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31 Aug 2017

NIGERIA: DOING THINGS RIGHT

Last week, the Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche told Channels that the Nigerian Army will now monitor the social media for anti-government and anti-military speeches. As a Nigerian, that may be a reasonable avenue to clamp down the many societal and national ills bedeviling the country; but looking through the eyes of the world, that’s a statement that was not necessary.
A week before the Director’s statement, the Vice President had earlier told Nigerians and the world at large that hate speeches would be treated as acts of terrorism. The Vice President said; “Silence in such situations can only be seen as an endorsement. Hate speech and the promotion of the same through history from Nazi Germany and the extermination of Jews to the Rwandan genocide succeeded in achieving their barbarous ends by the silence of influential voices. The silence of leaders at this time in our country will be a grave disservice to our country, its peace and its future.” In countries that prioritize the security of their citizens and understand the working of silence on terrorism, the Vice President’s speech would have been enough.

I’m not trying to say the Nigerian Army has not prioritized the safety of Nigerians. In fact, they deserve the respect of all Nigerians considering the risks involved in nation-guiding and countering the Boko Haram menace; that is no small task. But I believe they have gone about the social-media-monitoring the wrong way. I also believe that the ordinary Nigerian share my sentiment. Most people are afraid to speak for fear of being arrested by the military.

The functions of the Nigerian Armed Forces (which the Army is part of) are well spelt-out in the Nigerian constitution to be;

(a) defending Nigeria from external aggression;

(b) maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea, or air;

(c) Suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

(d) Perform such other functions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly.
These functions do not include intelligence gathering within Nigeria; as I know of. What then are the roles of the Department of State Services (DSS)? Are they no longer saddled with intelligence gathering within our borders?


It is an open secret that the DSS gathers information within the country. They do these covertly, in most cases. That’s the beauty of the Service. The DSS operates in a way that leaves their steps untraceable. They are trained to spy. The Armed Forces are trained to fight.

I believe it wasn’t a good idea to have announced the monitoring of the social media activities of Nigerians. The reasons for making the decision to monitor the social media may have been defeated with just that statement. I strongly believe the FBI, CIA, MI6, SVR et al monitor even people’s personal lives without such monitored persons ever finding out. That is intelligence gathering. People who normally write on social media about their actions before carrying out same will put it in check. I have read online about situations where real terrorists leave messages about their terror acts on social media before carrying them out. The DSS would do well to deal with this.

Generally, statements by government officials should not ignite distrust between the government and her citizenry. Nobody wants his/her privacy intruded. We can do things the right way without raising the government-citizens distrust bar. We are Nigerians. We can do this right!

Aroso Akintomide Adedamola,

tomidearoso@gmail.com.

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