from OKORO CHINEDU in Lagos, Nigeria
LAGOS, (CAJ News) – THE inter-agency rivalry among security agencies and anti corruption bodies in Nigeria is escalating into a serious concern in the fragile West African country that is the largest in the continent.
The feared Department of State Services (DSS), an outfit denounced as a law unto itself, is a common denominator in these conflicts that are emerging as a headache to the new administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Ever eager to flex its muscles against other government institutions, DSS has in recent weeks butt heads with the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as well as the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS).
The rivalry reared its ugly head again this week at the arraignment of the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, who appeared at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.
There were physical skirmishes between officers of the DSS and NCoS, much to the embarrassment of a government that has pledged to prioritise the fight against corruption and insecurity and unite a country riven by ethnic and political divisions.
DSS arrested and detained Emefiele in June, the same month it detained the head of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa. It had defied orders to bring Emefiele to court.
On Tuesday, the High Court granted Emefiele N20 million (US$25 200) bail but DSS re-arrested him.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo had ordered that the banker, accused of corruption and possession of illegal firearms, be remanded in the custody of the Correctional Service pending the perfection of his bail conditions but DSS opposed the ruling.
There was a scuffle as DSS forcefully took him from the NCoS officers.
At least one officer of the NCoS had his uniform torn as giant men from both agencies got physical, with court officials and onlookers hapless.
DSS confirmed it had opened investigations over the “unfortunate” incident.
It criticised officers from both agencies as having exhibited “undue overzealousness.”
Peter Afunanya, DSS spokesperson, denied that his agency had defied the court, despite this week’s incident suggesting that.
“The Service has tremendous respect for the Judiciary as an Arm and Institution of Government and will not go out of its way to undermine it,” he said.
“The DSS recognises the Judiciary as a critical component in nation building, national development and security management,” he added.
Afunanya said the DSS had a “robust working relationship” with sister security and law enforcement agencies, including the NCoS.
A series of run-ins suggests otherwise.
A day after Tinubu was inaugurated as president on May 29, DSS barricaded the Lagos offices of the EFCC and denied officers of the latter entry.
Both agencies have shared the facility for over 20 years but EFCC workers were not allowed in.
There is a wrangle between the agencies over the ownership of the property.
The issue was resolved when Tinubu called the DSS to order.
This month, DSS came under fire for reportedly raiding the offices of the CCB and ICPC and carted away certain files of some individuals under investigation.
It was alleged among the documents cited were evidence of vote rigging after Tinubu was elected in February.
DSS also stands accused of spying on judges on the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Analyst, Joseph Okeke, denounced Tuesday’s skirmishes.
“The incident wasn’t unfortunate. It really reflects the professional disposition of the DSS. DSS has no respect for Judiciary as an Arm and Institution of Government from the history of its operations,” he said.
DSS is accused of partisanship by the government of the day. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is at the helm currently, after winning in 2015.
Afunanya alleges the agency is a victim of “sinister plots” to discredit its leadership. Yusuf Magaji Bichi has been Director General since 2018.
“The Service will ensure that it will not be used for clout and fame chasing or delusional heroism,” Aunanya said.
The government of General Ibrahim Babangida established DSS in 1986 after the dissolution of the notorious National Security Organization.
– CAJ News