Bolaji Akinyemi, a former minister of external affairs, has advised that under no circumstances must the probe into the ‘Ikoyi $43 million’ recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, be made public. He cites “security reasons” for his stance.
In a statement issued on Sunday, April 30, 2017, the former minister said that President Muhammadu Buhari has already made grave mistakes when he set up a panel to probe the spy security agency. One of such is not appointing someone with experience or history in the operation of the NIA, which is the equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, of the United States of America.
Ayo Oke, the director-general of NIA, had come forward to say that the money found in a luxury apartment on Osborne Road, Ikoyi belonged to his agency.
Buhari reacted to the news, which embarrassed his government, by suspending Babachir Lawal, the secretary to the federal government and Mr. Oke on April 19, 2017. A panel made up of three people chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was set up to conduct investigations to ascertain the source of the money.
“When Ambassador Ayo Oke stepped forward to claim it on the part of the National Intelligence Agency, (NIA), alarm bells started to ring in my ears. It is one of the sacred traditions of the external intelligence trade to admit nothing and to deny nothing,” Akinyemi said.
“A saving grace emerged when the president set up the Osinbajo panel to untangle the web over the millions of dollars. But the president inadvertently made a mistake.
“He did not appoint anyone with a history of external intelligence experience into the panel. External Intelligence operations do not belong to the same security genre as domestic security forces such as the SSS, EFCC and the police.
“External intelligence officers, otherwise called spies, do not operate under the same operational penalties as domestic intelligence officers.
“Under no circumstances should the report of the panel in as far as it relates to the activities of the NIA be made public and no more leaks from the panel.”
Akinyemi said the exposure of the agency to the public could pose a serious threat to officers of the agency, noting that, “normally, foreign intelligence activities are shrouded in secrecy, and not in the glare of publicity.”
He also faulted the move of the house of representatives the issue, highlighting the security implications.
“What has motivated me at this late stage to issue this release is the news that the house of representatives has now decided to institute its own inquiry to this peculiar mess. This is a dangerous move,” he said.
“The ultimate penalty for a foreign spy in most countries is death. Countries go to incredible lengths to hide the identities of their agents both domestic and foreign and their operations. No receipts get issued. Budgets are called black budgets because they are never publicly acknowledged.
“Now, the whole saga has made us a laughing stock in the world. Nigerian agents strewn all across Africa are now in dread of being exposed. Recruiting agents in future in Africa is going to be difficult out of fear of future exposure.
“Under no circumstances should the national assembly be allowed to conduct hearings into the NIA affair. The Osinbajo panel Report could be shared secretly with the president of the senate and the speaker of the house.
“Should any NIA officer be found culpable, he or she should be quietly eased out. Putting a foreign intelligence officer on trial in an open court is going to be disastrous to external national security interests.
“If there is no provision to put an intelligence officer on trial in a secret and special court, an executive bill should be sent to the national assembly to make provision for such.
“Under no circumstances should one security agency be allowed to move against another security agency especially one dealing with foreign intelligence, without the express permission of the president or in his absence the acting president. This should be without any publicity or fanfare.”
Akinyemi, a professor of political science and an expert in international affairs, law and diplomacy, served as a minister under the military administration of Ibrahim Babangida.
Additional reports by TheCable.