*Says service’s nollywood script a recipe for tragedy, needs overhaul
By JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Timi Frank, has said the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) has metamorphosed into an intelligence arm of the ruling party and urgently needs a total overhaul.
Frank, however, said the DSS needs to wake up and restore the lost confidence Nigerians have in its leadership.
In a statement made available to newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja, on the recent activities of the DSS, the political activist accused the organisation of monitoring and then leaking telephone conversations of some political leaders (Especially in opposition) in order to embarrass them and to impress the APC elements.
Frank, who is the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Ambassador to East Africa and Middle East, said the DSS has the right to intercept unlawful communication but not to leak private conversations that are not favourable to the ruling party.
According to Frank, the main responsibilities of the DSS as stated in its enabling Act include counter-intelligence, internal security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of serious crimes against the state.
“The Department of State Services or the State Security Service needs a complete and total overhaul. The agency which was established by Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, was supposed to be patterned after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States of America or the MI5 Security Service in the United Kingdom.
“It is also charged with the protection of senior government officials, particularly the President, Vice President, state governors and visiting heads of states and governments with their respective families.
“But the DSS has since deviated from its core mandate in the last 10 years by becoming a willing tool to the government in power. In recent times, the DSS has focused more on regime protection and fostering the interest of politicians in the ruling party and their allies. The DSS and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have become one and the same and it is almost difficult to differentiate a statement written by the DSS and the APC.
“How do we explain away the fact that the DSS has continued to tap the telephone lines and release phone recordings of opposition politicians and influential Nigerians critical of the government?
“The latest misadventure was a leaked telephone conversation between Labour Party Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, and revered cleric, Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, and presiding Bishop of the Faith Tabernacle in Ota, Ogun State.
“On the eve of the Presidential election, Obi and Bishop Oyedepo had a private telephone conversation. There was no terror plot and the conversation in itself was not about the use of violence. Obi simply asked Bishop Oyedepo to help him convince his congregation in the southwest to vote for him.
“Similarly, a day after the Presidential election, former President Olusegun Obasanjo received a call from Musician, Charles Oputa professionally known as Charly Boy. In the conversation, Charly Boy asked Obasanjo what could be done to stop the stealing of the people’s mandate. Obasanjo suggested that they could protest. The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the constitution.
“Private discussions are what they are: private. Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution expressly states: ‘The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”
The Bayelsa born activist descrived the recent leaked phone conversations as highly unprofessional and smacks of partisanship.
“It is worrisome when the most sophisticated security agency in the country descends into the arena of politics in order to favour the ruling party.
“How do we explain it that the immediate past DG of the DSS, Musa Lawal Daura, was a member of the APC and his successor, Yusuf Bichi, also has obvious ties with the ruling party? His son, Abba, is a member of the APC who openly supports Bola Tinubu on social media. His wife, Aisha, got the current Kano Governor-elect, Abba Yusuf, arrested last year following a confrontation between them at the VIP lounge gate of the Aminu Kano International Airport. Yes, Abba is a citizen who is free to support any candidate of his choice. But he is not an ordinary son, he is the son of the DG of the boss of the DSS whose actions or inactions would have huge ramifications for the country.
“Why have the telephone conversations of Bola Tinubu and his minions never been leaked? Why is it only the telephone conversations of opposition politicians that are being shared with journalists or posted on social media? It is obvious where Bichi’s loyalty lies. He seeks to be retained as DSS DG and is now trying to ingratiate himself to Tinubu by bootlicking.
“Under Bichi’s watch the DSS has strayed from its core mandate and metamorphosed into a town crier instead of a stealthy intelligence agency. The agency has become flippant, garrulous and loquacious. It spends more time making noise rather than gathering intelligence.
“Almost on a weekly basis, the once respected agency churns out insipid and unintelligent press releases. While their counterparts in foreign countries are involved with more noble and heroic acts, these are some of the DSS headlines as portrayed in the Nigerian media “DSS invites Chidi Onumah for wearing Biafra T-shirt”; “DSS cautions against violence and hate speech”; “DSS reiterates call against violence in Nigeria”; “DSS says there’re plans to incite religious violence across the country”; “DSS says some prominent persons plotting to destabilise the country”; “DSS uncovers plot to destabilise Nigeria”.
Continued, he said: “The latest misadventure of the DSS is another false alarm about plans to foist an interim government on the country and to also carry out nationwide protests. The nationwide protests began in various parts of the country immediately the result was announced so this is not the product of intelligence gathering. Also, the DSS should have made arrests if indeed it had uncovered a plot to foist an interim government.
“The agency also showed its disdain for the rule of law by warning the judiciary against making “frivolous orders”. What qualifies as a frivolous court order? The DSS is clearly a lawless organisation which selects which order of government to obey or disobey hence the hundreds of Nigerians being detained illegally in its various centres.
“The last time I checked, the overthrow of the government in Nigeria is treason and attracts the maximum penalty. So why has the DSS decided to announce a plan to overthrow a government when the headline should be ‘DSS arrests XXX for attempted coup?’
“With the APC in control of the Federal Government, the legislature and at least 22 states at the moment, the APC is the one that has the power to foist an interim government and not the opposition which does not even control the police. With the DSS making insinuations that the opposition are behind this plan, tt is obvious the DSS is playing a Nollywood script, a fictional plot with an uninteresting end.
“The kind of frivolity that DSS is preoccupied with while Nigerians are imperilled by insecurity adds a new cadence to the cliché of political authority acting like Emperor Nero – fiddling while the country burns. They have slaughtered professionalism on the altar of politics. Nigerians have grown tired of the DSS crying wolf when there is none.
“In the last eight years, more Nigerians have been killed and abducted by bandits more than any other time in Nigeria’s history if you remove the civil war period of 1966 to 1970. According to available data from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa programme which documents violence in Nigeria, no fewer than 50,000 Nigerians have been killed on Buhari’s watch.
“But you will hardly see the DSS protecting the lives and dignity of regular Nigerians. All the so-called secret police are preoccupied with is hounding those who make their paymasters uncomfortable. Just today, April 4, 2023, bandits abducted 10 students from Government Day Secondary School in Kachia LGA of Kaduna. The DSS never saw this coming because they were busy tapping the telephone lines of the opposition while terrorists’ lines were left to their devices.
“On the watch of the current DSS leadership, thousands of schoolchildren have been abducted. By UNICEF’s estimates, 11,000 schools were closed between December 2020 and early 2022 over insecurity, largely in the north. The DSS never saw this coming.
“Train passengers were abducted, the Nigerian Defence Academy was attacked and a senior officer killed, prisons were attacked and over 1,000 escapees from all these attacks continue to roam freely including over 400 from the Kuje Correctional Centre. The DSS has not been able to do anything.
“Abductors use the telephone of their victims to contact their victims to pay ransom. The DSS has not been able to intercept these telephone calls to reveal the location of bandits whom Sheikh Gumi visits in broad daylight. However, the DSS has been super effective in bugging the phone lines of revered pastors and opposition politicians. What a shame!”