Boko Haram: Presidency, Police, Armed Forces Ignored security warnings

Hard facts that emerged from Nigeria’s seat of power, Abuja, at the weekend have indicated that but for executive inaction and negligence of the security community, current critical security problems in the North Eastern part of Nigeria would have been averted. the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, admitted that he had detected and read 14 comprehensive security reports filed by the State Security Services (SSS) Headquarters to his predecessor, Mr. Mike Okiro.

According to The Guardian: Specifically, in the hallowed chambers of concerned Senators, who summoned all security chiefs last Tuesday, July 28, on the crisis in the North East, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, admitted that he had detected and read 14 comprehensive security reports filed by the State Security Services (SSS) Headquarters to his predecessor, Mr. Mike Okiro, who retired barely two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting held behind closed doors of the Senate, it was revealed that Senator Chris Anyanwu (Imo PDP), recalled that a week earlier, specifically on July 21, when the Senate Committee of the whole House on Security summoned the same security and intelligence chiefs on the security situation in the South East, which armed robbers had reportedly taken over, the Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Afakriya Gadzama, had then warned about what he called, “an imminent attack in the North East,” a development that presaged the current crisis.

In the light of the current revelation at the weekend, the chief executive of the SSS was not telling the Senate a new deal about the South East. Reason?

Inside one of the 14 untreated reports the then Inspector-General of Police allegedly ignored were a series of intelligence and dossier on one Mallam Mohammed Yusuf, who turned out to be the brain behind the Boko Haram terror in the volatile Maiduguri, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano.

An insider, who attended the Senate security meeting, confirmed that a document, submitted to the inquisitive federal legislators, indicated that the SSS had actually begun drawing attention to the North East area for a long time when the group began its series of attacks around the Borno-Yobe axis.

For instance, an intelligence report sighted by the lawmakers indicated that, “between 2003 and 2004, the group had carried out a series of deadly attacks in Borno and Yobe States, which led to the deaths of so many innocent people including some police officers.”

Another report the concerned Senators were shown included details of how “on September 21, 2008, one Abubakar Kikanham from Niger Republic, a follower of Mohammed Yusuf, had, at a public preaching in Damasak local government in Borno State, called on followers of their faith to prepare for holy war to install a government based on Islamic principles in the country.”

The Senate was also given a document dated November 14, 2008 as yet another intelligence to the then Inspector General of Police. The report was entitled, Forwarding of Mohammed with a rider and sub-title, Antecedent of Mohammed and His Group.

According to sources at the secret meeting, the document was signed by one A.B Abdullahi for the Director-General, SSS.

A shocked source confirmed to The Guardian that the intelligence report to the then IGP was copied to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the National Security Adviser (NSA) and then the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the President, who had a responsibility to pass it on to the C-in-C.

In the report, the SSS had detailed how Mohammed Yusuf, reportedly killed in action in Maiduguri last Thursday, had organised and structured his group, which had three specific objectives in its alleged terrorist mission.

In it, it was stated, among others, that: “Yusuf planned to infiltrate security agencies to get information on government plans against them (the group).”

The second action plan was that, “Yusuf planned attacks on security outfits – SSS and Police – to get weapons for their use.”

And the third detailed plan of attack was that, “Yusuf planned to instigate crisis between his Sect and others, to justify launch of his full-scale war.”

According to one of reports, some of the details had emerged from an earlier arrest and interrogation of the same Mohammed Yusuf by the SSS operatives.

He was arrested on November 13 and when he was massively interrogated the next day at the Headquarters of the SSS in Abuja, he was said to have revealed the following facts to the state services department interrogators. The report revealed:

That he (Yusuf) has 1.5 millon followers and he was making then up to N500,000 daily from contribution from the followers, who had pledged to contribute at least N1 daily.

That he (Yusuf) then had 22 zonal commanders including the following chbieftains, namely (1) Babagana Mustapha (Damaturu, Yobe), ( 2) Ibrahim Bazan (Maidugiri, Borno), (3) Musa Mohammed (Yola, Adamawa), (4) Mohammed Awwal ( Kano ), (5) Isa Kumbia (Gombe), (6) Mohammed Sani Sambo (Kaduna ), (7) Abubakar Habib (Katsina) and Abubakar Mohammed (Bauchi)….”

The Guardian further inquiries had revealed that the numerous reports by the SSS that were largely ignored included one dated July 17, 2008 entitled, Plan by Taliban Group to Migrate to the Middle East & Instigate Jihad. One other warning report was dated July 14, 2008.

Meanwhile, the Senate is also in possession of another recent letter from the SSS headquarters to the office of the NSA on the The Operational Competence of the Action Agencies.

In the letter in the middle of last month, in the wake of the attack on the Atlas Cove in Lagos, the letter drawn attention to the perceived operational inertia and helplessness of the action agencies comprising the police, the armed forces (army, navy & air force) especially in crisis times.

The memo on “operation competence” of the action agencies was said to have emerged shortly after the MEND had reportedly warned that it would operate outside the Niger Delta areas, specifically in Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna.

The memo also detailed the vulnerability of the Southwest coastal water areas identified as “the weakest link on enforcement” because of lack of capacity.

The Guardian confirmed that the Senate Committee of the whole House on Security Situation in North East was told how the officer in charge of the attacked Atlas Cove had asked for arms following MEND’s reported warning. But he was denied what he had asked from the Naval authorities. It was a paradox of development that the officer was one of the casualties in the fatal attack.

IT would be recalled that in the current attacks of police stations in Wudil, Kano, Potiskum in Yobe and Maiduguri, in front of the Palace of the Shehu of Borno, police were clearly rattled by the hoodlums.

In contrast, it was learnt that the security agencies had reported to the Joint Service Chiefs that but for the ingenuity and resourcefulness of one Colonel Raji, identified as the Army Brigade Commander in Bauchi, who promptly and efficiently deployed troops in the area, the crisis, as it affected Bauchi, would have been worse. The action of the Commander was said to have prevented large-scale destruction that was envisaged by the Taliban terrorists in the area.

The Governor of Bauchi was also praised by security agencies, which acknowledged how Isa Yuguda was in his prompt response to security alert he got. He reportedly worked well with the Brigade commander. It was said that Yuguda’s counterparts did not react promptly when the alert was raised in the North East area.

Besides the successful operation in Bauchi, the security operatives were said to have intercepted another dangerous document from the terrorists, which detailed how they were prepared to attack Jos area again. Security forces recovered a map, detailing all the routes in Jos and all the police stations in the area.

In the interim, funding is said to have become a huge challenge to the security and intelligence agencies even as concern has been raised about use of the funds released to some of the action agencies, especially the police and the armed forces through the Defence Ministry.

The security chiefs that faced the Senate last week were told about huge challenges they had been facing in operations, especially in crisis times. They complained that “in the face of sophisticated weapons the hoodlums and terrorists have reportedly paraded, it was inconceivable that Nigerian security forces still use Hilux brand of cars to confront dangerous situations instead of mechanised troops carriers.”

In response, the legislators had pledged to allocate enough funds for operational efficiency in the next budget.

The promise from the Upper House came as both the legislature and security agencies were wondering whatever happened to the whopping N5 billion the President reportedly approved to the three units of the armed forces (army, navy and air force) to enhance their operational capacity, specifically in the Niger Delta area.

It was said that, “if the money (N5 billion) approved in May this year had been put to good use, the capacity of the armed forces would have been beefed up to stand up to the challenges in the volatile areas now.”

It was confirmed that in the original plan of disbursement and use of the N5 billion security vote from which the SSS, NIA were excluded by the presidency, the National Security Adviser (NSA) was to be in charge of procurement operations but the plan was mysteriously hijacked by the then Minister of Defence, Dr. Shettima Mustapha, who swapped position with the Interior Minister, Major General Godwin Abbe (Retd) in a recent minor cabinet reshuffle.

Mustapha was said to have taken control of the operation of the intervention fund. There were indications at the weekend that there might be some quiet inquiries soon about the use of the fund.

In the meantime, as these developments in the intelligence sector were crystallising last week, serious concerns were raised even in the National Assemblies chambers about accountability and transparency in police use of funds for operations.

Barely two days after the Senate invited the security and intelligence chiefs, the House of Representatives Committees on Police and National Security on Thursday, July 30, summoned only the DG, SSS and the IGP specifically on the security situation in the Southeast, which the Senate Committee of the whole House had grilled the Chiefs about on July 21, 2009. Funding and anticipatory security concerns for 2011 elections reportedly cropped up at the secret meeting in the House.

Even at some inter-agency meetings on the current security situations in the northern parts of the country, the issue of “alleged corruption in the police operations fund was said to have dominated discussion.”

As an insider in one of the meetings confided, “all told, the police force is so incapacitated in all good conscience. We are trying to put heads together, to get the acting IGP, Onovo, to infuse some discipline in management of operational resources of the police.”

“As it is, the police is so evidently corrupt at the highest level. In the states, they collect money from state governors that are facing huge security challenges and the Commissioners (of Police) just spend the money without declaring or accounting to any authorities.

“The same for the headquarters high Chiefs… Really, we want to get Onovo to change this mindset and reduce corruption, not the one on the highways alone… we mean at the top echelon. If we can do that, we will move to the next level in security management.

“The police force is so important. They are the first in the hierarchy of Action Agencies… In any country, they are so important. That is why Mayor Ruddy Giuliani (USA) bagged the “2002(?) prestigious, Times Person of the Year for the way he overhauled the New York City Police that have become the toast of the world and reference point.

“That feat emerged from the way they have been managing security in New York City, which culminated in the remarkable way they managed security challenges arising from the debacle of 9/11,” the source said.

As a top presidency official explained last night at press time: “In the security and intelligence community, the SSS and the NIA are intelligence gathering agencies. They don’t execute. The executing and action agencies are the police and the armed forces.”

“The immigration and the customs officers are tangentially related to the action agencies. The NIA & SSS can only compile reports and pass same for action. If the action agencies fail to act on intelligence, you don’t blame the reporters.

“Do you blame journalists for non-execution of the budget proposals he reports? That is the way intelligence and security community works. Some are for intelligence gathering for national security while others are to act on the intelligence.

“It is the failure of some action agencies that makes the SSS to be going to court to prosecute some alleged criminals on security breaches, okay?”