should equally demand proofs that Rufai Ahmed passed exams and the circumstances surrounding his double job at the United Nations and the NIA. It is pertinent to know, why he set aside the recommendations made to him by the Babagana Kingibe committee in paragraph 4 (1) that the DG of NIA should be appointed from core of serving directors? These issues Nigerians will like to see, in order to put this matter and not the resort to mundane insinuations of threats to national security.
A well-respected activist and politician’s accusations against two officials of bribing somebody to launder their images will tend to corroborate my earlier submissions to the effect the entire deal is becoming too apparent to ignore. From the setting up of the panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to investigate the scandal that arose from the infamous Ikoyi apartment cash scandal; the report of which has been swept under the carpet, to the panel set up to review Osinbajo’s work, they were all engineered towards converting the NIA to a cash cow.
The panel recommended that for an officer to qualify as NIA DG, he has to be a serving officer not below, the rank of a director, implying that Abubakar Ahmed Rufai was ineligible to head the agency. It also implies that those above him in the agency must be retired. As it is, there are five directors who must be retired from service, following the appointment of Abubakar, who retired five years ago as a deputy director. Records show that the current DG failed promotion exams to the rank of director three consecutive times, which led to his untimely retirement.
All these, including others, I may not be able to immediately recall, amount to very serious issues Nigerians ought to be interested in, than the cocktail of lies and half-truths one information strategist wanted us to believe.
•Ado, a retired officer of the NIA, wrote from Malali, Kaduna.