By FEMI ADESINA
A landmark event happened in Abuja on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned two architectural wonders at the Office of the National Security Adviser’s Complex at the Three Arms Zone area of the Federal Capital Territory.
One was the National Counterterrorism Centre, and the other the new offices of the National Security Adviser (NSA). Architectural masterpieces, if you ever saw any. Another landmark under the administration of the unobtrusive Buhari, the infrastructure man.
NSA Mohammed Babagana Monguno, a retired Major General of the Nigerian Army, used the opportunity to pay tribute to the President, who he said was the moving spirit behind the two projects. His words: “I wish to state that the conceptualisation, design and development of the new offices were based on Mr President’s vision of ensuring a robust national security enterprise for the country.”
The new office complex provides sanctuary for national security agencies like Department of State Sevices (DSS), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and other key interagency intelligence sharing platforms such as the Intelligence Community Committee (ICC), Joint Intelligence Board (JIB), General Security Appraisal Committee (GSAC), and the Cybercrime Advisory Council. The National Counterterrorism Centre has its own stand-alone office complex.
According to NSA Monguno, “there were some key departments that were hitherto not co-located within the premises of the former Office of the National Security Adviser that are now in the new Office, thereby enhancing administrative control.”
Whoever thought such humongous projects had been ongoing at the Three Arms Zone of the city, quietly, efficiently, without Buga. But then, that is the nature of the intelligence services. Like Big Brother, they are always there, watching, active, keeping tabs, but you never know. Even for those of us who are friends and colleagues of the NSA in government, he pulled a fast one on us. Mum was the word in all the years it took him to achieve the feats. No swashbuckling.
President Buhari used the opportunity of the commissioning to reflect on the general security situation in the country, and the landmarks achieved.
He said the inauguration of the two world class state of the art facilities “will optimize our efforts at addressing the newly evolving security challenges in our environment, especially terrorism and violent extremism.
“The secure and hi-tech nature of these offices, are designed to enhance our strategic response to a broad range of current and emerging security concerns. This is because we live in an interconnected world and therefore must be able to face and respond to both domestic and global security challenges.”
President Buhari recalled that when this administration assumed office in 2015, the threat of terrorism was one of the major security challenges facing the country.
“However, I can confidently state here today that we have achieved significant milestones in degrading the major threat and restoring normalcy to most of the hitherto securitized areas in the North East.
“These areas previously occupied by terrorists have been freed and Internally Displaced Persons are voluntarily returning to their homes. This was largely achieved through the valiant efforts of our Armed Forces and other security agencies, in collaboration with our regional and international partners but above all, the support and cooperation of the Nigerian citizens.
“Apart from the degraded threat of terrorism in the North East, the government has also curbed the series of armed banditry and kidnapping cases in the North West and North Central zones which emerged as a result of the scattering of Boko Haram in the North East and the implosion of Libya in the Maghreb.
“In addition, agitators in the South East and to a much lesser extent the South West, which have been experiencing concerns of separatist tendencies are being checkmated.”
He also touched on successes in other areas like crude oil theft, sea robbery, piracy, militancy in the South-South, illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, cyber security, among others.
The President commended some of the key security policy documents either produced or revised by this administration and supervised by the Office of the National Security Adviser. “These include the National Counterterrorism Strategy 2016, National Security Strategy 2019, National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy 2021 and the National Crisis Management Doctrine 2022.”
Noting that the commissioning was coming “as we are gradually winding down this administration,” he added that it will therefore serve as a major legacy “to provide the incoming administration with the state-of-the-art infrastructure to effectively coordinate our national security and counterterrorism efforts. Most importantly, this will demonstrate our firm commitment to ensure our national security capabilities are kept abreast with the highest global standards.”
The President had kind words for the National Security Adviser and his team “for this noble achievement. I am confident that the commissioning of the new Offices of the National Security Adviser and National Counterterrorism Centre would in no small measure enhance the desired peaceful and secure environment for our country.”
Great day to be a Nigerian, under an administration that has come to serve, and not to be served.
Plaudits also came from the United Nations, through its Resident Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale.
He said the United Nations has been and continues to be a strong partner and supporter of Nigeria’s efforts to address the issues of insecurity and terrorism, pledging that the global body “will continue to work closely with the Government of Nigeria on its ongoing counter-terrorism efforts in various capacities.”
According to Schmale, the United Nations commends the progress made by the Nigerian military to degrade the operational capacity of Islamic State West Africa Province and Boko Haram and to improve intelligence gathering on suspected terrorists.
“We further commend the development of threat assessments and watchlists by Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, the active cooperation with Interpol, the establishment of multiagency screening processes, the trials of multiple terrorist suspects, and the development of Federal and State rehabilitation and reintegration programs.”
He added: “We all know that it takes both kinetic and non-kinetic responses to end terrorism. The fact that almost 80,000 persons have surrendered to authorities in the north-east since May 2021 represents a real opportunity to shift the dynamic. Challenges remain in terms of screening and identification of those individuals and ensuring appropriate responses in line with their needs and profiles. Some persons are no doubt deserving of and desperate for humanitarian assistance. And likewise, individuals will need to be accountable for their crimes and justice will need to be served. The UN stands willing and ready to support the Government of Nigeria on this effort, and commends Governor Zulum for developing the Borno Model and engaging with the UN on this matter.”
Home truth from the UN, while some caviling Nigerians would say nothing has been achieved in 8 years. I hear.
The UN Chief noted that the adoption of the 2022 Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act and the establishment of the National Counterterrorism Centre will strengthen the foundation for a coordinated and multidimensional response to terrorism. True.
China Achebe, in his magnum opus, Things Fall Apart, told of the lizard that jumped from the high Iroko tree to the ground, nodded severally, and said he would praise himself if no one else did.
But throughout the ceremony, not once did I hear General Monguno praise himself and his team effusively. To them, they had a job to do, and they had delivered. Impressively.
A man’s praise, indeed, smells good coming from other people, but in his own mouth, it stinks. And right was the Good Book when it says, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth. A stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2).
The NSA and his team received plenty accolades and acclamation from those that attended the event. I added my own, telling him: “You’ve done what Napoleon couldn’t do.” And he thanked me.
What better way to leave your footprints on the sands of time than this.
Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity