The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and its current Director General (DG), Ambassador Ayo Oke have been in the news for the past two weeks for justifiable or unjustifiable reasons, depending on which side of the divide you belong. Suffice to say that the NIA has been in existence for the past 31 years, performing its role creditably without blemish. As it is customary with similar institutions worldwide, it is not to be seen and not to be heard. Only the DG is known to the world. In fact, not many know that the agency has two Deputy Director Generals. Such is the secretive nature of the service that this incident has come to many serving and retired security and intelligence operatives as a big shock.
2. So what happened? Why the hysteria about the so-called funds found in a “safe house” in Ikoyi? Why did EFCC decide to take the news to the press before informing the presidency? Why did the Nigerian news media, especially the online ones, while trying to outdo each other, threw caution into the wind to expose what ordinarily should be our collective responsibility to protect? Why did we decide to wash our dirty linen and spread same outside for those who labour hard to see the workings of the service so cheaply? And finally, why do we rejoice in throwing away the bathwater with the baby?
3. No matter how we look at the unfolding scenario, Nigeria and indeed the citizens will come to regret the day the EFCC attempted to bring down another agency in the name of fighting corruption. The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back. Before I start answering some of the questions posed above, let me state for the benefit of the readers and in line with rule of transparency that I am a retired Director of the Department of State Services. I fully support the crusade by President Muhammadu Buhari to identify and punish those who singularly and collectively plunder our collective heritage.
4. Perhaps it is apt to also state that I was privy to know the activities that led to the formation of the Agency. I was actually disappointed when the first Director (as the head of the organisation was called then), Chief A.K. Horsfall selected those that would move over with him as pioneer staff of the Agency from the Department of State Services and I was left out for no apparent reasons. Up till now, I still cannot understand why and it is still painful.
5. Notwithstanding, I have been impressed so far with what the successive DGs of the service have been able to achieve for the organisation. The Headquarters is unarguably the best government building in the country. Unfortunately, Julius Berger that built the structure often regrets its inability to show the world the masterpiece in Abuja. The selection process of the operatives that work in NIA is unparalleled. Even the powers that be cannot influence the process. The leadership is so committed to the service that they have been able to resist even the sharing of the large expanse of land surrounding the headquarters building. This is unfortunately not the case with many of the security and intelligence services in Abuja and not even the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where all the services’ wives associations have taken over a large chunk of the land surrounding its headquarters in the guise of DEPOWA, NAFOWA, POPOWA, AFOWA etc.
6. So what went wrong? Only the DG, Amb. Ayo Oke knows the details. He should not be condemned even before being tried. His wife should not be ridiculed knowing full well that that she cannot defend herself under the present circumstances. As it is the practise in all intelligence and security services, only those who have the need to know will be able to say in all certainty the details of how the allegedly 13 billion naira found its way into a private apartment in Ikoyi. Indeed, all the stories that have been reported in the media since the news broke cannot be true. From experience, not everything published or aired is true. Such channels are prone to abuse. As reported in one of the news media, “Sometimes, some mischief-makers would give false leads to reporters hungry for exclusives simply to settle scores with enemies at the expense of truth. It is therefore no coincidence that the airwaves have since been filled with all manner of conspiracy theories”.
7. I cannot claim to know the details of the story as well, but from my interactions with my old colleagues who transferred their services to the NIA, (who are also retired now), what should be of interest to every patriotic Nigerian is the damage that we are all doing to the service without knowing the implication for the country. Other intelligence services do have access to funds that do not go through the normal appropriation channels even in developed democracies in order to protect their final use. That Intelligence services do have front companies is not news to the professionals. If as being speculated, the money is the balance of the ongoing expenditure on its front companies and other operations, the government is better advised to keep this information where it belongs as there is also the risk of being in violation of the official secrets act.
8. Understandably, the ordinary man on the street will not appreciate the larger picture in this case, especially when he is battling to keep body and soul together. That is the business of the leadership of the country, knowing that it is not every government activities that must be on the pages of newspapers. As at today, the Agency is the only organisation in the country that can survive for a year without any allocation from the federal government. This is due to the legacy of prudence and probity of the past and present leadership. I need not state in details how they arrive at this situation of buoyancy, where even commercial organisations cannot boast of paying salaries, talk less of any capital expenditure. Time will tell.
9. Even Non state actors also do have front companies. I beg to submit that what should be of concern to those carrying out the investigation now is whether the fund allocated to the Agency has been judiciously used for the purpose it was intended. The hysteria needs to stop to that we don’t end up doing a great disservice to the country by the activities of the media, especially the online one that rely and quote sources that are not verifiable. The regime of President Ibrahim Babangida opened the cells of the defunct NSO to ridicule the service. He however, ended up setting up similar organisation and relied on it for survival during his 8 years regime.
10. While the government must be allowed to finish the investigation, I appeal to the press to be responsible in their publications and return to sanity. The government on its part must caution those responsible for feeding the news media with half-truths and untruths that they are undermining state security and efforts at nation building. It is shocking and unbelievable to see the supposedly NIA report written for the presidency on Tuesday 18th April, 2017 to appear in one of the online media on 20th April, 2017. It couldn’t have come from the NIA. We need not throw the baby away with the bath water. I believe that something good will come out of this NIA’s predicament. Every intelligence service must have its period of crisis, and NIA cannot be an exception.
11. History has taught me that this hullabaloo will pass, and NIA will come out stronger. Those who are in a position of authority in the legislature, judiciary and the executive arms of government will now know that some Nigerians are working day and night to protect the country and not all their budgetary requirements will be determined by the public accounts committee. This will likely continue until we are matured enough to understand the essence of covert operations.
BY BABATUNDE ALADESANMI
BY ISHIAKA ADAMU
“Any sources and methods of intelligence will remain guarded in secret. My administration will not talk about how we gather intelligence, if we gather intelligence, and what intelligence says. That’s for the protection of the American people”
President George W. Bush, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Last week, with the fanfare that is now its signature calling card, the EFCC “uncovered” monies in various currencies amounting to about 13 billion naira in an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos. Coming after recent large seizures of cash from other locations by the anti-graft agency, Nigerians were alarmed, justifiably so. In the aftermath of the cash seizures, Nigerians asked questions, and demanded answers, as they should. President Muhammadu Buhari did not disappoint. He promptly suspended the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke, and formed a high-powered Investigation Committee, headed by Vice President, Mr. Yemi Osinbajo, to look into circumstances surrounding NIA’s possession of the cash. The Osinbajo Committee is also to look into allegations of violations of due process made against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE). Mr. Lawal was also suspended.
The Osinbajo Committee has 14 days to complete its assignment, but this much is already known. The money recovered from the Ikoyi apartment belonged to the NIA, part of covert operations funds duly approved for the Agency way back in 2015. Whereas investigations into allegations of violation of due process leveled against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation are routine and can be dealt with without harming Nigeria’s national security interests, those concerning the NIA are much more complicated, given that the media is already awash with unauthorized classified information on processes and operations of the Agency. This commentary focuses on the consequences of unauthorized disclosures of classified intelligence information, as exemplified in the stream of leaks about the NIA, one of Nigeria’s better run public institutions.
The Osinbajo Committee would, in due time, determine the status of the seized NIA cash, in line with its terms of reference. However, the damage to Nigeria’s national security is already building up. Thanks to the criminal leaks of classified information by renegade government officials, the whole world now know what should not ever have to be known about the NIA, a secret organization. For instance, enemies of Nigeria, from both within and without, now know that the NIA has a Cyber Task Force, nimble team of hackers, and a network of non-diplomatic agents who work for Nigeria’s interests abroad under risky conditions. These damaging disclosures were contained in a leaked document entitled “Brief on Critical Infrastructural Development and Covert Operations of the National Intelligence Agency 2015-2018.”
As reported in the media, the leaked document was prepared by the NIA in defense of the Agency’s use of duly approved covert operations funds, now the subject of controversy following EFCC’s questionable raid on one of its safe houses in Lagos. What in hell is going on here? The head of an intelligence agency prepares a confidential report to his principals, usually an extremely tight circle of top government functionaries, and almost immediately the contents of the report are being quoted in the news media, including internet news sites of dubious pedigree. In normal countries, such unauthorized disclosure of classified intelligence information would precipitate a national security crisis, but here in Nigeria the word is mute. Since the media began publishing contents of the leaked NIA document, not a word of concern has been raised by responsible Committees in both the Senate and House of representatives with mandates for national security and intelligence matters, or the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. The last time I checked, the State Security Service had a role in protecting state secrets. It is baffling that across government, no one appears attentive to the damage these leaks pose to national security.
By all means the government must fight and defeat corruption. Nigerians do not agree much on anything, but there is broad support for the anti-corruption posture of the Buhari administration. Questions have been raised about the scope of the efforts and, even more significantly, about the methodology of EFCC. Whatever misgivings Nigerians have about EFCC’s methods and penchant for publicity, the intensity of public revulsion against corruption more than compensates for the flaws of the ant-graft agency. This is good for Nigeria, because accountability, transparency and integrity in the conduct of government business are essential to the country’s long term development, stability, and prosperity. The delicate dance the Buhari administration must balance is how to promote accountability and openness in government, while also protecting national security. Preserving the nation must be as essential, if not more urgent, as building a culture of accountability and openness in government, not least because without a country, no other purposes of government could ever be achieved. It is arguable but no governmental interest is more compelling than the security of the nation.
There is no suggestion here that Nigeria’s intelligence and security services be allowed a free reign. That cannot be the case in a democracy. While the intelligence profession demands secrecy, it is critically important that there be full and open discourse on intelligence matters, but only, repeat, only with the appropriate oversight Committees of the national Assembly and statutory Executive oversight bodies. Oversight of intelligence agencies is a delicate responsibility that should not ever be conducted in the media, certainly not in beer parlors and on social media platforms.
Intelligence is an essential tool not only in protecting the state from harm, but also in securing other vital interests of the state. The security risks that confronts Nigeria today require covert operations by NIA officers in hostile and often risky environments. Intelligence requires secrecy, but as we are witnessing in the leaks surrounding the NIA cash saga, secrecy and the integrity of intelligence operations is under assault.The consequences could be disastrous. Officers of the Agency routinely operate under dangerous conditions. Just about a decade ago, an NIA officer was killed in a foreign country in the line of duty. The Government of Nigeria is duty-bound to protect intelligence officers and their families who could be exposed to danger through leaks about what they do, how they carry out their work, and where some of these operations are conducted.
In the aftermath of the EFCC raid on NIA’s safe house in Lagos, much of the public discourse has been on the secret dealings of the intelligence agency, but little about the good and the necessary that the Agency does in secret. The future of the NIA and, indeed, the entire Nigeria intelligence and security community, depends to a very significant degree on maintaining the secrecy of its collection methods, sources and analytical techniques. What is the benefit to the Nigerian people that the NIA has a team of hackers, or that it keeps safe houses in Nigeria and abroad? Nothing, I dare say, except that foreign intelligence services would be alerted to NIA’s capabilities. While all deceptions require secrecy, all secrecy is not meant to deceive. When secrecy is breached, as in the leaked NIA document, foreign targets of the Agency’s intelligence operations learn about and then develop countermeasures to NIA’s techniques and operations. This naturally diminishes the effectiveness of NIA operations, to the detriment of national security. In the end, citizens who are now applauding the EFCC‘s overreach would be poorly served.
There are two problems national security planners in Nigeria must quickly address. These relate to EFCC’s overzealousness and indiscretion and leaks of classified intelligence information. It is difficult to tell which of the two does more damage to national security, but cumulatively, both could cause real harm. The question must be asked whether the anti-graft agency took all necessary precautions to shield the NIA from undue exposure, even as it pursued a discreet investigation on the evidence of information available to it. Old hands in the intelligence business that I spoke to assert that the EFCC did not exhaust discreet investigative options before exposing the cash seizures in the media. It is also doubtful if the head of the anti-graft agency briefed the Presidency before its investigation of the NIA, another government agency. Unless the motive was simply to embarrass the leadership of the NIA, these old spooks questioned the judgement of the EFCC leadership, who they say should have contemplated the wider security repercussions of his highly public exposure of the NIA.
A related issue concerns the leaks that have accompanied the NIA cash saga. Leaks have always been problematic for intelligence agencies, but the problem has grown worse in the age of the Internet and social media. Again, as is evident from proliferating leaks in the Nigerian media and blogosphere, these leaks reveal much about how the NIA operates and, by implication, how to defeat its operations. These leaks provide substantial information to foreign adversaries, including those operating right inside Nigeria. While leaks of classified information are often intended to influence domestic policy, foreign intelligence operatives in Nigeria are voracious readers of the Nigerian press. These foreign operatives are keenly alert to revelations of classified information. Classified intelligence information in the Nigerian media is the effective equivalent of intelligence gathered through foreign espionage, yet the government appears unconcerned about this danger.
Consider the responses in other countries. In Australia, the Secret Intelligence Operations Act criminalizes the “intentional exposure, by anyone and forever, of any information that relates to an intelligence operative, in circumstances where the person making the exposure either knows the information to an intelligence officer, or is reckless about it.” Similar expansive protections are common in most Western countries, including the United States of America. For example, former U. S Army Private, Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, who leaked thousands of classified U. S diplomatic cables in 2010 was charged and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and contractor to the National Security Agency, whose leaks disclosed numerous U.S clandestine foreign and domestic intelligence operations, escaped from the country and remains today a fugitive from justice in Russia. Only recently, it was reported that the U. S Government was considering bringing criminal charges against leaders and members of WikiLeaks, an organization that has routinely posted leaked classified U. S documents on its website. In all cases, the goal of prosecution is to deter leakers and safeguard national security interests of these countries.
It is impossible to measure the damage to Nigeria’s national security through these leaks, but senior intelligence operatives I spoke to assess the cumulative impact as truly significant. Some loses could be recovered, but much are permanent and irreversible.For instance, effective intelligence depends on cooperative relationships with friendly foreign intelligence services, who trust the NIA to protect their confidences, including methods and joint operations. Egregious disclosures of classified intelligence information can and often undermines these relationships as foreign intelligence services become reluctant to share information because of fears that the NIA cannot be trusted to keep its secret.Security planners and keepers of state secrets must quickly unravel these leaks and hold those responsible accountable under existing laws. If existing laws are inadequate to address what is becoming a clear and present danger to national security, then perhaps it is about time the National Assembly reviewed these laws with a view to strengthening them.
Sensitive intelligence information is classified by government for good reasons, and the justification is that their protection is essential to the security of the nation. Until the federal government holds those who, without authority, reveal and publish classified information accountable for their actions, they will have no reason to stop their harmful actions. Effective enforcement of existing laws will require real political will on the part of government. The National Assembly has a big role to play to ensure that existing laws, if inadequate, are reviewed to reflect a changing social environment with proliferating media platforms. Both the government and law makers must recognize that leakers and the journalists who publish classified intelligence materials do the equivalent work of foreign spies. Even if their motives differ, the effects can be the same. Indeed, if leakers and the journalists who publish these leaks were caught providing the same classified information clandestinely to a foreign power, it is conceivable that they would be prosecuted for espionage. When these same people publish the same materials in the media, they enjoy immunity from prosecution only because the government lacks the will to enforce its laws. This must change to protect our nation’s security.
It is important that we keep in mind that foreign countries and their intelligence agents who operate in Nigeria rely heavily on the Nigerian media to acquire sensitive information about Nigeria’s foreign intelligence operations in order to deploy countermeasures against them. Since such disclosures have the same effect as espionage, it is vital to national security that government treats leakers and their collaborators, no matter how highly placed they may be, as subject to the same laws that applies to spies who work clandestinely with foreign powers.
Unless comprehensive and robust measures are taken to identify and hold leakers and their collaborators in the media accountable for the damage they are inflicting on Nigeria’s intelligence efforts, the damage will continue unabated. Conceivably, the situation could get worse and cause irreversible damage to Nigeria’s security interests. Better laws and enforcement of these laws will provide the protection members of Nigeria’s intelligence services need to go about their delicate work of protecting Nigeria from harm. If the Federal Government should continue to be paralyzed by a failure of will, the current climate of permissive neglect will become one of pernicious neglect. The Nigerian nation would be badly served from the consequences of the pernicious neglect of protecting intelligence officers and their operations from willful leakers and their collaborators in the Nigerian media.President George W. Bush of the United States fully understood the goal of intelligence and the importance of security in intelligence operations, as evidenced in the opening quotation in this commentary. President Buhari would do well to reflect on Mr. Bush’s perceptive insights about intelligence and move quickly to prevent the hemorrhage of the NIA and, indeed, the entire Nigeria security apparatus from leaks.
|The magazine, which will feature the latest investment trends and development initiatives in Africa, will also focus on key trends, top African real estate deals, burgeoning new property sub-sectors|
|JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 26, 2017/ — Giving a much-needed voice to the African real estate sector, the African Property Skyline Magazine (www.AfricanSkylineMag.com) – the only publication dedicated to Africa real estate investment and development – will provide the industry with a new platform to explore and create a better understanding of the continent’s true potential.
The magazine, which will feature the latest investment trends and development initiatives in Africa, will also focus on key trends, top African real estate deals, burgeoning new property sub-sectors as well as the inner workings and economic complexities of a number of African countries and cities.
Speaking as a key figure in Zambia’s property sector, Pam Golding’s Inutu Zaloumis believes that until now, property news from the African continent has often been under-reported. “Insufficient insight is given into the property industry in Africa. The African Property Skyline magazine is therefore a welcome publication as it showcases the opportunities in Africa. It gives readers a deeper insight into an industry that has had so much growth and still, the potential for further expansion,” says Inutu Zaloumis.
Published by API Events (www.APIevents.com) and launched at this year’s East Africa Property Investment Summit [EAPI] held in Nairobi last week, the first edition of Skyline has been distributed to over 35,000 subscribers and is available online at www.AfricanSkylineMag.com.
“Africa Property Skyline magazine is in line with our mission to enhance and encourage real estate investment in Africa. Our readers can now look forward to the most up to date African property news, key industry insights, and important lessons learned from on-the-ground experiences,” says Kfir Rusin, API Events, Managing Director.
Focused on delivering high quality content and the latest in thought leadership, Skyline features a number of top industry players, enthusiastic to share their knowledge and expertise. Ivan Cornet, Managing Partner for Latitude Five, used this new platform to share his own perspective on the opportunities for the property sector in Senegal.
“API Events is a trailblazer in bringing Africa’s property market makers together through quality events and networking opportunities, and we can now look forward to seeing this continue with the African Property Skyline Magazine. Latitude Five is thrilled to be involved in the inaugural edition of African Property Skyline magazine, a long-awaited publication dedicated to charting and analysing the spectacular growth of Africa’s property market,” he says.
Knight Frank Africa’s Peter Welborn agrees with his peers that this new and fresh publication will be welcomed by many operating across the African continent. “A cutting edge publication specialising in Africa, linking decision makers and their advisers with funders and investors will definitely help to further the momentum of growth across the continent,” Welborn says.
The first issue includes a variety of topics from across the continent, the cover featuring the highly anticipated new World Trade Centre in Abuja. “We also take a look at both the funding and valuation climates in African property, and we delve into the details of new asset classes like healthcare facilities, as well as the challenges faced in quantity surveying and cost management on the continent,” Rusin adds.
|The show will feature women who are trailblazers in their respective fields of business and who inspire younger women to be bold and break boundaries, contributing to the narrative of growing female power on the African continent|
|LAGOS, Nigeria, April 27, 2017/ — FORBES WOMAN AFRICA (www.ForbesAfrica.com), the continent’s first-ever women’s interest magazine from the highly-successful FORBES stable, launches its very first television show through FORBES AFRICA TV, in partnership with Ecobank.
On Friday, April 28th, FORBES WOMAN AFRICA’s “Against the Odds with Peace Hyde” will premieres on CNBC Africa, adding another thought-provoking and inspirational lifestyle show to their arsenal. The show will feature women who are trailblazers in their respective fields of business and who inspire younger women to be bold and break boundaries, contributing to the narrative of growing female power on the African continent.
FORBES WOMAN AFRICA has teamed up with leading Pan African bank, Ecobank to launch the 12-part series celebrating the achievement of exceptional women in business.
Award-winning Presenter and Journalist, Peace Hyde, joins Editor of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA, Methil Renuka, in the premiere episode to discuss the vision behind the series.
Commenting on the importance of having a strong platform like FORBES WOMAN AFRICA translated from a print to a television platform Renuka noted that: “Why only talk about the glass ceiling when you have ceiling-crashers who have done it all and can show the way. They may be very few, but they have had significant successes and a discerning show like this will be lessons from those who made it, to those who would like to scale those same heights and more, very much in line with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA’s own rich content philosophy.”
“The essence of the show is to really celebrate exceptional women. It’s about women who have tapped into their courage and persistence, and chosen to keep going in spite of all the hurdles. I think that in order for you to do that you need to have a very strong understanding of your purpose…” explains Peace Hyde.
“Against the Odds with Peace Hyde” premieres on CNBC Africa, Canal Plus Channel 171, DStv Channel 410 and StarTimes Channel 309 later this year.