The Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, was a strong man in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration until his removal on August 7. When he was appointed in July, 2015, Daura had a clear mandate to reorganise the DSS, which was believed to have been dragged into the murky waters of politics ahead of the elections that gave birth to this government. But sooner than expected, he was perceived to have become part of the ‘cabal’, which influenced the President’s decision and activities. In this report, ISIOMA MADIKE, looks at the man and his many controversial actions
Lawal Daura came into President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration with so much promise as the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS). Although under him, officials of DSS, were stripped of their constitutional roles of protecting the President. That, however, did not whittle down his influences, which loomed large within and outside the corridors of Aso Rock, the seat of government.
Nigerians understood him to be part of a set of people who dictated the President’s decisions and actions. They were nicknamed ‘cabal’ with much power at their disposals. A cabal, according to Wikipedia, is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in an ideology, state, or other community, often by intrigue, usually unknown to persons outside their group.
However, DSS boss maneuvering ended without intrigue when the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, announced his dismissal after he ‘unilaterally’ wanted to taint one of the tenets of modern democracy, which Nigeria subscribes to. Daura’s removal was made public by Osinbajo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande. Akande in a brief statement said: “Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, (SAN), has directed the termination of the appointment of the Director-General, State Security Service (DSS), Mr. Lawal Musa Daura with immediate effect.
“Mr. Daura has been directed to hand over to the most senior officer of the State Security Service until further notice.” Osinbajo had earlier summoned the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and Daura, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to update the acting president on security developments including the blockade of the National Assembly by security officials.
The police and operatives of the DSS had blocked the main gate of the National Assembly, preventing lawmakers and staff from gaining access into the complex. This action forced the legislators to enter both chambers from the back doors. ‘Order from above’ was what was said to have authorised DSS’ invasion of the legislative complex.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, had summoned an emergency meeting to discuss Issues, which included the string of defections in the political space, rumoured plan to impeach him, and the pending 2019 elections supplementary budget, among others. The presidency had, however, claimed that the meeting was aimed at shutting down the entire government with a view to crippling the economy. But, the drama at the parliament was not the first, however. Daura’s DSS had, before now, assumed notoriety in invading, and arrogating powers it did not have, to itself.
This macabre dance had, indeed, become one too many in recent times. Instances also abound of the evident lack of synergy, unhealthy rivalry, and bitter feud among the different security apparatuses. One of such was the dramatic and unsettling clash between the operatives of the DSS, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Since riding into power on the mantra of ‘change’ and anti-corruption posturing, Nigeria, under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in the reckoning of many, has become a theatre of the absurd. Many believe that the actions and inactions of the government in the last three years, as well as the brazen impunity emblematic of the operations of the DSS, have made it a laughing stock in the global arena. A similar occurrence of what happened at the National Assembly involving the DSS was halted in Rivers State on October 8, 2016.
The officials of the agency had attempted to arrest a Federal High Court judge, Justice Mohammed Liman. They had stormed the 35 Forces Avenue, home of Justice Liman, but were stopped by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, according to reports. Wike had insisted that security agencies must always follow due process in the discharge of their duties.
He had said: “Not under my watch will I allow this kind of impunity to take place. That is why we are here. I don’t know which judge they were detailed to abduct. I didn’t bother myself to know which judge. All I am interested in is that, at this level, it is not allowed.” He added: “He is not a criminal and he is not an armed robber. If the person has committed an offence, invite him. It is only when he refuses to honour the invitation that you can adopt this commando style.
The Commissioner of Police is here, the Director of DSS is here. Their operatives cocked their guns and threatened to shoot me. I have never seen that before. Again, this is to tell you what we are facing. We know that more will come. For us in this state, we shall continue to resist it. “It doesn’t matter what it will cost. When you talk about liberty, sacrifices must be made.
We are not trying to stop an arrest. All we are saying is that things must be done decently and in line with the rule of law. Rivers State is under siege. For you to see a governor out at this time of the day, something is wrong. A siege is an understatement. If this type of thing happens next time, the people will resist it to the last.”
In another power play, officers of the DSS also invaded the houses of four Supreme Court Judges: Justices Walter Onnoghen, Sylvester Ngwuta, Adeniyi Ademola and Nnamdi Dimgba, on Friday, October 7, 2016. According to reports, the DSS officials came with search warrants, which could not be authenticated and bore wrongs names. In the seeming “madness”, Justice Dimgba’s brother, was reportedly molested by the overzealous officers during the raid. As criticisms trailed the harassment of the judges, the Senate resolved to amend the laws that establish some security outfits in the country, including the DSS.
The upper chamber legislature condemned what it called “the draconian manner” in which the agency invaded the residences of the judges to arrest them. The drama from the interference of the DSS in the Rivers State electoral tribunal was another sore point for Daura. On July 25, 2015, the Rivers State caucus in the National Assembly raised the alarm over alleged plot of the ruling APC, in using security operatives to influence the outcome of the Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Delta 2015 election petitions before the tribunal in the states. Addressing newsmen at the hallowed chambers in Abuja, Senator George Thomson-Sekibo, who spoke on behalf of the caucus, said:
“It was curious that the DSS had summoned and later detained the state INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, soon after former governor of the State, Rotimi Amaechi, visited the Director General, Lawal Musa Daura. “The invitation and subsequent arrest of Mrs Khan followed the private visit of Amaechi, to the director of SSS on or about Tuesday, July 7, 2015. We are constrained to conclude that part of the script being played by the DSS is to concoct evidence in support of the petitioners’ case at the tribunal where the petitioners pleaded that they shall rely on security reports at the trial, particularly ‘the SSS report.’”
In Gombe State, Justice Muazu Pindiga, who served briefly as the Chairman of the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal, was reportedly arrested also. Before then, the official quarters of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, was allegedly invaded by the now notorious DSS officials on the pretext of acting on intelligence report that the lodge was stockpiled with arms to be used against the Nigerian State on September 11, 2015.
Over 45 gun wielding operatives of the DSS had stormed the quarters in Gestapo-styled operation, disarmed security personnel attached to the Government House, broke down doors, destroyed safe boxes and ransacked the guest house section in search of phantom stash of arms, reports added. The illegal action by agents of the state police was strongly believed to have acted the poorly written script of Daura. It was not only seen as an assault on the sanctity of the country’s democracy, but also an injurious blow on the integrity of the good people of Akwa Ibom State. Akwa Ibom Interest Movement (AIM) condemned the brazen and dastardly acts and said never in the history of Nigeria’s democracy had the official residence of a sitting governor been raided.
The group, in a statement, said: “We state unequivocally that this action does not only portend danger to our democracy, but also a pointer to the fact that Nigeria is returning to the dark era of anomy, which characterised the army’s incursion on the Nigerian nationhood in 1983.”
Aside that, officials of the SSS and EFCC had engaged each other in a showdown in November when the anti-graft operatives attempted to arrest the immediate past Director- General of the SSS, Ekpenyong Ita, and the former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke.
“There exists acrimony between the chief executive officers of these security agencies. This was noticed from the outset of the investigation, leading the committee to conduct the hearings in camera as well as holding separate meetings with the security agencies. This lack of cooperation and cohesion is reflected at a secondary level with the EFCC and the NSA belonging to one group and the NIA and DSS belonging to another group. Accordingly, the principle of espirit- de-corps appears to be lost between these two groups.
“The failure of the Office of the National Security Adviser to act on the letter by the Director-General, DSS, dated 25th July, 2017, by implication, amounted to failure to discharge its statutory responsibilities as contained in Section 4 of the National Security Agencies Act, Cap 74 LFN 2004. Although the EFCC acted within the ambit of the law by obtaining all the relevant search warrants from the Court of Law (in a bid to arrest these Security Officers), the Commission failed to obtain authorisation from the NSA or the President in accordance with Section 4 of National Security Agency Act, Cap 74 LFN 2004, before obtaining the search warrant,” Francis Alimikhena, Chaiman of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee, said. Daura had, before then, indicted Ibrahim Magu, in a report that stalled his confirmation as the chairman of the EFCC. The former DSS boss also stirred controversy when he justified the negotiation with Boko Haram sect, which he called the “safest” means of rescuing the three abducted lecturers of the University of Maiduguri and 10 women from captivity.
The women were abducted from a police convoy in Borno State while going for a burial and the lecturers were taken hostage by the insurgents after they had collected soil samples in the Lake Chad. They were part of a group of geologists a n d technologists exploring oil in the basin. Daura had said: “We choose the path of nego- tiation because it was considered as DSS at the National Assembly Atiku the safest because any forceful attempt to rescue the victims could endanger their lives.
These negotiations took several months and the Department of State Services with the support of the external elements of the group in diaspora and support from friendly countries and liaising with International Community of the Red Cross, made the rescue possible. “The negotiations were mainly centred on an attempt at conflict mitigation, which included the fate of arrested members of the insurgent groups, especially, accepting to free by government those found not to be culpable in any criminal action. Also, possible cessation of hostilities, especially the attacks with IEDs on innocent civilians, worship centers, schools and other public places in return for temporary stoppage of air strikes by helicopter gunships.”
However, throughout the period Daura held sway as the DSS’ DG, the agency had no official spokesperson to project its activities. The development was roundly condemned by stakeholders, especially the media, which had to rely on “insider sources”, to clarify issues. Considering the sensitive nature of the service, it was better to err on the side of caution, even on occasions that a call through would have cleared grey areas. Another trend that characterised Daura’s headship of the secret service was the disobedience to orders made by courts of competent jurisdictions. A case in point is the one bordering on a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), who has remained in the custody of the DSS, despite securing about six orders of court granting him bail.
The leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (I’MN), Sheikh Ibrahim El- Zakzaky, whose case – as it relates to order of court for his release – further interrogates the sanctity of the doctrine of the rule of law, and the principle of separation of power. In the face of the negative perception about the DSS under Daura, it suffices to point out that a lot was done in the area of counter-terrorism. For instance, the service had reported sometime in June, that its determination to frustrate violent extremism in the country,had led to the arrest of 61 suspected terrorists, kidnappers, as well as bomb making experts across the country.
Among those arrested were three suspected members of the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) who, the DSS said, had perfected plans to attack the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Bauchi State, and their contiguous territories. Well trained operatives of the service were actively involved in joint operations with the military, to combat terrorism and other threats to security. In spite of these controversial actions by DSS, Nigerians have disagreed sharply over the sacking of Daura. While some applauded his removal, others saw it as grandstanding by the government. For instance, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, while reacting to Daura’s dismissal, praised Osinbajo for listening to the clarion call of Nigerians and taking action to halt the illegal and anti-democratic siege of the National Assembly.
He noted that by firing the former DSS boss, the acting President has given meaning to the cries of Nigerians that “we will not tolerate such anti-democratic actions”. Atiku, therefore, called on all statesmen and political leaders to put aside partisanship and rally round the acting President at these “fragile times”. He added: “These are delicate times for Nigeria and all lovers of democracy and the rule of law must be extra watchful lest anti-democratic forces take advantage of all we have worked hard to build.” But, there are those who did not see the drama from Atiku’s perspective. Ben Murray- Bruce was one of those on this divide. He said: “The DSS DG was just a fall guy.
Those behind this are still at large and they will try again, but I want to assure the next security Chief, who may want to attempt this that even if he is not fired, he will be banned for life from getting a US/UK visa.” Reno Omokri also said: “Their latest lie is that Daura, the disgraced DSS DG, who wept like a little girl when he was arrested, was working for Bukola Saraki. Believe this and you will believe anything. Daura was the face of the cabal. He is from the same village as president. Is it only me, or has anyone noticed the extremely loud silence from the President to all that happened and is happening in Nigeria? ” From Femi Fani-Kayode twitter handle, @realFFK, read: “Two narratives have been put out about the sordid events. The first is that Lawal Daura, the former DG of DSS, acted on his own and without any orders from the Presidency.
The second is that Daura and Senate President Bukola Saraki plotted the whole affair and that they were working together to discredit and pull down the Buhari government. The truth about the events will eventually come out. When it does, Nigerians will be shocked.” Also speaking on the comedy at the legislative chambers, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, described the invasion as a coup against democracy as well as Nigeria and its people. He said that those with history of collapsing democracy in the country must not be allowed to truncate it now.
Aisha Buhari had, before now, raised the alarm on a number of occasions that some cabals in Aso Rock had taken over governance from her husband, the President of Nigeria. The first Lady also registered her displeasure on how some unnamed four Aso Rock Cabals had extended their influence on the President even at sick bed at the United Kingdom. “President Buhari needs to free himself from the cabals around him–the hyenas, the jackals and other predatory animals that are with him,” poet and Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, once wrote. Taking inventory of the situation in Nigeria and the capacity of Buhari’s administration to deliver the country from economic, social and political quagmire, in the face of the recent happenings within Federal Government circles, Sani, and former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, also said:
“There are clear indications that the government has been hijacked by a cabal and holding the President hostage.” Daura is believed by many to be one of the cabals being spoken of in many of these instances. He was born in Daura, Kastina State, on August 5, 1953. He attended the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, from 1977 to 1980, and started his career in the SSS in 1982 (then NSO) where he rose to the rank of a director.
He was at one time the Deputy Director, Presidential Communications, Command and Control Centre, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, between 2003 and 2007. He also served as State Director, Security Service, at various times for states like Kano, Sokoto, Edo, Lagos, Osun and Imo. He attended various professional courses, both at home and abroad, including the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru in Jos, Plateau State. Despite these intimidating credentials, his appointment as DG, DSS, was considered by some as “constitutionally prodigal”. Daura had served and retired as “a director” of the SSS in August 2013 having attained mandatory retirement age of 60 years. He was recalled to take up appointment as DG, DSS.
Additional report by Onani Emmanuel (Abuja)
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