• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

With DIA, we need fewer laws

Credible intelligence, inter-agency cooperation enabled rescue of Kankara boys – Military

Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA, was set up in 1986 to promote Nigeria’s defence policy, enhance military cooperation with other countries, protect the lives of Nigerian citizens, and maintain the territorial integrity of Nigeria. It is a very important agency with the road leading to its Abuja headquarters named DIA Road.

Major General Emmanuel Undiandeye, Chief of Defence Intelligence, CDI, the head of DIA, is reportedly one of the country’s finest military officers. How easy it is for the finest to confuse those who think it depicts the officer’s looks.
He is a well-exposed officer who has done a lot of work with the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, including participating in authoring a framework on improving UN operations. He knows about law and order.

Possibly, he was unaware of the arrest of Segun Olatunji, the Editor of FirstNews, an online publication. Armed, masked military personnel invaded his Lagos home and whisked him to an unknown destination for two weeks. DIA released Olatunji under an Abuja flyover on Thursday to officials of Nigeria Guild of Editor, Nigeria Union of Journalists and International Press Institute.

Since we are unsure if the flyover is a classified office of DIA, we should be more careful about being under flyovers.

Whatever his offence was, no matter its magnitude, the recourse to abduction, denial of DIA holding him, and the torture that the journalist recounted are not practices in a civilian government. Protection of the rights of individuals is a minimal expectation in a democratic government.

Maj-Gen Undiandeye has to account for this incident as he is the only public face of DIA, which has everything classified unless what it wants the public to know.

According to Olatunji, one of the officers who raided his home told him that FirstNews’ reports “were embarrassing to Oga”. Were they acting on the CDI’s instructions, or did some over-zealous officials decide to act on their own? Or did they act at the instance of other top government officials who were not comfortable with other things FirstNews published?

One assumes that Maj-Gen Undiandeye would be too busy co-ordinating intelligence to have time to wade through piles of publications.
Some have hinted that DIA acted that way because it was above the law. This is a vastly wrong assumption. DIA is a creation of the law through the National Security Agencies Act of 1986, formerly Decree 19. The President appointed Maj-Gen Undiandeye in June 2024 under that law. So, neither DIA nor the CDI can be above the law.

The law was available to the DIA if it considered the publications offensive. The use of excessive force, public resources, and torture as Olatunji told the media were unnecessary. There are adequate laws to protect the interests of DIA on Olatunji.

Some soldiers for a Lagos operation, transportation of Olatunji to Abuja by a special aircraft, and the logistics involved could have been more useful if deployed to Nigeria’s security challenges. We would never know how much was wasted because DIA’s operation details are not for public consumption.

DIA resorted to self-help in a matter the laws can manage knowing that it had more powers. Under which law does DIA’s powers to act as it wishes exist? None. Situations like Olatunji’s are reasons for laws. Nobody should act outside the law.
Soon, there would be debates on whether DIA was an intelligence or law-enforcement organisation. None of the debates will help.

What is required is that everyone is under the law. The law would not permit anyone hiding behind a finger to defend an illegality. DIA’s action calls for more attention to its activities. Could it have others in detention who have no organisations to press for their release?

Unless our laws have meaning through enforcement mechanisms that prioritise our rights, we would have more lawlessness than the one DIA displayed. Self-help is forcefully taking the place of the law. It must stop.

We have enough laws. What we need is more respect for individual’s rights, an upright justice system that recognises the importance of the an individual’s dignity, and punishes those whose sense of importance lies in oppressing others under the guise of toiling for society’s common good.

Finally…

Once again, my condolences to the families of the soldiers killed in Okuama. May I also call on the army again to concentrate on finding the killers of their colleagues. Whole communities are suffering for a crime they did not commit.

Bandits keep laughing at us with the way governments manage insecurity. Governors, past and present, who prioritised their elections over their people, held meetings with bandits in the forests, told us that they were businessmen and not terrorists, are mainly responsible for endless incidents of kidnapping and attacks.

Was it needless counting the number of students who were “returned” or “rescued” in one of Kaduna State’s kidnap incidents? Yes. The most important things were that they were back, properly uniformed for a reception. We should stop playing with everything, especially lives.

Pa Edwin Clark will be 97 in May. An army officer called him on 23 March 2024 to apologise over an invasion of his house in Ughelli. He had no house there. Later, he was told his home in Kiagbodo, Delta State, which a malfunctioning drone pointed out as store for ammunition by militants, had been broken into, and occupants brutalised.

Nothing was found. How do you call a man that age with such a story? Will the army pay for the damage to the house? Soldiers also searched Pa Clark’s Abuja home in 2018. They found nothing.

It matters which security agents are killed and the location of the incidents. In some parts of the country, the incidents are glossed over no matter the numbers. In 1999, Odi in Bayelsa State was wiped out over the death of 12 policemen. “Every building in the town except the bank, the Anglican church, and the health centre was burned to the ground,” according to a Human Rights Watch report. Zaki Biam and several communities in Benue State suffered similar fate over the killing of 19 soldiers in 2001. Governments have lowered interests in attacks on security agencies except where the army is involved. How do the other security agencies feel?

Why would a country that cannot feed its people, that is deep in debts, spend N90 billion to subsidise pilgrimage, a private religious obligation for those who can afford it? The money is not enough to get the 50,000 intending prilgrims to Saudi Arabia. Travel allowances at preferential foreign exchange rates have not been made. A subsidy would be required too for Christian pilgrims. The N90 billion subsidy is 25 per cent of N362.9 billion budgeted for agriculture in 2024. Suppose we take feeding ourselves more serious while those who can, travel on pilgrimage?

It is unfair to FCT Minister Nyesom Wike – former LGA boss, former Chief of Staff to Governor, two-time Minister, Governor for 8 years – to be compared with Judas.

Darkness all over as national grid collapses again, but our national Greed remains intact.

Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues