The rising insecurity and criminality in Nigeria have continued to leave a sour taste in the mouth of Nigerians across board, ethnic and religious divide notwithstanding. In the midst of these near-crippling challenges, the nation’s security agencies and apparatus have expectedly not been spared scathing criticisms for their actions or inactions in addressing the worrying situation of terrorism, banditry, insurgency, and kidnapping, among other forms of criminality.
Besides the Nigerian military and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the State Security Services (SSS), also referred to as the Department of State Services (DSS), seems to be the most criticised and misunderstood in the public eye. This development is unfortunately so given the seemingly-intractable security situation in the country.
With some individuals and even media outlets not relenting in solely blaming the intelligence services for what they described as “intelligence failure”, it is difficult to distance the continuous public odium suffered by the DSS from its unwavering resolve to deliver on the statutory responsibilities of counter-intelligence, internal security, counter-terrorism, surveillance and the investigation of other types of serious crimes against the state.
Over the years, there is no denying the fact that the SSS has carried out dutifully its mission of protecting and defending the Federal Republic of Nigeria against domestic threats; upholding and enforcing the criminal laws of Nigeria, as well as providing leadership and criminal justice services to both federal and state law-enforcement organs.
Though many critics may not be bold to admit that fact, it is the DSS’ commitment to mandate delivery and constant adaptation to various roles due to evolving security threats in the country, including counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency that clearly puts the organization in the eye of the storm always.
Indeed, as the foremost domestic intelligence agency, saddled with the statutory responsibilities of detecting and preventing threats and crimes against the Nation’s internal security, the DSS has done a lot in this direction and clearly needs the encouragement and support of all Nigerians as part of their civic responsibilities in advancing national security and development objectives.
Given the serious work being done by the nation’s secret Police, in conjunction with various stakeholders, to create and enhance security consciousness among the citizenry, it is quite worrisome that only intelligence failure gets pounded anytime there are casualties in the war against terrorism; banditry; kidnapping and other threats across the country.
Without doubts, it is imperative that security education gets its deserved place in the scheme of things in order to engender robust collaboration between the DSS and the populace towards raising citizens’ awareness of the national security architecture.
For all the good reasons, especially against the backdrop of threats’ complexity, such a partnership would not only enhance national security, but it would also deepen collaboration and uplift the morale of the personnel working very hard daily to ensure Nigerians operate in a peaceful and harmonious environment devoid of hostile agents and subversive elements.
Here, the running battle between the DSS, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and their detained leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, readily comes to mind for scrutiny.
Unfortunately, Mazi Kanu and IPOB, which remains a proscribed organisation in the country by law, as well as their sympathizers, have not relented in wrongly accusing or misperceiving the role of the DSS in ensuring that individuals and groups are not allowed to disrupt and overheat the polity with their violence-prone, threatening, misleading and skewed narratives as well as messages that are clearly inimical to efforts at strengthening and maintaining national security.
One cannot but wonder how the leader of a proscribed group that daily unleashes terror and mayhem on Nigerians with many innocent lives lost can truly be talking about and claiming human rights abuses. No matter the colouration by his legal team and supporters, Kanu cannot be exonerated as the mastermind of the current mayhem and dastardly display of criminality against the Nigerian State across the South-east geo-political zone in particular.
The sustained deadly onslaughts by the outlawed organisation can easily be traced to his threatening, abusive, misguided and uncouth utterances and declarations against the government and the Nigerian people.
With many already exploiting and politicising the issue of insecurity in parts of the country for pecuniary and other selfish reasons, the Mazi Kanu-led IPOB has regrettably made lives across the South east region unbearable for many citizens, especially against the backdrop of its frequent threats and sit-at-home orders.
And sadly, the so-called leader of the notorious group, whose actions and inactions in the first instance led to current situation of things, has remained aloof in seeking cheap popularity, with a body language that encourages his followers, supporters and secret admirers to engage in acts that create fear and cause divisions among citizens, while aiming to present the country as ungovernable.
Though the appeals coming from various quarters for the government to grant pardon and release the detained IPOB Leader may be made in good faith, it is also important that the central figure be in a position to retrace his steps and rein in his followers on the path of peace because it would be wrong for the DSS and other security agencies to stand by and watch the outlaws continue with their reigns of terror on innocent Nigerians.
That obviously will mean sidestepping the law which allows the Service to deal with those who may wish to test its resolve in ensuring internal security and national stability.
No matter the accusations and antics being used to cajole Nigerians about the DSS and its patriotic activities, nothing will detract from the fact that the Service under the watchful eyes of its Director General, Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi, has done much to contain the destabilising acts by IPOB and its sponsors. And contrary to IPOB’s claims, Kanu, though kept in custody, is receiving proper treatment and care with no denial of his rights in the DSS facility.
Going forward, it is imperative that political leaders and opinion moulders like the religious leaders, traditional rulers and community leaders should intervene and impress on their adherents and subjects to always be circumspect; shun inglorious activities; guard their utterances; and avoid inciting pronouncements capable of overheating the polity; and inflaming the fire of division and violence among Nigerians, particularly the vulnerable populations.
However, the important demand on the Service is for its personnel to always remain civil in their operations while collaborating effectively with other sister agencies and relevant stakeholders to ensure that all law abiding citizens and residents pursue their legitimate businesses without hindrances and this has been achieved to an appreciable level.
Buoro writes from Abuja.