President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja inaugurated the new Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC), two state-of-the-art facilities to optimize efforts at addressing evolving security challenges in the country, especially terrorism and violent extremism.
Speaking at the inauguration of the two world-class facilities, the President said it would serve as a major legacy to provide the incoming administration with infrastructure to effectively coordinate national security and counterterrorism efforts.
The President also used the occasion to outline significant milestones achieved by his administration on National Security, including gains in combating terrorism, armed banditry, kidnapping, separatist tendencies, crude oil theft, piracy as well as militancy in the South-South and cyber-security.
On the threat of terrorism, which was labelled as a major security challenge facing the country when he assumed office in 2015, the President said:
”I can confidently state here today that we have achieved significant milestones in degrading the major threat and restoring normalcy to most of the hitherto securitized areas in the North East.
”These areas previously occupied by terrorists have been freed and Internally Displaced Persons are voluntarily returning to their homes.
”This was largely achieved through the valiant efforts of our Armed Forces and other security agencies, in collaboration with our regional and international partners but above all, the support and cooperation of the Nigerian citizens.”
Apart from the degraded threat of terrorism in the North East, President Buhari also expressed delight that government has curbed the series of armed banditry and kidnapping cases in the North West and North Central zones.
He noted that these criminal acts had emerged as a result of the scattering of Boko Haram in the North East and the implosion of Libya in the Maghreb.
On separatist agitations, the President noted that agitators in the South East and to a much lesser extent the South West, who have been experiencing concerns of separatist tendencies, are being checkmated.
”Meanwhile, issues of crude oil theft, sea robbery, piracy and militancy in the South-South are equally being addressed.
”Most of these threats have transnational linkages thereby reinforcing the need for regional and international cooperation as critical enablers to enhance our national security,” he said.
On maritime security, President Buhari expressed delight that some key threats within Nigeria’s Maritime Environment such as piracy, sea robbery, crude oil theft as well as illegal unregulated and unreported fishing are being effectively tackled.
He said between August 2018 and March 2023, over 220 vessels involved in maritime criminality within Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone, up to the Republic of Togo, had been prosecuted.
He commended the Falcon Eye maritime domain awareness project, domiciled with the Nigerian Navy and coordinated by ONSA, for providing high-quality real-time intelligence, leading to the arrest and prosecution of economic saboteurs.
He added that over 87 oil tankers involved in various crude oil and product theft have been arrested, the theft of over 3 million barrels of crude oil was prevented and 15 million litres of petrol and diesel recovered.
”Recent commendations from the International Maritime Organization, European Union and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to Nigeria on our efforts in reducing maritime criminality in the Gulf of Guinea and successful prosecution of pirates in the region are worth mentioning,” he said.
On cyber threats, the President underscored the importance of protecting Nigeria’s cyberspace from all forms of intrusion.
To this end, he said in addition to receiving regular briefing from the Cybercrime Advisory Council, the government had established the Nigeria Computer Emergency Response Team and revised the National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy in February 2021.
”To further complement these efforts, I will soon be endorsing the Presidential Order for the Designation and Protection of Critical National Information Infrastructure. This is bearing in mind that cyberspace creates a nexus for synchronizing efforts of our security and law enforcement agencies towards addressing numerous security challenges,” he said.
On the newly inaugurated top grade facilities, President Buhari described the secure and hi-tech offices as a demonstration of his administration’s firm commitment to ensure national security capabilities are kept abreast with the highest global standards.
He said the offices are designed to enhance strategic response to a broad range of current and emerging security concerns, noting that Nigeria exists in an interconnected world and therefore must be able to face and respond to both domestic and global security challenges.
Congratulating the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retired) and his team for this noble achievement, the President expressed confidence that the new facilities would in no small measure enhance the desired peaceful and secure environment for our country.
He also commended some of the key security policy documents either produced or revised by this administration and supervised by ONSA including the National Counterterrorism Strategy 2016, National Security Strategy 2019, National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy 2021 and the National Crisis Management Doctrine 2022.
”In broad terms, these policy documents emphasize a Whole-of-Government involving all the ministries, departments and agencies in combination with a Whole-of-Society involving civil society organizations and the citizenry.
”Thereby we can achieve a Whole-of-Nation, and ultimately a Whole-of-Region approach involving our contiguous neighbours, ECOWAS and AU partners in order to address various dimensions of security concerns.”
In his address of welcome, Monguno said the dynamic nature of global and domestic security environment necessitated the modification and expansion of some of the functions of ONSA.
He said while ONSA’s core mandate is to assess the security concerns of the country and advise the president on all matters bordering on national security, the changing nature of the security landscape over the last three decades in the country and across the world led to the broadening of ONSA’s mandate to accommodate the needs of emerging security threats.
”The new office for the NCTC is designed to accommodate the additional workforce and improved technological capabilities of the Centre, particularly the Exclusive Devices Analysis Office (EDAO) , increasing activities of countering violent extremism department and joint terrorism analysis branch.
”The new ONSA and NCTC complex boasts of office spaces, a world-class hall, conference rooms, team rooms, laboratories, an auditorium and an operations/crisis centre,” he said.
According to the NSA, the facilities would further enhance Nigeria’s already recognized contribution to global counterterrorism policy and practice efforts and give impetus to the country’s internal, bilateral, and multilateral cooperation and collaboration in tackling the menace of terrorism and violent extremism.
He commended President Buhari for his administration’s investment strategy in legacy infrastructure projects and also acknowledged the support of the National Assembly.
In his goodwill message, the UN Resident Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, commended President Buhari and his government for championing the NCTC, saying ”this is no doubt part of your legacy that will enable Nigeria continue to address domestic and regional security challenges”.
Schmale, who was represented by Kimaris Toogood, Peace and Advisor, Office of the Resident Coordinator (UN Nigeria), also commended the progress made by the Nigerian military to degrade the operational capacity of Islamic State West Africa Province and Boko Haram and to improve intelligence gathering on suspected terrorists.
The top UN official in Nigeria praised ONSA for the development of threat assessments and watchlists, active cooperation with Interpol, establishment of multiagency screening processes, the trials of multiple terrorist suspects, and the development of Federal and State rehabilitation and reintegration programmes.
”We all know that it takes both kinetic and non-kinetic responses to end terrorism. The fact that almost 80,000 persons have surrendered to authorities in the north-east since May 2021 represents a real opportunity to shift the dynamic.
”Challenges remain in terms of screening and identification of those individuals and ensuring appropriate responses in line with their needs and profiles. Some persons are no doubt deserving of and desperate for humanitarian assistance.
”And likewise, individuals will need to be accountable for their crimes and justice will need to be served.
”The UN stands willing and ready to support the Government of Nigeria on this effort, and commends Governor Babagana Zulum for developing the Borno Model and engaging with the UN on on this matter, ” he said.
Schmale pledged that UN would continue to be a strong partner and supporter of Nigeria’s efforts to address the issues of insecurity and terrorism.
He recalled that since 2001, the Security Council has adopted more than 40 counter-terrorism resolutions.
”As outlined in these resolutions, Member States are obliged to implement significant measures at the national level while also enhancing bilateral and multilateral cooperation to counter and eradicate terrorism.
”As part of a whole of government effort these include criminalizing terrorist acts and prosecuting offenders, countering the financing of terrorism, enhancing border security, countering incitement to terrorism and addressing the root causes.
”The visit of the Members of the UN Security Council to Nigeria and the passage of Resolution 2349 of 31st March 2017 are the strongest demonstrations yet of the United Nations commitment to supporting Nigeria’s counter terrorism efforts,” the UN official said.
He stressed that the newly commissioned NCTC would effectively contribute to advancing implementation of these various Security Council resolutions and is thus a positive step towards Nigeria fulfilling its obligations under international law.
▪︎ By Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity)