Nigeria’s independent weekly, TELL magazine’s investigation shows that EFCC is probing into alleged corrupt practices of the director-general of the Department of State Security, Lawal Musa Daura
Since riding into power on the mantra of “change” and anti-corruption posturing, Nigeria, under the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has become a theatre of the absurd. The actions and inactions of the government in power in the last two and a half years, as well as the brazen impunity emblematic of the operations of the nation’s security agencies, have made it a laughing stock in the global arena. While many instances abound of the evident lack of synergy, unhealthy rivalry, and bitter feud amongst the different security apparatuses, what appeared to be the most dramatic and unsettling was a recent clash between the operatives of the Department of State Security, DSS, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
On November 21, 2017, the EFCC officials, armed with both search and arrest warrants, had made a failed attempt to arrest Ita Ekpeyong, the immediate past Director-General of the DSS, and his National Intelligence Agency, NIA, counterpart, the embattled Ayodele Oke who was recently sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari along with the former secretary to the government of the federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal. The operatives who had laid siege to the residences of the duo for about 48 hours, had moved into the Number 46, Mamman Nasir, Asokoro, Abuja residence of Ekpeyong at about 6 am to effect his arrest, but faced a stiff resistance from the DSS officials guarding him. The same ugly scenario played out at Oke’s residence.
Curiously, according to informed sources, the number of DSS officials on ground ordinarily was no match for the more overwhelming number of the EFCC operatives that came. They were however said to have called for reinforcement from the headquarters of the organization headed by Lawal Musa Daura, a kinsman of the president from Daura in Katsina State who from all indication, was all out to thwart the arrest. An unimpeachable source hinted the magazine that in Daura’s desperation to foil Ekpeyong’s arrest, he had given his men a strict instruction to shoot to kill anyone who dared them. The source said but for the maturity displayed by Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the EFCC, with the tactical withdrawal of his men, there would have been a blood-bath. As the macabre drama unfolded, not a few people wondered why Daura, a man who had gained notoriety for brazen impunity and gangsterism especially in the manner he had handled similar allegations of suspected corruption, would be so desperate to prevent Ekpeyong and Oke’s arrest. So why did Daura, who has collaborated with the ministry of justice to arrest alleged corrupt officials, suddenly decide to shield people who are being sought for alleged corrupt deals?
From the findings of the magazine, the whole macabre drama even goes beyond covering up ‘sheer lawlessness’, as described by Itse Sagay, professor of Law and chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, by the DSS and the NIA under the former security chiefs. Investigations by the magazine revealed that it was indeed a grand design and desperate move to cover up the alleged cesspool of corruption going on in the DSS under Daura. The magazine learnt that several petitions to the presidency on the rot in the DSS under him had been successfully blocked. The magazine can authoritatively serve you the inside story of what could have provoked a bloody confrontation between the DSS and the EFCC, two sister agencies whose leaderships don’t see eye-ball to eye-ball. The magazine gathered that a petition written to the vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo by a high-ranking official of the DSS, Adebayo Babalola, a lawyer, against Daura was the trigger of the present face-off between the EFCC and the DSS.
It was learnt that Babalola, frustrated by the non-delivery of his petition to Osinbajo after two attempts, decided to send copies to the EFCC and the ICPC. It was gathered that Daura had used his formidable influence at the presidency and intelligence network to intercept the petitions, thereby preventing them from getting to the vice president. But as soon as Magu received the petition, believed to have indicted Daura for corruption, he swung into action by arranging the arrest of Ekpeyong and Oke. But unknown to many, there was more to the entire arrest saga than meets the eye. Daura saw through Magu’s sly moves that he, rather than Ekpeyong, was the actual target of the EFCC investigation. Though Ekpeyong too had issues to resolve with the EFCC over his stewardship as DG, SSS, it was a case of using one stone to kill two birds. Seeing that there is a case against Daura, the chairman of the anti-graft agency merely wanted to use Ekpeyong as bait to get at his traducer. Now, it may not be out of place for some people to read vengeance to EFCC action. In which case for Magu, revenge would be seen to be best when served cold. Recall that it was on account of the unfavourable reports on Magu, by the DSS that, twice, his confirmation as EFCC chairman was rejected by the Senate.
But a source insists that the major interest of the EFCC team is that the EFCC action is a furtherance of the trail of the $2.1 billion arms procurement fund allegedly disbursed for the 2015 elections by Sambo Dasuki, former national security adviser. Sources say that part of the fund had also allegedly been traced to the DSS and NIA. It was learnt that the $43 million and naira components found in the Ikoyi apartment was the share of the NIA from the fund. The magazine’s investigation revealed sundry allegations of corruption, mismanagement of funds, and vindictiveness against Daura. The DSS, it was gathered, also got $30 million from the fund for its operations, out of which Ekpeyong had expended nine million dollars. The former DSS boss is said to have handed over the balance of $21,237,435.72 to Daura in cash. So why was it difficult for the current DSS boss to tell the authorities that the part of the arms deal funds that came to his Service was for security operation? That is the reason for the conflict with EFCC, as sources say that there are suspicions that Daura had converted the money for his personal use. Also allegedly mismanaged was the sum of $12,960,480,740.38 being the balance in the pension fund account.
Ekpeyong, on his part, is required to explain to the EFCC what happened to a N250 million property he reportedly acquired with public funds to accommodate some intelligence officers from the United States of America who had come to train some DSS operatives. It was gathered that there had been no trace of the documents in respect of the said property.
To further prove that Daura, a 64-year-old man with over 64 children, had the penchant for dipping his hands in public vault to take care of his family, he had allegedly in April 2017, withdrawn the sum of one billion, six hundred million naira (N1,600,000,000) out of the two billion, four hundred million naira (N2,400,000,000) budgeted for the life insurance policy of DSS staff members. That is not the only thing the petitioners believe he had done wrong. He is also believed to have allegedly used non-service personnel – one Ambassador Adamu Saidu Daura, to collect the money, an act which is against Service rules and government’s financial regulations. If the allegations are proved, Daura may also be required to respond to allegation that he claimed that the money so diverted was to prosecute Buhari’s presidential campaigns in 2019. Aside from the alleged diversion, there is yet another allegation that the DG SSS renovated a service guest house in Maitama, Abuja, for a whooping one billion naira. The value of the property in question is said to be between N250 million and N500 million as at the time it was reportedly acquired by Ekpeyong’s predecessor, Afakriya Gadzama.
Very unpopular with staff members due to his alleged insensitivity to their welfare, Daura was said to have stopped payment of duty tour allowance and other allowances to staff members on the ground that he needed to amass sufficient funds for Buhari’s presidential campaign thereby demoralizing them and undermining the security of the nation. He similarly allegedly denied directors at the national headquarters of the organization accommodation by converting the houses to personal use. For example, after he evicted Kayode Are, his predecessor, from his Number 50, Alexander Street, Ikoyi residence, he allegedly allocated same property to a woman believed to be his mistress. This was in spite of a restraining court order and the fact the substantive suit was still in court. Another case in point was the alleged hand-over of a prime property located at Glover Road, Ikoyi to another woman, to manage. Sources at the DSS view this as most embarrassing given the fact that the property which is a MESS, is strategic to the intelligence community and the purpose is to aid inter-agency intelligence cooperation given its joint ownership by such organizations like the NIA, DIA and DSS.
It was argued that by handing it over to his friend, the impression was that the MESS is a personal property, more so when cost of items are far beyond the reach of the average officer who are compelled to patronize the facility. For example, a bottle of beer in the mess is sold for three thousand naira. Many wonder how junior officers would be able to afford such exorbitant price.
But those who have been long in the system hinted that such act of exploitation is vintage Daura. In fact it was learnt on good authority that but for the disciplined nature of the organization, staff members would have rioted when he assumed duty as the new boss in protest against his appointment. Described as self-serving and greedy, he was said to have been stampeded out of Lagos State when he served as state director during the tenure of Babatunde Raji Fashola as governor of the state. Daura was said to have fallen out with Fashola, now minister of works, power and housing when he demanded for a gift of a piece of land from him. Fashola was said to have told him he would get back to him, a response that did not go down well with him. He decided to deploy an arm-twisting tactic, which however back-fired. Daura was said to have withdrawn the then governor’s chief detail prompting him to report his conduct to higher quarters. That was how his tour of duty in Lagos ended abruptly. He was posted out of the state.
Daura was also at various times a state director in Edo, Imo, Sokoto, Kano, and Osun States. He was also eased out in many of these states. It was in Imo State that he almost got his fingers burnt but for Kayode Are who was then his boss. For the one year he served there as state director, he allegedly cornered the monies meant for operations at the local government area commands of the Service. He was said to have been queried when complaints got to the headquarters of the organization that he had sat on monies meant for operatives at that command level and was almost sacked. Are, who later became a victim of Daura’s power drunkenness, was said to have saved his job. He was to leave the service with ignominy in 2013 only to stage a dramatic come-back in 2015, when Buhari appointed him head of DSS. With a tainted record of service, which should have ordinarily disqualified him from the very sensitive job, the only credential that earned him the job was his relationship with the president as his kinsman
To convince the magazine how mean and hated Daura was, the story was told how his driver once abandoned him in Sokoto and he had to drive himself to Daura in Katsina State. Feeling like a fish out of water and starved of the usual perks of office, Daura plotted his return into the system. He decided to join the APC and joined forces with like-minds who today occupy strategic positions in government. They came together to form the Sai Baba group. And to rein in the president, they allegedly orchestrated a situation at the presidential villa, which reportedly led to the controversial withdrawal of DSS officials from the villa and their replacement with the military. The DSS officials were reportedly set-up in an incident said to have scared Buhari out of his official residence for three weeks on the excuse of an on-going renovation. At the time, speculation was rife that the president’s official residence needed “spiritual cleansing” by some Senegalese Marabouts before he would settle in. The friction that arose between operatives of the DSS and the military was generally believed to have cost Abdulrahman Mani, an official of the DSS, and chief security officer to the president, his job. Mani and the Aide de Camp, ADC, to the president, Mohammed Abubakar, a senior military officer, had been locked in a bitter feud over the control of security at the villa and protection of the president and his family. The DSS operatives had been confined to the periphery of the villa while soldiers from the directorate of military intelligence, DMI, took over the protection of the inner circle of the security network in the villa. This arrangement was however reversed February this year.
But contrary to the claim that the former CSO lost his job because of the bickering between him and Abubakar over who protected the president, the magazine was told that a scheming Daura had stepped in like somebody who had the best interest of the president at heart, to blame the DSS for the untoward incident at the villa. In a memo announcing the change in the security architecture at the villa, Abubakar had alluded to “recent events” as necessitating the change. It is instructive that Mani had, prior his sack, served the president for about 10 years. The introduction of personnel of the DMI was reportedly indeed with Daura’s consent, according to an inside source; a development which was widely criticized and sparked outrage in the country. Some retired SSS personnel were said to have been brought in to train the soldiers that were newly drafted to take over the duties of the DSS men. Thus, when in June 2015 Ekpeyong was sacked by the president, Daura became a natural choice to replace him. He assumed duties July 3, 2015. And in spite of the anti-corruption stance of his principal, perceived by many as a man of integrity, for Daura, it was business as usual. This was what got Babalola concerned and as colleagues, he decided to advise him to exercise caution in order not to dent the image of the Buhari government.
But rather than take it in good faith, he bared his fangs, making good his threat to sack his son, Joshua Babalola, who was a serving personnel in the DSS. The younger Babalola, who was recruited into the service in 2014 along with the children of 20 other members of staff, had gone to court to challenge the termination of his appointment. Though no reason was given in his termination letter why he was sacked, one of the reasons given the national industrial court, which decided the case, was that his appointment was influenced by his father. More intriguing is the fact that Daura has four of his children in the SSS. That was not all. Babalola’s personal property and belongings were also said to have been illegally seized sometimes in October 2015 when he was Director, Senior Staff Development Centre, Bauchi. The Service had similarly withheld his compensation and entitlements for the past two years, with Daura said to have boasted that he was waiting for the vice president, his Yoruba kinsman, to intervene on his behalf.
Daura is said to have great disdain for Osinbajo, whom he had boasted he was prepared to investigate. His grouse against the vice president was that he had invited Babalola, a reverend gentleman, for a service at Aso Rock chapel. Uncomfortable with his seeming closeness to the country’s number two citizen, he had reportedly ordered him not to attend otherwise he would initiate an investigation of the vice president.
The nut that EFCC would need to crack is whether Daura who has demonstrated hatred to corruption would allow himself to be drawn into any acts of corruption or even attempt to shield anyone involved in it. At least since he got into office he has deployed the apparatus of his office towards operations seemingly geared towards curbing corruption.
Recall that in September 2015, the DSS under Daura, invaded the Government House in Uyo, without the consent of the Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel or the state commissioner of police and raided the guest lodges therein in a Gestapo-like manner, breaking doors and windows. The DSS carried out the operation even without any court order or search warrant empowering it to do so. At the end of the ill-motivated exercise, it claimed to have found some arms and stacks of hard currency. However, till today, nobody had been told how much was found, while the motive remained unclear. And on October 7 and 8, 2016, Daura’s DSS was again at its ignoble best when in a simultaneous ‘sting operation’ against seven court judges, jolted Nigerians and indeed the whole world, and set tongues wagging about its perceived excesses and reckless misuse of power. In these operations, the DSS interrupted the serenity of the night, and created a scene in different parts of the country in an attempt to fish for evidence of corruption against the affected judges. Their houses were ransacked and various sums of money in local and foreign currencies allegedly recovered. The victims included two Supreme Court Justices, Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro arrested in Abuja; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the federal high court, Abuja, Justice Innocent Umezulike, chief judge of Enugu State, Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State high court, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Gombe State high court.
Daura’s goons were not so lucky in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The governor, Nyesom Wike, and the state police commissioner, frustrated an attempt to arrest Mohammed Liman of the federal high court, Port Harcourt in the same manner. Led by Tosin Ajayi, its Rivers State director, the DSS had claimed that the sum of $2.5 million was concealed in a safe in Liman’s house, which they wanted to get hold of, get the exhibit, and arrest the judge. The DSS alleged that the said money was a proceed of bribery by the state governor to get a favourable judgment in the legal tussle between the then Ahmed Markafi-led care-taker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Ali Modu-Sheriff faction. In the latter cases, the DSS had done the needful by going prepared with search and arrest warrants unlike in the September 2015 invasion of the Akwa Ibom government house. The affected judges are now facing prosecution.
Daura and the DSS had also been criticized for alleged impunity, especially in the flouting of court orders partly in the name of fighting corruption. Two cases which particularly stand out amongst others, are that of Dasuki, who had been in the custody of the DSS for over two years now; and Nnamdi Kanu, the now missing director of Radio Biafra, and leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB. While Kanu who was arrested October 19, 2015 was eventually released on very stringent bail conditions sometime this year, and had disappeared into thin air since September 14, 2017 when his home was invaded by the military, Dasuki has remained in DSS detention in spite of several court orders for his release on bail. Perturbed by what was going on at the DSS, this magazine had in a strongly worded editorial in its December 21, 2015 edition, expressed concern about “the excesses of Daura and his ugly spooks whose actions are petty, vindictive and do, no doubt, diminish us in the comity of nations”. The magazine feared that “the DSS under Daura will continue to embarrass Buhari and the country if he is not called to order or removed entirely”.
This was prophetic, as recent events have shown. Not a few had condemned the recent clash between the operatives of two sister agencies as a grave embarrassment to the president and the ruling APC. When the matter was raised by Dino Melaye, the senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, he said, “We have been embarrassed before the international community. That two sister agencies will engage in fisticuffs, arrest and stoppage of arrests…this is a recipe for national disaster”. Biodun Olujimi, senate minority leader, blamed the president for the ugly development, which she described as “a shame”. Olujimi lamented that “this is the first time we will see gross irresponsibility in government whereby there is no arbiter…Mr. President (of the Senate), something has to be done; the presidency has to be called to order. Nobody is in charge of this government and somebody has to be in charge”. However, Ahmad Lawan, the Senate leader disagreed, insisting that “President Muhammadu Buhari is in full control of the government of the federal republic of Nigeria”. Lawan, however, called for an investigation into the matter, which was well received by his colleagues. The federal executive council had also called for reports from the two agencies.
Legal and security experts have similarly expressed strong views on the development. Femi Falana, Lagos-based human rights lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, upbraided the DSS for obstructing the EFCC from effecting the arrests, stating that it was wrong to view what occurred as an inter-agency face-off more so since warrants of arrest and search were validly issued by a magistrate court. He described the prevention of the arrest as “a clash between impunity and the rule of law”, stressing that the security personnel who shielded the suspects from arrest committed the offence of obstruction of justice punishable under the EFCC Act. Sagay aligned with Falana’s position, advising the EFCC to refer the matter to the president who is the overall boss of the feuding agencies. According to Sagay, “if people are misbehaving like that, preventing agencies from doing their work, then there should be a penalty for misconduct”. He argued that “no one is immune from arrest except the president, vice-president, governor and deputy governor.”
But as far as Mike Ejiofor, a former director of DSS was concerned, the EFCC had no right to investigate how the DSS funds were spent. Ejiofor said by the DSS Instrument 1 of 1999, “no person or agency is empowered to investigate the spending or operational matter of the DSS except the President…The DSS makes returns of spending to the President annually. I am surprised with what is happening. We have never had it before. He (Magu) has no power or mandate to investigate the spending of the DSS. It is not done anywhere in the world”. The former DSS director accused Magu of vendetta. According to him, “if he had the power, he should have gone to the DG DSS”, stressing that “possibly he wants to settle scores because he was indicted by the DSS report which barred his confirmation”. But joining issues with Ejiofor and those who hold similar views, Sagay contended that “The DSS procedures do not supersede the laws of the land. The EFCC Act does not require the agency writing anybody first. They cannot make a law that supersedes that of the National Assembly. The excuses of the DSS are just a way of covering up sheer lawlessness”.
What impact do these comments have on DSS boss? Those who know Daura well say he carries himself with an aura of invincibility. According to a source, “he believes that nothing can happen to him because he has a firm grip on the lever of power. He believes that not even the president can dare him. He is a strong member of the cabal holding the president hostage”. Be that as it may, certain questions are begging for answers. What really does Daura have on the president that has made him so powerful? And can the president afford to look the other way as Daura carries on like Mr. Untouchable? Or is it that his actions have the approval of the President? Time alone will answer these.