FORMER Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, has faulted the composition of probe panel on the millions of dollars discovered in a private house in Ikoyi, Lagos without a former top notch of the NIA being named a member of such body, even as he condemned the House of Representatives’ attempt to institute its own inquiry to what he tagged as “this peculiar mess,” describing it as “a dangerous move.”
Prof Akinyemi gave this view on Sunday in a statement he made available to our reporter in Lagos, saying his position was based on the involvement of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in the saga and the fact that external intelligence operations do not belong into the same security genre as domestic security forces such as the SSS, EFCC and the Police.
Besides, he said external intelligence officers, otherwise called spies, do not operate under the same operational penalties as domestic intelligence officers, noting that countries go to incredible lengths to hide the identities of their agents both domestic and foreign and their operations.
The former minister, who recalled that his initial reaction to the news about shocking discovery was that of indifference until the NIA Director General, Ambassador Ayo Oke, stepped forward to claim it on the part of the organisation, maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari inadvertently made a mistake by not appointing anyone with a history of external intelligence experience into the 3- member panel headed by Vice President Osinbajo.
“It would have been reassuring if the president had appointed a former head of or a former very senior member of NIA to be a member of the panel. Even at this late stage, let me remind the vice president that a lawyer with a speciality in constitutional law will not appreciate the niceties of international law. It is not too late to appoint a retired head of NIA as a consultant to the panel,” he said.
The former minister, therefore, charged the Federal Government that it was not too late to call in a former director of NIA to serve as a consultant to the Osinbajo Panel, pleading that there should be no more “leaks from the panel.
“Under no circumstances should the report of the panel in as far as it relates to the activities of the NIA be made public,” he said, contending that this needed to be done to “secure damage limitation.”
He also said that under no circumstances should the National Assembly be allowed to conduct hearings into the NIA affair, but pointed out that, “The Osinbajo Panel Report could be shared secretly with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.”
Prof Akinyemi, who said the current saga had made the country a laughing stock in the world and “Nigerian agents strewn all across Africa are now in dread of being exposed,” recalled that it was only on one occasion in history that the United States government set up a “Congressional Committee, the Church Committee, named after the Chairman, Senator Frank Churchill, to look into ‘Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities.’
“In fact, the main issue which was its concern was ‘Did the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ever indulge in carrying out assassinations of foreign Presidents?” Prof Akinyemi said.
Akinyemi, while sadly noting that recruiting agents in future in Africa was going to be difficult out of fear of future exposure, however, said should any NIA officer be found culpable, he or she should be quietly eased out.
This was just as he warned that putting a foreign intelligence officer on trial in an open court was 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,” he said.
“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,” Prof Akinyemi also counselled.