That visit to the DSS headquarters afforded me the second opportunity of a face-to-face encounter with Daura, who I had previously met at Heathrow Airport, London…
It was 24 hours after the official release of my book, “An Encounter with the Spymaster,” in July 2017 that I received an invitation from a top retired Air Force officer for a meeting with the then director-general of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura. Before the invitation, presidential spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, had publicly attacked the book in a press statement, which he described as “an attempt to rewrite the history of the War on Terror Campaign.”
Though I was not sceptical or apprehensive about the scheduled meeting that day, I nevertheless told the retired military officer that I would not be able to attend because I was in a casual wear of jeans and T-shirt, instead of my usual traditional attire for public outings and visitations.
The officer countered that my dress did not matter. I, therefore joined the team, comprising top retired officers from the Nigerian Air Force, Navy, Army, intelligence services and a strategic officer. Present at the meeting were top DSS directors with the director-general himself. Meanwhile, that visit to the DSS headquarters afforded me the second opportunity of a face-to-face encounter with Daura, who I had previously met at Heathrow Airport, London, on the night of May 14, 2017, probably after he might have met President Muhammadu Buhari who was then on medical vacation in Britain.
Though one could have misgivings on some of his official roles, Daura naturally wears an infectious smile, decked with disarming contour of glowing white beards. The aura projected him as a harmless and innocent person who could not hurt a fly. I walked up to him and, surprisingly, he responded calmly and briefly to my penetrating questions about his office, especially on his refusal to appoint a spokesperson for his agency and other contentious issues. With reassurance, he gave what he called genuine reasons for the excuses and excesses.
That visit to his office afforded him the opportunity to inform us about major accomplishments and some misgivings about his office. Ever-smiling, Daura was eloquent, smart and intelligent in response to some of the issues we discussed. Daura, who was sacked a few days after his 65th birthday, was born in Daura, Katsina State, and started his career in the State Security Service (SSS) in 1982 and rose to the rank of director. He was once a spokesperson of the agency and deputy director, presidential communication, Command and Control Centre, Abuja. He also served as the state director of the SSS at various times in Kano, Sokoto, Edo, Lagos, Osun and Imo states.
It is not unlikely that some of his achievements may have been overshadowed by the many controversies trailing his tenure as the director-general of the agency. He was particularly responsible for the release of many hostages from the Boko Haram gulag. In fact, the release of UNIMAID lecturers, including a group of oil explorers and policewomen that were held captive for more than half a year, could be attributed to his efforts. His agency played prominent roles in the alleged exchange of Boko Haram commanders with many Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls. The agency was also directly involved in the arrest of major kidnap kingpins and top ritualists and provided intelligence to other services for such arrests nationwide.
He was also responsible for the arrest of a member of the controversial Presidential Arms Probe Panel for alleged extortion on behalf of other members and for money laundering and illegal possession of firearms. The suspect was, nevertheless, illegally detained for five months by DSS before he was released after a threat by Justice Dimgba.
There was also the glaring inter-agency rivalry between security agencies, which triggered the DSS to submit two damning “security reports” on acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to the Senate, warning lawmakers not to confirm his appointment. Daura reported directly to President Buhari and no one else.
It is an undeniable fact that in the three years of the Buhari administration, the DSS under Daura has succeeded in some of its statutory mandates but, unfortunately, it is notorious for defying the Constitution by disobeying court orders and detaining citizens arbitrarily. While it sounds childish the claim by political elements that the recent siege on National Assembly was a conspiracy between Daura and Senate President Bukola Saraki, the question on the lips of many begging for an answer is: Could the Kwara man be more influential and sophisticated than the Number One man from Katsina?
Could the same Senate President influence the flagrant disregard of court orders by DSS in the illegal detention of former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and a leader of the Shiite movement, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, since 2015? Could Saraki have engineered the October 2016 dead-in-the-night invasion of the homes of senior judges across the country by the DSS with the arrest of seven judges, including two of the Supreme Court, who were later discharged, except one that died during the trial? Who could have also influenced the violation of a court order and forcible eviction of former director-general of the DSS, Kayode Are, from an Ikoyi property in December 2015?
Have we forgotten in a hurry how, in November 2017, the EFCC secured an order to arrest Ita Ekpeyong, a former director-general of the DSS and this action was scuttled due to the activities of the DSS under Daura, and the roles he played in the saga involving Ayo Oke, the erstwhile director-general of NIA? Was the DSS mentioned in the unconstitutional attempt to remove Governor Samuel Ortom in Benue State in July as its operatives and the police provided security for eight lawmakers to take over the House of Assembly of 30 members? Were journalists spared the fangs of the DSS? Were the ‘wailers’ also responsible for the detention of Tony Ezimakor, a journalist with Daily Independent, who was threatened to disclose his sources of information? By the way, who could have influenced the naked display of nepotism where 51 candidates from Katsina were recruited into the DSS as against 44 successful candidates from the entire South-East of five states in 2016, for instance?
Could Daura have attained and achieved some of the feats, the pros and cons, without the knowledge of the Presidency? Or should we agree with the political permutations that his positive deeds are attributed to President Buhari, while his negative actions were influenced by the ‘Sarakis’ of this world and other opposition elements?