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Group Faults Bill Calling For The Provision Of Framework For The Appointment Of Staff For NSA, Queries Move

By Francis Uchegbulam

A Group under the aegis of Civil Society for Peace, Security and Development, CSPSD, has faulted the plans to enact a law for the appointment of Staff of the Office of the National Security Adviser and retention of quality and skilled manpower to enhance institutional memory and effective performance of the responsibilities of the Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA.

The proposed Act states that the NSA may, among others, appoint a sizeable number of Staff as he deems necessary and expedient for the proper and efficient performance of the functions of the office under the national security Act or any other law or instrument, centres or programmes established under the office; on such terms and conditions including remuneration, allowances and benefits as may be determined, from time to time by the NSA.

This the Co-Convener of the Group, Obadiah Solomon Ovye, said, raises concern. The Group alleged that the Bill is being sponsored by some agents who want to enact a strange law for their selfish interest.

Ovye in a statement raised some points about the bill which prove it is shady, and meant to confuse and destroy. The points are:

i. Why is an important Bill as the one seeking an expanded role for the NSA not an Executive Bill? Why is it not emanating from the President? Why was such bill not tabled before the National Security and Defence Councils for their inputs before being taken to the National Assembly?

ii. Why was the public hearing for the bill earlier slated before the end of January, 2024 hurriedly brought back to 30th December, 2023 – a Saturday and without well circulated information for the change in date?

iii. Who is seeking to enact the Act on the argument of enhancing an institutional memory and effective performance of the responsibilities of the NSA? We wish to ask: What has happened to the office of the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Office (PS SSO) designed to administratively coordinate the intelligence community and by implication serve as the institutional memory for national security management;

iv. Why does the NSA wish to become an Agency when Section 4(2) of the National Security Act categorically states that: “The Coordinator on National Security shall be a Principal Staff Officer in the Office of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces?

v. Why does the NSA plan to operationalise his office with full compliments of permanent staff when such are already seconded by security agencies? Will this not enlarge the Budget which the Government is trying to reduce?

It further stated that the Bill rests on the prerogative of members of the legislative body, stressing that it remains contentious as it allegedly shrouded in inadequacies that warrant careful scrutiny and consideration.

The statement reads; “The said bill, if enacted, would give the NSA sweeping powers that would allow it to bypass existing checks and balances and operate with little oversight. This would create a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of a single individual and undermine the principles of democracy and accountability. More disturbing is that the Act when in existence will undermine the President.

“In addition, the Office of the NSA does not have full autonomy and traditionally relies on staff from support agencies (Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, NIA and DSS) on secondment. This approach has proven effective over the years and fosters a cohesive integrated and collaborative approach. However, if the NSA’s office were to become independent, the dual responsibility of oversight and coordination could overwhelm the individual in the role. This would inadvertently lead to a fragmented system and impact adversely on timely coordinated execution of vital security initiatives with implication for the nation’s ability to respond effectively to emerging threats and challenges.

“Most importantly, the establishment of an independent agency by the NSA to handle security matters introduces the risk of creating a parallel platform. This new agency has the potential to operate independently and could, in effect, wield influence and authority thereby weakening the president’s control over security matters as the new agency could act independently, possibly going against what the president wants.

“Consequently, the proposed bill and urgency to pass it into law is nothing but a desperate attempt by the NSA to not only usurp the powers of the agencies under it, but raises questions about the balance of authority and the potential impact on the existing framework. It also raises concerns about the overarching intentions of the bill which are obviously not in line with the principles of effective governance and transparency. This insatiable ambition of the NSA and his strategies are no doubt averse to the synergy, coordination and collaborative platforms which the ONSA is expected to avail Security agencies. His quest to validate the NSA as an institution is duplicative of responsibilities and would rather cost the federal government more resources”, Ovye said.

He alleged that the Group’s investigation revealed that the Office of the NSA, has within its facility, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light weapons, a National Cybersecurity Commission and more worrisome, a recently built cell for holding suspects.

“How is this obtainable or acceptable in a democratic setting? Even in the United States, the role of the National Security Advisor does not transcend beyond coordination. It therefore begs the question, why the rush to operationalise the Office of the NSA beyond its traditional and constitutional roles. It is not only highly suspicious but ominous and questions the real motives behind such actions.

“The establishment of these units under the NSA not only amount to a direct encroachment on the responsibilities of existing organisation but in the long term, would have potential consequences on the coordination of national security efforts.
Indisputably, granting the NSA the power to independently recruit permanent personnel is tantamount to opening the door to political patronage and cronyism as well as potentially compromise the integrity of security operations. It could also give room for those recruited to enter the organisation without adhering to the usual background checks. Subsequently, those appointed may not undergo the traditional progression in ranks which is a fundamental requirement for assuming sensitive roles within the security architecture. In the end, the hierarchical structure and integrity of personnel entrusted with crucial security responsibility will indubitably be compromised.

“On the other hand, recruitment from the top opens the Nigerian security architecture to moles, spies and politically exposed persons who may have leanings towards particular political orientations where as such staff should be apolitical. It is also looking like someone is interested in expanding the Office of the NSA for selfish political reasons. It is a known fact that the present occupier is politically exposed and had once contested the Presidency. Thus could this planned expansion be in furtherance of that ambition? We are further convinced that the bill is ill-timed.

“To strengthen our concerns about the questionable nature of the controversial bill, certain legislators clearly influenced through lobbying, clandestinely assembled on a Saturday (a non-working day) to discuss it. More disturbing is the fact that after the first sitting on the bill on 23rd November, 2023 where it was stepped down by majority of lawmakers, a subsequent date for further hearing was set for 27th January, 2024. But instead of waiting for this date, there was a secret plan to bring the date forward. To the best of our knowledge, there was no emergency warranting the rush. So what is driving the haste and the kangaroo moves surrounding the process? This Bill is nothing short of a political manoeuvre capable of inciting significant unrest among the security agencies.

The Group however demanded that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu Tinubu Wade into the matter alongside other relevant stakeholders to oppose the alleged ill- intentioned and ill-conceived bill which it said is aimed at monopolising the country’s security apparatus at the detriment of our national interest.

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