The decisive action taken by the Acting President on Tuesday in dismissing Lawal Daura, former Director General of the State Security Service from office is a great plus for Nigerian democracy. The decision of Lawal Daura to invade and blockade the National Assembly might well be the most serious threat to the democratic order since 1999. The sanctity of the legislature is the foundation of liberal democracy and the executive branch of government cannot under any conditions carry out what the Acting President has correctly called an “illegal act” by invading the complex and preventing legislators from accessing the place.
Since the drama on Tuesday, there have been lots of theories explaining the context of what happened. One set posits that Lawal Daura is the mole of the Senate President Bukola Saraki and that he carried out the action to embarrass the government of President Buhari who has been battling Saraki for a long time. The other narrative is that Lawal Daura has learnt from the script of President Obasanjo who during his time raided State legislatures and used Nuhu Ribadu, the then EFCC chief to get minority legislators to gang up and illegally remove sitting governors. I find the second narrative more convincing. There are concordant reports that Lawal Daura and the APC Chairman met with APC Senators on Monday to plan the coup against the Senate leadership. If these reports are true, then it’s difficult to make the case that Daura was working on behalf of Saraki.
Bukola Saraki is no angel but unconstitutional effort to remove him is building his credibility. I have in this column severally condemned the concerted action by Lawal Daura and Bukola Saraki to block the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman so I am not saying that the two cannot collude on matters that serve their joint interest. My argument is that when we review events surrounding Saraki’s travails over the past three years, there have been persistent efforts by security to deal with him, the most prominent being through the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Indeed, Saraki has to be grateful to God that in his wisdom, President Buhari appointed someone who is very incompetent to head the SSS. Mr. Daura’s tenure has been marked by reckless disregard for the rule of law.
We all recall his actions on October 7 and 8, 2016 when he orchestrated the invasion of the homes of senior judges across the country leading to the arrest of seven of them. While acknowledging that corruption had become deep and embedded with some judicial circles in the country, the raid was conducted in such a manner as to harm the reputation of the whole judicial arm of government and therefore became a threat to the democratic order the same way the siege on the National Assembly impacted the system. It was in this context that the National Judicial Council declared the invasion unconstitutional and condemned it as an affront on the judiciary and democratic order.
Mr. Daura has also been at the centre of flagrant disregard of court pronouncements over the detention of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and a leader of the Shiite movement, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky. In spite of numerous court orders, the two have been held in detention. The Shiite leader has been held in detention with his wife since December 2015 and both have been refused access to overseas medical attention in spite of the serious bullet wounds they received the night of their arrest. It’s important to recall that the unconstitutional attempt to remove Governor Samuel Ortom in Benue State some weeks ago has also been traced to Mr. Daura. In that case, security was provided for eight legislators to seek to impeach the Governor in an Assembly with 30 members.
Lawal Daura was also notorious for detaining journalists and human rights activists. In recent weeks for example there has been a major campaign for the release of Jones Abiri a Nigerian journalist in Bayelsa State detained for years and only recently taken to court following an outcry from the public. It is therefore uplifting to hear the newly appointed acting Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), Matthew Seiyefa, said on his assumption of the office yesterday that the service is reviewing all cases of alleged unlawful detentions and human rights abuses. He said categorically that: “We will not tolerate the abuse of freedom of Nigerians and we will not be intimidated or cowed as we will protect our mandate,” he said. It is high time that security agencies revert to the constitutional role of protecting the rights of citizens rather than violating them.
The point must be made that the Lawal Daura affair is a microcosm of a wider crisis in the Buhari Administration. It has been public knowledge for a long time that the key security operatives of the regime – NSA Munguno, COAS Buratai, DG Daura and Chairman Magu have been engaged in serious factional in-fighting for a long time including open fights when for example the EFCC tried to arrest a former DG of the SSS, Ita Ekpenyong. Public safety and national security cannot be guaranteed when security agencies are working at cross purposes. Lawal Daura was doing what he did because President Buhari allowed him to do it. There has been a breakdown in the operations of security agencies because President Buhari chose to allow them fight each rather than fight terrorists, bandits and criminals. We cannot have significant improvements in security provisioning unless and until President Buhari creates order and functionality in the security sector. He must urgently review the sector and appoint people who are ready to work together for the good of the country.