REVIEW: Is DSS the new alternative government in Nigeria?
The Department of State Services (DSS) has often been seen as a notorious instrument used by the Nigerian government to ‘seek revenge’ on people standing in the way of its activities or undermining the success of its policies. Hence recent interventions of the security service in a number of issues in the country have drawn attention.
The DSS in recent times has intervened in efforts to arrest situations seen as capable of engendering public unrest orchestrated by perceived enemies of democracy and peace in the country. From its role in dealing with erring marketers responsible for fuel scarcity, to stopping industrial actions in some sectors of the country, to fighting alleged criminality associated with Naira redesign policy, there have been arguments over over the role of the DSS in terms of ensuring law and order. This is particularly significant because its interventions come almost when the government’s policy-related strategies must have failed to provide much-needed relief for the public.
The interventions have left many Nigerians confused as to the mandate of the secret police, whom many thought were never to be identified in their modus operandi. Many people were often of the view that the DSS operatives usually work in the shadows to achieve their aims, while government takes credit for whatever achievement they make.
For instance, in December when the crisis of fuel scarcity became intense across the country and began to take its toll on vulnerable Nigerians, DSS, after all warnings from the government to the marketers hoarding fuel had produced no result, issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC), the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and other stakeholders in the oil sector to resolve the crisis. Hinting at economic sabotage, the State Service threatened to go after those impeding on the supply of the petroleum products if fuel queues persisted at the petrol stations after the ultimatum.
Spokesman of the DSS, Peter Afunanya, said in a statement: “Nigerians have a right and must have access to petroleum products. We told stakeholders that we will not continue to tolerate the situation. We were clear and direct that enough is enough. That the fuel supply chain whatever it is must be resolved. DSS agreed with others that a solution must be provided within 48 hours. If anybody decides to become an obstacle that it will not be business as usual. Whatever is the issue must be resolved within 48 hours”.
Even though some marketers failed to comply with the ultimatum, reports suggest that there was situational improvement in the country regarding the crisis. Some marketers who hitherto hoarded fuel or sold it at exorbitant prices bowed to the order. However, two months down the line the crisis is still unsolved, this time more biting, affecting social, Economic and political activities in the country.
Another intervention by the State Service was manifest in the way it, alongside other stakeholders, intervened in the downing of tools by workers which led to shutdown of the aviation sector few weeks ago. Following the strike embarked upon by aviation workers under the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association (ATTSSSAN) which led to the shutdown of airline operations in the country, the DSS met with NAHCO’s management, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders including the Federal Airport Authority (FAAN), and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) at NAHCO’s Head Office in Lagos. The meeting allowed parties to agree on cogent points which brought the strike to an end.
Again, the DSS in another round of confusing officiousness went after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, for policies of the apex bank to redesign the nations currency, Naira, and another which sought to limit the amount of cash withdrawals by individuals and corporate bodies across the counter at banks in the country.
In December last year, the Security Service in an ex parte application marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2255/2022, sought an ex parte order to arrest the CBN Governor, Emefiele, over alleged acts of financing terrorism, fraudulent activities and economic crimes against national security. It claimed that preliminary investigation showed that Emefiele was complicit in terrorism activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s internal security.
READ ALSO:DSS intercepts sellers of new Naira notes, says bank officials implicated
However, Chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, in a ruling delivered on the application, rejected it on the grounds that the DSS failed to provide sufficient evidence to warrant the issuance of an arrest warrant against Emefiele. The court said such an application should have been accompanied with the presidential approval because of the grave implications for the Nigerian economy if the CBN governor was eventually arrested and detained.
Tsoho said: “In the light of the foregoing reasons, I decline to grant this application ex parte. If the applicant believes that the evidence available to it so far is sufficient, then it can as well arrest and detain the applicant, even without the order of the court. If however the applicant desires to still pursue this application, then it should place the respondent on notice considering the sensitive public office that he occupies.”
Almost two weeks later, another order was issued by Justice M.A. Hassan of the Federal High Court particularly restraining the DSS from arresting, intimidating and harassing Emefiele. The order came amid speculations that the bid to arrest the CBN Governor might be political, given the impact the redesign of the naira and limit on cash withdrawals might have on vote buying in the 2023 elections.
The order read in part: “That the 4th respondent (DSS) acted wrongfully and illegally in instigating the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against Emefiele in respect of the exercise of his statutory duty relating to the issuance of monetary policies and directives in the interest of National security and economy.”
in yet another move that was akin to what Nigerians thought the DSS role should be, the state service intervened in efforts to ensure the success of the recent Naira redesign policy by the CBN. Amid litany of complaints that trailed the policy and the resultant scarcity of new Naira notes at different commercial banks, the DSS had commenced intervention to arrest the trend in the interest of the Nigerian public.
Afunanya in a statement on Monday revealed that the State Service had nabbed syndicates selling the new notes to Nigerians and revealed the complicity of banks in the disturbing trend. He also charged other concerned authorities to step up monitoring and supervisory activities in order to stop racketeers.
“The Department of State Services, DSS, hereby informs the public that it has intercepted some members of organised syndicates involved in the sale of the new re-designed naira notes. In the course of its operations, in this regard in parts of the country, it was also established that some commercial bank officials are aiding the economic malfeasance”, Afunaya stated.
All these have left Nigerians confused about the role of the State Service and its responsibilities to the country. The DSS is an agency under the Ministry of Defense supposedly charged with detection and prevention of crimes and threats against the internal security of Nigeria. It is also supposed, to be the leading domestic intelligence agency in the country with the primary responsibility of collecting intelligence for good governance and national safety, ensuring the protection of the State and its officials, citizens, critical resources and infrastructure from domestic and foreign threat.
However, the fact that it has come be a sort of ‘independent rescue force’ for Nigerians in times decisive steps are expected from the government, has left many wondering the about its actual role, and that of the government of the day.
Many argue that the role of the State Security Service should remind the Nigerian government about the need to be more decisive and serious with governance. That DSS has somewhat taken critical steps to relieve the pains of Nigerians in situations when strong policies would have been useful, is a point the Nigerian government must pay attention to. Or has the Department of State Service suddenly become the alternative government in Nigeria?
By Ambali Abdulkabeer
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