…one clear moral of his aborted reign at the DSS is that helmsmen of state agencies that should be apolitical must be strictly guided by that expectation. No matter how covertly they tend towards serving political interests, there is always a tipping point where they would overreach and be alone; all alone, to face the consequences of their indiscretion.


Former director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Musa Daura, must have some genes of a tragic hero.

Barely three weeks ago, he was hand in gloves with the Police Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris in deploying personnel from both the secret and conventional police services to blockade the Benue State House of Assembly premises, where eight members had barreled off 22 others under the cover of the armed agents to serve an impeachment notice on embattled State governor, Samuel Ortom. The illegality of it all was so affronting that it ignited public outcry, which perhaps hamstrung the minority squad of legislators from their agenda. But there wasn’t any censure or other adverse consequence for the security chiefs over their professional judgment that informed the blockade, neither a public word of caution from the Muhammadu Buhari presidency to which they were answerable.

Last week, Daura stepped up the ante as he rolled out an armed siege by men of the secret police on the National Assembly complex in Abuja. It was as if the fact was getting lost that the legislature is an independent arm under the presidential system we presently operate in Nigeria, and hence shouldn’t be lightly trampled on by security personnel who are agents of the executive arm. We copied the model from the United States, didn’t we? Try imagining the National Guard or Federal Bureau of Investigation agents willy-nilly blockading the Capitol complex in Washington!

Somehow, the conventional police’s inspector-general was not in with the spy cop czar in this latest operation. And it turned out to be Daura’s last outing with the DSS because he was removed within moments from the commanding height of our country’s security architecture that he hitherto occupied. Now he is alone – all alone in the cold. He was picked up on the heels of his getting the boot last Tuesday and was only let out of house arrest two days later, but with some limitations like his international passport being seized. And far bigger troubles may yet lie ahead for him.

It must be that Daura’s luck ran out this time, though, since it wasn’t the first occasion that he bull-charged with his men against an independent arm of government. In October 2016, he deployed armed DSS personnel in midnight assaults on the homes of justices who were suspected of corrupt practices, for which they were ostensibly being called to account. But then, it wasn’t just that the judiciary is an independent arm of government, their lordships who were raided and hounded into detention that night were by no means half as armed as the DSS armoury deployed against them. And neither was there any record of their having spurned invitations for interrogation over their suspected offences, either so by the DSS or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that has the statutory mandate appertaining to the issue at hand. More curious, perhaps, was that the EFCC wasn’t even carried along by the DSS in those midnight raids. Yet Daura was widely hailed for that operation in which the bitter national mood against the scourge of corruption – justifiably so – was said to take precedence over basic issues of the justices’ fundamental rights and the legalese of due process.

At some point Daura appeared scented with hubris, as he squared off in turf battles with principals of other agencies of government like the EFCC and Customs. He, as well, routinely ignored court orders in legal suits that the DSS is involved. And the heavens didn’t come crashing.


At some point Daura appeared scented with hubris, as he squared off in turf battles with principals of other agencies of government like the EFCC and Customs. He, as well, routinely ignored court orders in legal suits that the DSS is involved. And the heavens didn’t come crashing.

The safety valve however fell out, apparently, for the secret cop honcho last week. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo handed him a swift sack amidst public outrage that trailed the siege on the National Assembly complex by masked and armed men of the DSS. The Presidency was unusually blunt, explaining in a statement that the security siege was unauthorised and “a gross violation of constitutional order, rule of law and all acceptable notions of law and order.” The statement added that Osinbajo found the Daura-ordered siege “condemnable and completely unacceptable.” Shortly after their principal officer was fired, the DSS agents at the NASS complex dismantled their siege and pulled out.

There is agreement outside partisan circles that the DSS blockade of the legislative complex in Abuja threatened Nigeria’s nascent democracy and exposed security meddlesomeness in civilian politics. However, there isn’t such unanimity at all among partisans. The propriety of Senate President Bukola Saraki retaining his seat after he recently defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the major sticking point, and last week’s security siege on the NASS dabbled flagrantly in competing intrigues by the parties and their legislative caucuses to determine his fate.

The contending camps expectedly have been on polar ends of narratives on the siege, and one of the issues in contention was whether Daura bit the dust for genuine operational indiscretion or he was scapegoatedly thrown under the bus in a grand anti-Saraki conspiracy that turned awry.

…Daura’s misadventure with the NASS siege last week only highlighted the increasing involvement of agencies of state, which ought to be apolitical, in political game-planning by partisan towards the 2019 general election. And the effect is the considerable constriction of the civic space, which is unhealthy and undesirable for our democracy.


Saraki’s fate will yet be determined shortly by his legislative colleagues and we should leave the partisan arguments to partisans. Let it be said, however, that you can’t take it away from Acting President Osinbajo that he really acted – boldly and in nick of time – to save Nigeria’s democracy and redeem its badly smeared image in the eyes of the world. The Presidency has since explained that Osinbajo acted in concert with President Muhammadu Buhari, who is away on vacation in the United Kingdom, hence they both should be applauded. Whatever may be the underlying dynamics of the siege, they swiftly broke it up and restored the sanctity of the legislature. After all, there was a similar blockade on the NASS in 2014 under the Goodluck Jonathan presidency and nobody got to carry the can for the security misjudgment.

Having said that, it must also be noted that Daura’s misadventure with the NASS siege last week only highlighted the increasing involvement of agencies of state, which ought to be apolitical, in political game-planning by partisan towards the 2019 general election. And the effect is the considerable constriction of the civic space, which is unhealthy and undesirable for our democracy. Recall that both the conventional and secret police services were reported to have provided minority lawmakers in Benue State with security cover to serve impeachment notice on Governor Ortom following his recent change of political camp. Also, the EFCC curiously chose that point in time to beam its searchlight on Benue’s finances and consequently froze some accounts of the state government.

But courageous and moral leadership always has salutary ripple effects, and here again the Presidency gets the plaudits. It was most likely no mere coincidence that after Osinbajo held a series of closed door meetings with Police Inspector-General Idris and EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu, among others, on the heels of the security misadventure in NASS last week, the two-week siege on Benue House of Assembly was lifted by the police and affected state accounts defrozen by the EFCC.

Daura is an ally of President Buhari and may not be finished yet in public office, as he may soon return by way of another political assignment. There are conspiracy theories suggesting he had by his acts badly undermined that alliance, but I would rather withhold belief until there is verifiable proof of that narrative. Meanwhile, one clear moral of his aborted reign at the DSS is that helmsmen of state agencies that should be apolitical must be strictly guided by that expectation. No matter how covertly they tend towards serving political interests, there is always a tipping point where they would overreach and be alone, all alone, to face the consequences of their indiscretion.

Kayode Robert Idowu, a journalist, wrote from Abuja.