By Stanley Chidi Ebube
Various analyses of media contents have shown that a significant section of the Nigerian public does not quite understand the scope and workings of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). Although this lack of understanding has been a long-standing issue, it has since assumed a slightly mischievous proportion which, if left unexplained, could transform into an established alternative truth.
Previous events around ONSA, especially the arms procurement saga which had misleadingly painted the Office as a security contract implementation body, further fueled an imaginary function of ONSA not contained in the statute from which it was established.
Section 4 of the National Security Agencies Act, 1986, which disbanded the Nigerian Security Organisation and created three security agencies in its place, specifically empower the President, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to appoint a Coordinator on National Security “for the purpose of coordinating the intelligence activities of the National Security Agencies set up under the Act”.
Section 4(3) defined the role of the Coordinator on National Security to include: advising the President, on matters concerning intelligence activities of security agencies, among other responsibilities. Later, the functions of the Coordinator on National Security were transferred to the National Security Adviser, while Section 2 states that: “The National Security Adviser shall co-ordinate the activities of the National Security Agencies established under Section 1 of the Decree.”
In 1999, the Office of the National Security Adviser was established to replace the Office of the Coordinator on National Security to perform other functions, such as issues of national intelligence budget and serving as chairman of the meetings of the Intelligence Community Committee (ICC), the Joint Intelligence Board (JIB) and the National Security Agencies Appeal Committee, are conferred on the National Security Adviser.
In every sector, when relevant outfits pursue different agenda, the result is always counter-productive. In matters of national security, the situation is much more critical. It is a well-known fact that intelligence coordination is as vital to national security as intelligence gathering. In fact, failure of a country to adequately coordinate all its security agencies could portend greater danger than any internal or external security threat.
It is for the reason of coordination and serving as a clearinghouse that ONSA remains pivotal to issues of national security. However, the Office is not to be misjudged as a security agency, but an arm of the Presidency responsible for synchronising, coordinating the activities of national security agencies and advising the commander-in-Chief on matters related thereto.
And in the task of de-emphasising rivalry and fostering synergy among the nation’s security outfits, Current National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno’s has, on several occasions, harped on collaboration among the security and intelligence community as a panacea for surmounting the various security challenges faced across the country.
In addressing those challenges, one of the cardinal shifts in approach taken in 2015 was the mainstreaming of policy implementation in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), while the Office concentrates on its core function of coordinating efforts.
To ensure that MDAs are able to implement security-related policies ONSA has embarked on capacity development both horizontally and vertically.
Since 2015, ONSA has worked with partners to provide capacity building in responding to the threat of terrorism and violent extremism. For instance, the Training Manual on Human Rights, which formed the basis of the Training-of-Trainers workshop, seeks to “Strengthen Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights” in preventing terrorism.
One of such capacity-building activities happened in November 2020, when ONSA collaborated with the UNDP to train law enforcement and security officials on observance of human rights in the prevention of violent extremism. The training drew participants from various training institutions of the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Correctional Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
Others include representatives from National Human Rights Commission, as well as some security correspondents of selected media organisations. Also, with the support of UNODC, three training sessions have been conducted for law enforcement and security personnel of the Joint Investigation Committee handling terrorism investigation in the northeast.
For instance, as part of his advisory role, it was the NSA who recommended that arms purchase should be country to country without third parties in order to close gaps in arms procurement, reduce cost and prevent corruption.
Through ONSA, Nigeria has also been an active player in global security cooperation. Last year, Nigeria and the United States of America co-hosted a virtual meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which was attended by delegates from the 82-member global coalition drawn from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The Africa Union, European Union, ECOWAS and G-5 Sahel were also represented among other international and regional organisations.
In 2018, ONSA held the first National Chemical Security Training Conference in collaboration with NAFDAC and United States Department of States in an effort to control dual use of chemicals. Issues around importation, distribution, storage and use of chemicals were discussed and the communiqué produced during the conference is being implemented.
Nigeria is also co-chair (along with Switzerland) of the Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law (CJ-ROL) Working Group of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). The group focuses on the critical role played by the criminal justice sector in combating terrorism, and demonstrates the GCTF’s commitment to support rule-of-law based and human rights-compliant approaches.
In continuation of the partnership with Switzerland, ONSA developed the Abuja Recommendations on Collection, Use and Sharing of Evidence for Purposes of Criminal Prosecution of Terror Suspects, which was endorsed at the 2018 GCTF Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the 72nd UNGA.
Also in 2018, ONSA co-organised the First Expert Meeting of the Working Group for the development of a set of recommendations on Rule of Law-Based Administrative Measures in Counter-Terrorism Context held at The Hague, Netherlands.
These are some of the activities carried out by ONSA in coordinating national security policies, strategies and advising the President.
Chidi contributed this piece from Abuja.