By Dr. Peter Afunanya
Abimbola, I have read your piece, titled, WHAT DOES THE DSS REALLY REALLY DO?, published on the back page of 2nd September, 2021 edition of the Punch Newspaper. By my nature, I do not like joining issues and I know the Department of State Services that I represent and speak for does not like same. The reason is not farfetched. For me, I believe that people who have made up their minds about certain issues will hardly see the other side of the matter even in the face of glaring facts. While you may hold tenaciously to your opinions as duly expressed in the said article, I will educate you and many others who do not understand or appreciate what the DSS does. This is because I know, for sure, what it does. I also know what it wants. The DSS, by nature, is not flippant, loquacious or quarrelsome. It works by the rules. Its mandate is clearly spelt out and in case you do not know, you are kindly referred to the 1999 Constitution – Section 315(5); National Security Agencies (NSA) Act 1986 Cap. 74 and the SSS Instrument No.1 of 1999 as set out in Section 2 (3).
The Service is primarily charged with the detection and prevention, within Nigeria, of any crime against the internal security of the country. It is also saddled with the role of protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters and such other responsibilities affecting internal security or as may be directed by appropriate authorities. The aforementioned laws and extant relevant statutes clearly spell out the other functions of the Service to include investigations of threats to National Security (i.e. Espionage, Subversion, Sabotage, Economic Crimes of National Security dimension, Terrorism, Separatist Agitations and Inter-Group Conflicts, Threats to Law and Order); security vetting and background checks of prospective public officials and the provision of timely advice to Government on all matters of National Security. In which of these has the Service failed? None. I know you have many plans for yourself but I am certain you may not have succeeded with all of them. Yet, you have not stopped making efforts. Therefore, no government or its agency has claimed to possess the power to solve all of its problems. It is a steady work. Work in progress.
I hope you are getting the point Aunty Abimbola. Are you with me? Note please that the DSS has not failed in its duty. And whether it has failed or not is left to your judgment, part of which you have explicitly poured out in your article. The Service disagrees with your judgment and some of the issues you have raised. Put in historical perspective and context, the SSS has not failed in the discharge of its duty and the fact that it does not sing its feats does not translate to inefficiency or failure. Like any Intelligence organisation, it is an unsung hero. Its personnel, who daily face daunting challenges, are same. Not many know what intelligence failure or success is. But what do you do in an environment everyone has become a public affairs analyst or commentator.
All around the world, Intelligence agencies, the DSS inclusive, are known for being discreet and working behind the scenes to achieve their objectives. The advent of democracy and sustenance of same as ideal political system has called for more openness in their operations. This has undoubtedly put the organisations under pressure for accountability and transparency. It is therefore on the basis of intelligence governance that the Service considered this piece. As a responsible organisation, the Service deems it necessary to use this opportunity to address the public for the sake of those who lack the simple knowledge of understanding its affairs. Democracy at work! Isn’t it? As guardians of democracy and indeed the State, the Service owes citizens explanations at intervals. It is unfortunate that when the Service does not voice its successes, people like you accuse it of being introverted, uninspiring and antagonistic. I put it to you that the issues you have raised in your article are not factual. You only succeeded in joining those who consistently serve the public with falsehood which they make to look like the truth. The DSS’ quietness in the face of aggression, abuse and attack should not be taken for docility, fear or surrender. Not at all. It is its avowed respect for dissent.
The seemingly sustained false narrative about the DSS dispersing doctors attending a Saudi organised recruitment anywhere in Abuja or Nigeria, despite a disclaimer by the agency, shows a mischievous intent to ridicule the Service. On your claim that “nobody in Nigeria associates the DSS with intelligence-gathering, stealthy and efficient operations” is not true. Many celebrate the DSS. The Service has remained dedicated to its constitutional role of gathering and disseminating actionable intelligence to relevant consumers. You may be a powerful woman of the pen. You may not be well schooled in intelligence. Besides, you are not an intelligence consumer and do not know the quality of what is passed to relevant stakeholders. Intelligence sharing is guided by the basic principle of Need-To-Know. The operational successes of the Service daily make a difference in our country. But how will you know? The accusation of the Service and its sister agencies not doing well does not always add up. Assuming they were not performing, you and your likes will not possibly have the conducive environment to conjure serial propaganda against it(them).
I am surprised at your doublespeak. You don’t like social media regulation, you do not like surveillance. You do not like deployment of technology in security administration. You and those you represent claim these erode privacy, right of expression and association. Ironically, you are recommending them. Why nah! Because they suit your narrative, abi?
Without publicizing its mode of operations, the DSS has continued to provide intelligence to counter threats of various dimensions. The deliberate exclusion of reports of successes by the Service exposes your bias and unfairness to the agency that thanklessly toils to protect you and fatherland. Abeg give us some accolades, arabinrin Abimbola. Wetin be ya interest sef?
It is actually not in question what the DSS does. Ok now let’s go there. Ready? The DSS catches subversive elements, saboteurs, espionage agents, terrorists and insurgents. And it has caught and legally dealt with many. The Service ensures separatist agitators do not cause a breakdown of law and order or dismantle a country like Nigeria whose constitution provides that its unity is indivisible and indissoluble. Mind you, the Service guards the State as it also protects citizens. The Service forms alliances and partnerships with patriotic citizens and groups for common good. In doing these, the Service respects rights of suspects and indeed those of citizens. It obeys court orders and observes constitutional provisions. It collaborates with willing stakeholders to ensure lasting peace in the country. The DSS is loyal to Nigeria and her cause. Are you still in doubt about what the DSS does? Do not be, please.
Aside telling you what the DSS does, let me also tell you what it wants. It wants a peaceful and united Nigeria where everyone can pursue their legitimate businesses. It wants a country without banditry, kidnapping, corruption, political and electoral violence, militancy, armed robbery, ethno-religious conflicts, fake news etc. The DSS desires a country in which the media sees itself as a critical stakeholder in Nation building; a country where journalists will preach peace, tolerance, unity and not push for parochialism, division, violence and disrespect for constituted authorities.
Undoubtedly, sections of the Media, of late, is becoming awash with disparaging articles and commentaries, seeking to either cast aspersions on the DSS or undermine its constitutional roles. Recently, some canvassed for its dissolution and extermination. A few commentators have argued that it has no legal foundation to exist. Many are even engaged in the petty argument about what its real name is – SSS or DSS? No research. Only blind attacks. Other subversive groups also deploy yellow journalism, hacktivism, propaganda, imagined constitutional gaps and other forms of falsehood and subterfuge against the Service to rise to self acclaimed fame or advance pecuniary interests. Another trend is how sections of the media have become biased and willing tools for perpetrating sinister agenda as well as visibly displaying unprofessional journalism for the singular purpose of pulling the country down. These campaigns of calumny to deliberately malign, subvert or weaken the DSS are unnecessary. Publishing the image-sullying piece just days after it intimated the public of sponsored attacks against it is not coincidental. It has validated the agency’s forewarning.
Despite these smear campaigns, the DSS refuses to be distracted by the attempts to damage its reputation, distract it from its core mandate or demoralise its gallant personnel. While reiterating the Service’ commitment to discharging its duties in line with global best practices in line with rule of law and democratic accountability, it enjoins beloved Abimbola and the media to play their parts in preserving the National Security of Nigeria.
Hello! Abimbola, are you still there. Support the DSS. Support SSS. Support Security Agencies in Nigeria. We all deserve the Support, ejoo.
Dr. Peter Afunanya is the Public Relations Officer, Department of State Services (DSS)