National Security: How Has Monguno Fared as NSA?

Former National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.)

On July 13, 2015, in line with the provisions of the law, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno as the National Security Adviser (NSA).

Almost eight years down the line, we look at the highlights of Monguno’s stewardship.

Focus on coordination and synergy 

Upon his appointment, the NSA’s first challenge was to address how the office was misjudged as a security agency, instead of an arm of the Presidency responsible for synchronising the activities of national security agencies.

Therefore, Monguno’s approach was to reposition ONSA to align with its primary mandate of coordinating national security and serving as a security and intelligence clearinghouse.

Understanding that intelligence coordination is as vital to national security as intelligence gathering, Monguno also embarked on an effort to de-emphasise rivalry and foster synergy among the nation’s security outfits.

He stressed on many occasions that the failure of a country to adequately coordinate all its security agencies could portend greater danger than any internal or external security threat.

His whole-of-government approach saw the mainstreaming of implementation in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), while ONSA concentrates on its core functions.

Monguno’s approach led to critical stakeholders’ engagements. Working with states, the NSA included the media and CSOs in policy formulation as well as community sensitisation in efforts to build resilience and prevent radicalisation.

Mapping out plans to restore security

Since he became NSA, Monguno identified policy and strategy as important pillars against threats to national security.

The National Security Strategy (NSS), National Counter-Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST), the Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism and the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy are some of the policies and strategies which ONSA has developed in collaboration with other stakeholders.

For instance, NACTEST, which is Nigeria’s key policy response to terrorism, was reviewed to be more inclusive and to reflect humanitarian and justice needs in its five pillars, which are: Forestall, Secure, Identify, Prepare and Implement.

Nigeria enacted Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc.) Act 2015, as the legal framework for the codification of criminal activities in cyberspace.

As chair of the Cybercrime Advisory Council, Monguno also made significant efforts to implement the provisions of the act, especially in the area of developing a protection plan for Critical National Assets and Infrastructure (CNAI).

ONSA developed a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS) 2021 and established the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT) and the National Digital Forensic Laboratory, amongst others.

In 2022, the amended Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act was signed into law to provide for the effective implementation of international instruments for the prevention and combating of terrorism and suppression of the financing of terrorism.

Among other important details, the new law makes provision for the extra-territorial application of the original.

Section 4 of the act, from where the National Counter-Terrorism Centre derives its functions, empowers ONSA to formulate and implement policies for counter-terrorism and terrorism financing efforts.

Strengthening institutions through legislation

Nigeria’s counter-terrorism efforts led to the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), embedded in the ONSA.

Apart from the NCTC, ONSA’s efforts have led to the establishment of new and/or strengthening of existing institutions to be able to contribute to improving national security.

For instance, the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) was established to replace the defunct Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM).

NCCSALW provides a more effective coordination and monitoring of progress as regards the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

The centre serves as an institutional mechanism for policy guidance, research and monitoring of all aspects of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).

As chair of the 14-member National Taskforce Committee charged with the responsibility of drafting a framework that would guide mining activities in the country, Monguno led the development of a framework for vetting prospective miners who would undertake mining activities in states where mining activities are taking place.

Most of the IEDs deployed by terrorist groups were made from Ammonium Nitrate and Carbamide, which are also used for controlled explosions and as fertilizers.

Therefore, ONSA was mandated to develop a policy and strategic framework to counter the use of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) related materials by non-state actors for terrorist or other criminal purposes.

Hence, the intervention implemented by ONSA over the past few years has led to a substantial reduction in the ability of terrorist groups to have access to CBRNE materials.

The establishment and strengthening of these institutions have helped in the non-kinetic approach to tackling insecurity.

Stronger regional and international partnerships and collaboration 

In 2015, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a combined multinational formation comprising military units from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, was rejuvenated.

Nigeria also made a $21 million commitment to the revitalized MNJTF.

In 2022, Monguno, along with his United Kingdom counterpart Sir Stephen Lovegrove, hosted an inaugural Dialogue in Support of Security and Defence Partnership between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

Monguno also paid a two-day working visit to the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) at the invitation of the UN Under-Secretary-General (USG), Vladimir Voronkov, for in-person consultations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The NSA also represented President Buhari at the High-Level Plenary Meeting to Commemorate and Promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in New York.

The NSA stressed that Nigeria remained committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and will continue to promote it, but warned that expending further resources on nuclear weapons stockpiling and maintenance made no sense at all.

Contribution to global war on terror

Since Monguno became NSA, Nigeria has become an active player in global security cooperation.

In 2018, ONSA’s Counter Terrorism Centre hosted the first-ever National Chemical Security Training Conference in collaboration with NAFDAC and the US State Department in an effort to control the dual use of chemicals.

In 2020, Nigeria and the US co-hosted a virtual meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

The meeting was attended by delegates from the 82-member global coalition drawn from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The Africa Union, European Union, ECOWAS and G-5 Sahel were also represented among other international and regional organisations.

Nigeria was also co-chair (along with Switzerland) of the Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law (CJ-ROL) Working Group of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF).

The group focuses on the critical role played by the criminal justice sector in combating terrorism and demonstrates the GCTF’s commitment to supporting rule-of-law-based and human rights-compliant approaches.

In its capacity as co-chair, Nigeria, through ONSA, developed the Abuja Recommendations on Collection, Use and Sharing of Evidence for Purposes of Criminal Prosecution of Terror Suspects, which was endorsed at the 2018 GCTF Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the 72nd UNGA.

In April 2023, Nigeria and Italy co-chaired the seventh Plenary Meeting of the GCTF CJ-ROL Working Group in St Julian, Malta.

The Falcon Eye Maritime Intelligence Facility

Perhaps one of the biggest game changers as regards national security, the Falcon Eye Maritime Intelligence Facility was commissioned in 2021.

The project is part of efforts to boost Nigeria’s overall maritime security architecture, in accordance with the National Security Strategy (NSS).

A brainchild of ONSA under Monguno, the Falcon Eye surveillance facility project was necessitated by the many security challenges, such as the kidnapping of oil workers, sea robbery/piracy, incessant problems of crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, hostage-taking, maritime terrorism, facing the maritime sector.

In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (POMO) Bill. By the POMO Act, Nigeria became the first country in the West and Central African sub-regions to promulgate a stand-alone law against piracy.

In 2021, under the POMO Act, the Federal Government secured the successful prosecution of 10 pirates for the first time anywhere in Africa.

The feat attracted commendations, including from the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Fathi Wali, who applauded Nigeria for its leadership role and commitment towards curbing maritime crimes.

The act is immensely complemented by the Falcon Eye.

Election security

As chair of the General Security Appraisal Committee (GSAC) and co-chair of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), Monguno always used the platforms to call out enemies of the state who overheat the electoral process and threaten national security.

Before, during and after the 2023 General Elections, the NSA continued to play his role in the smooth conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country through those platforms.

As demonstrated in the elections, the GSAC and ICCES played vital roles in ensuring that the elections were devoured of violence and threats to national security.

There were also other security interventions championed by the NSA to improve public confidence.

For instance, at a time when the citizenry had concerns about aviation security, Monguno reassured safety by ensuring that security and intelligence agencies continue to monitor security threats and provide the assessment required by aviation authorities to act.

Who can also forget his intervention to calm frail nerves when some embassies issued security alert about impending attacks on Abuja and its environs?

The Joint Border Patrol Team Monguno initiated led to interceptions, seizures and arrests in entry points across the country.

Monguno’s stewardship as NSA culminated in perhaps two most consequential engagements when, in December 2022, he inaugurated an 11-man Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses in Nigeria.

The other was the March 2023 commissioning of the new ONSA and the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) building complex in Abuja. To say the least, those were defining moments in the history of ONSA.

No one is under any illusion that Nigeria has solved all its security challenges under the Buhari administration.

Non-state actors still pose a threat to the country’s security and efforts to surmount those threats should continue.

Also, sustaining collaboration and synergy among security agencies continues to be a challenge. However, Monguno will bequeath a functional, well-structured, equipped and resourceful ONSA to his successor.(NANFeatures)

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