It has emerged that President Muhammadu Buhari disregarded the recommendations of a panel he constituted to “review operational, technical and administrative structure” of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), in appointing the NIA’s new director general, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Premium Times reports.
The panel headed by former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baba Gana Kingibe and made up of retired intelligence officers, was constituted on November 8, 2017, following the scandalous discovery of $43 million stashed in a Lagos flat.
Its primary assignment was to recommend to government “how to align the work and operations of the Agency to Nigeria’s national interest and the challenges of the 21st century”.
It was also required to look into the “financial viability of the Agency and measures to improve accountability, probity, as well as control and checks”.
The panel submitted its report to Mr Buhari on December 19 and, among other things, spelt out qualifications for the right candidate to head the agency.
“The panel agreed that candidate to fill this post must exhibit high degree of professionalism, sound judgment, management and leadership competences and, above all, personal and professional integrity.”
Key in the many criteria listed is that the new DG should emerge “from the corps of serving directors”.
The panel used the word “must” in making this recommendation, underlining its significance.
The panel further recommended that seniority among the directors “should be a criterion, but not a determining factor”.
The panel noted that those and other recommendations it made were intended to “stabilize the agency, restore staff morale and challenge their professionalism, improve operations and sound financial management.”
Interestingly, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, a retired middle-level staff of the agency who was the secretary to the Kingibe panel, was appointed on January 10 to head the NIA in utter disregard of the panel’s advice.
Insiders told the newspaper that Mr. Abubakar came to the NIA on transfer of service from Katsina State Government in 1995, and was allegedly placed two steps higher than his level 12 grade, by his relative who was the then DG of the agency, Zakari Ibrahim.
But Abubakar left the services of the agency in 2013 for undisclosed reasons.
Due to his unmerited appointed, Premium Times reported that there is disquiet within the ranks of senior staff of the agency and nine senior directors would be “sacrificed”.
Most members of the Senior Management Committee that would now be answerable to the new DG are said to be his seniors, and by convention too high to serve under their “junior”.
“Nine directors who are members of the SMC are also seniors to the new DG and cannot therefore operate under him,” said a source at the agency to the newspaper.
The new DG is also said to be considering seeking the approval of the National Security Adviser to mass retire all those that were his seniors while he was in service who are now to be his subordinates.
However, according to insiders, mass retirement, if approved, will however come at a great cost to the agency.
“These are highly experienced and well trained pillars of the institution, retiring them on the altar of an inappropriate appointment will be harmful to the service, and the country,” said a source who did not want his name in print told the newspaper.
Buhari’s media aide, Femi Adesina, refused to comment on the matter when contacted, saying Kingibe is the right person to talk on the issues, as the report is yet to be made public.
Mr. Kingibe however did not respond to text message to his mobile telephone Saturday morning, the report said.