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Saturday, 20 January 2018

How Buhari flouted recommendations of own panel in appointing new NIA DG

How Buhari flouted recommendations of own panel in appointing new NIA DG

Ahmed Rufai Ibrahim

President Muhammadu Buhari ignored the recommendations of a panel he constituted to “review operational, technical and administrative structure” of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), in appointing the NIA’s new director general.

The panel, which was made up of retired intelligence officers, was formed on November 8, 2017 in the aftermath of the scandal triggered by the discovery of $43 million stashed in a Lagos apartment.

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A former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baba Gana Kingibe, was appointed to lead the panel of a small number of former intelligence officers.

They were charged with recommending to government “how to align the work and operations of the Agency to Nigeria’s national interest and the challenges of the 21st century”.

The panel was also required to look into the “financial viability of the Agency and measures to improve accountability, probity, as well as control and checks”.

Another key area the government sought the experts’ views was in “continuous staff training and indoctrination for professionalism and integrity”.

The Kingibe-panel was also asked to look into any area of weakness in the NIA, arising from the work of an early presidential committee on the $43 million, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The panel submitted its report to Mr Buhari on December 19 with recommendations around the four terms of reference.

DISREGARDED

The report spell out qualifications for the right candidate to head the agency.

“The panel agreed that candidate to fill this post must exhibit high degree of professionalism, sound judgment, management and leadership competences and, above all, personal and professional integrity.”

Key in the many criteria listed is that the new DG should emerge “from the corps of serving directors”.

The panel used the word “must” in making this recommendation, underlining its significance.

The panel further recommended that seniority among the directors “should be a criterion, but not a determining factor”.

The panel noted that those and other recommendations it made were intended to “stabilize the agency, restore staff morale and challenge their professionalism, improve operations and sound financial management.”

Mr. Buhari however observed these recommendations in the breach.

Curiously, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, who was the secretary to the Kingibe panel, has now become the beneficiary of the breach.

Mr Abubakar, a retired middle-level staff of the agency, was announced as the new director general on January 10.

Insiders say Mr Abubakar came to the NIA on transfer of service from Katsina State Government in 1995, and was allegedly placed two steps higher than his level 12 grade, by his relative who was the then DG of the agency, Zakari Ibrahim.

However, for reasons that are not immediately clear, Mr Abubakar left the services of the agency in 2013.

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NINE DIRECTORS TO GO

Disquiet is said to be brewing within the ranks of senior staff of the agency.

Most members of the Senior Management Committee that would now be answerable to the new DG are said to be his seniors, and by convention too high to serve under their “junior”.

“Nine directors who are members of the SMC are also seniors to the new DG and cannot therefore operate under him,” said a source at the agency.

The new DG is also said to be considering seeking the approval of the National Security Adviser to mass retire all those that were his seniors while he was in service who are now to be his subordinates.

The mass retirement, if approved, will however come at a great cost to the agency, insiders say.

“These are highly experienced and well trained pillars of the institution, retiring them on the altar of an inappropriate appointment will be harmful to the service, and the country,” remarked a source who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

A spokesman for Mr. Buhari, Femi Adesina, said Mr. Kingibe is the right person to comment on the issues, as the report is yet to be made public.

However, repeated calls to Mr. Kingibe were unaswered. A text message to his mobile telephone Saturday morning was also not responded to.

Mr. Abubakar could not be reached to comment for this story.

The NIA is not known to have a public communication unit or a spokesperson.

Culled:PremiumTimesng

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