AT a recent private engagement with the media, a prince of the Sokoto caliphate, former aide de camp to former President Ibrahim Babangida and current National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) lamented that terrorists have succeeded in changing the way Nigerians see and relate with each other but observed the only way to defeat them is for all of us to remain united in constructive engagements and mutual dialogues and confront their threat as one united nation under God.
The Office of the National Security Adviser is empowered to advise the President on matters concerning intelligence activities of the national security agencies. The NSA is therefore, responsible for distilling the collective material amassed by the various agencies and bringing them to the attention of the President. He also makes recommendations in relation to the activities of the intelligence and security agencies to the President as contingencies may warrant. This influential role is limited to the fact that it doesn’t allow the NSA to place boots on the ground as relevant agencies are mandated to do the execution.
While past occupiers of that office were outspoken on various national issues, Dasuki would rather delegate or allow respective and relevant officers and agencies do the talking and take the action. Rather than engage in unnecessarily political bickering, the man has taken a gentlemanly path of humility and perseverance. A clear example was the recent apology he tendered to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal who was allegedly harassed by security personnel while attending a programme organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser in Kaduna.
He hardly addresses the press in media chats, press conferences or interviews. He nevertheless occasionally engages media practitioners in private discussion on current realities from the right and factual perspectives.
It is in view of this, for instance, that he facilitates existence of some structures for regular interface with the media towards better understanding of national security, including the Forum of Spokespersons on Security and Response Agencies, FOSSRA, chaired by Director Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade and National Information Centre, under the leadership of Director General of National Orientation Agency, NOA, Mr. Mike Omeri. Some of these platforms have reduced repercussions from inter-agency rivalries to the barest minimum.
A believer in constructive and sometimes intellectual engagements, Dasuki has continued to promote dialogues through conferences and summit towards proffering solutions to lingering security crises in the country while ensuring that security agencies remain focused in maintaining law and order.
The Office has been quite busy in recent times organising workshops and seminars, all aimed at restoring the elusive peace and tranquillity to the country generally and the North in particular.
In an effort to address the growing fear of cyberspace and online engagement, Sambo Dasuki recently gathered critical stakeholders to the First National Cybersecurity Forum in Lagos to harness their input into the policy framework on cybersecurity. The participants from the public and private sectors, including NGOs and the media, build a national consensus on National Cybersecurity Roadmap and facilitated a unified e-security foundation for Digital Nigeria through a coordinated effort.
The event was deliberately planned to secure the cooperation, understanding and the support of other critical government agencies and stakeholders, which will help to prevent disjointed policy document, as well as achieving a coherent and all-inclusive strategy in which all other similar cybersecurity efforts previously undertaken in the country will be infused into the overall framework of the National Cybersecurity Policy.
His office also hosted an international conference on security and development challenges in West and Central Africa due to activities of Fulani nomads. The event, which was held in Kaduna with the theme “The Role of Pastoralists in Preventing Insurgency and Conflicts for enhanced National Security,” drew critical stakeholders, top representatives of Fulani nomads, farmers along grazing reserves and scholars to a roundtable where they identified key challenges facing communities affected by pastoralists and their consequences on national security. The forum provided a medium in achieving synergy among stakeholders and security agencies to tackle the menace of terrorism, insurgency, cattle rustling, command clashes and threat to national security.
Concerned about allegations of human rights abuses and proportionality of military response to crises situations, the Office organised international seminar on the Imperatives of the Observance of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Norms in Internal Security Operations for military, law enforcement officers and legal practitioners. This was borne out of a conviction that frequent sensitisation will go a long way to encourage the armed forces to imbibe these norms and promote voluntary compliance to the observance of appropriate rules of engagement which has been institutionalised in the training of members of the armed forces.
Again, because of a concern that vulnerable children and youths are coerced into criminal activities and insurgency, the National Security Adviser proposed the Soft-Approach Against Insurgency. The counter radicalisation approach seeks to institute community engagement and resilience through building creating trust, creating awareness and resilience by partnering with faith based organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders to deliver counter radicalisation programs at community levels.
The platforms will create opportunities for conversation amongst the people, create nonviolent conflict resolution mechanisms and make it easier for youths in the affected societies to find answers to the questions that bother them the most.
The educational component of the programme is to be deployed to counter violent extremism. Youths are to be mentored and nurtured through multiple platforms such as sports, arts, music, literature, history, leadership and service. The educational environment or schools for the programme would be a place where children go to learn about diversity, tolerance, and how to commune with those of different faiths and ethnicities. Once they are kept busy on inquisitive, creative, imaginative and productive engagements, devilish thinking and evil-adventures would cross their minds.
Meanwhile the economic component can only be adjudged as superb if it is properly and successfully implemented. The ONSA develops a joint regional redevelopment plan, which would serve as the foundation for a federal-state partnership to revitalize the North-East region’s economy. An inter-ministerial committee consisting of the Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), development partners are working with affected region under the aegis of the Presidential Initiative for the Northeast (PINE).
The office has also established National Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Mechanism with Early Warning System (EWS) and Alerts for all cyber related emergencies in the country (ngCERT); National Computer Forensic Laboratory and coordinating the training and utilization of the facility by all law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies and coordinated Nigeria’s involvement in international cybersecurity cooperations to ensure the integration of our country into the global frameworks on cybersecurity.
One of his unique attributes is that he would rather take blame for overzealousness of officers under him but craves credit for security successes and accomplishment for the President whom he advises.
The dialogues and conferences on national security and security consciousness are parts of the ongoing effort by the ONSA to create awareness, collaboration and also reach critical stakeholders as way to finding lasting solution to security challenges in Nigeria and Africa in general.
LABARAN SALEH, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.