Chief Albert Horsefall is the founding Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA. He was also Director General of the State Security Service, SSS.
In this exclusive interview, the former security czar, warned strongly against developing activities around the NIA, saying they were capable of completely ruining the intelligence agency.
He said he had heard that some military men whether retired or serving had been posted to take over some departments of the NIA, stressing this move would ridicule this distinct security body before the international community.
Albert also said he got feelers that some auditors had been deployed to look at the books of the NIA, noting that the security agency do not operate like other conventional organisations.
He pleaded for a brake to be applied to save the nation’s national intelligence body. According to him, auditors could trace to agents who are priceless treasures of intelligence agencies.
He said any attempt to unmask them would expose their lives to dangers in the countries where they are operating in disguised forms. Chief Horsefall said he had no other option but to cry out through the media after all efforts he made to see President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osibanjo failed last week. Excerpts:
WHAT is your reaction to the state of affairs at the NIA?
I am concerned and baffled by what is happening in the NIA as the founding Director General of the service. I established the NIA in 1986 and set it up purely as a professional intelligence service at the highest level.
To achieve my objective I recruited equal number of graduates, 15 at that time from every one of the 21 states of the federation.
The entry qualification was first class or second class upper degree from any recognised Nigerian university. So the foundation was solid in terms of personnel.
Solid intelligence officers
Those who were keen observers then will express satisfaction that these were the best trained security officers in the country and even when compared with some other countries.
The training process went on for about three years. All of them learnt the art. I will not disclose what they were trained for but they were trained in the act of becoming solid intelligence officers.
No modern country can survive without an intelligence service especially one like Nigeria which has ambition for regional and international participation in politics and diplomacy. You need an intelligence service to promote your objectives beyond foreign service personnel. For this purpose the Nigerian Service during my time was very well equipped.
What gives me sleepless night is that action of the current DG of the service who was one of the early graduates of the process that I just described, and spent quite sometime abroad in the Commonwealth office. But the DG is only the top public relations manager of any service organization, below him there is a magnificent body of experience of capable Nigerians who make up the service.
Have you spoken with him?
I have not spoken with the DG quite frankly. It is alleged that he had “carelessly dropped” some money in a “safe” house in Lagos. Whether this is true or exaggerated, I am not in a position to really know because I have not been briefed on it. But that issue was allegedly discovered by another top public official, acting chairman of the EFCC.
In such a situation, one would say thank God that it was discovered by another agency within the same administration, that another top official discovered what appeared to be the indiscretion of a colleague.
The normal thing would have been for the gentleman to report to Mr. President. So the discoverer of the money had two options. One, to call his colleague to say he found money you carelessly dropped in a safe house, or go to Mr. President and say that he found this huge sum of money purportedly left carelessly by another top official of government. But the report we are receiving from the media is that the EFCC acting chairman, went to the media first to report it.
The questions are: are the two agencies serving the same government? Is it in the national interest for such delicate information to be in the custody of the press before the President? It is a matter of judgment. I will invite all concerned to reflect this issue soberly for national interest.
The NIA has come under tremendous pressure. I was told but I don’t know the truth of the matter that some serving or retired military officials have been posted to take over certain departments in the NIA. In a democratic setting, this is uncalled for.
Because you are invading the top secret of the organization. This is the service that operates the intelligence of the country overseas, the country’s diplomatic intelligence service. When you invade it this way, you expose it to ridicule, the myth around it will be gone.
Recruitment and management
When you invade it, you demoralise them. The intelligence service work with recruitment and management of agents overseas to bring information that will be moulded into intelligence to protect the national security. When you expose the service the way it is being done now, hopefully, foreign agents will lose confidence in the service, so you are not safe.
I am informed but I am not sure. They have asked some investigators to go and look into the records of the NIA. If they are operating in the parlance of a professional intelligence service, what would you find? Payments to agents, agents are the highest property of the intelligence agency.
Once you unmask them, you expose them to threats, they can be murdered. Because somebody will discover they have been working against them for the NIA. I recall as DG one of the issues I had with my political coordinator was that they wanted me to give him the list of those I am working with. And I said no, we quarreled until he gave up.
These are people working for the agency under different disguises abroad, their lives are in your hand as their commander. So when you expose their identity they are in danger.
Consequences of the probe?
These are some of the consequences of what could happen in the current exercise taking place. This is why I am appealing to all concerned to apply brake in the national interest!
Intelligence services all over the world are mystical, they operate in secrecy. Their resources are in secret, their resources are not necessarily allocations from government. They are allowed to raise resources from different sources so long as they disclose them to the head of government.
So my appeal to all concerned is that they should reflect on the delicate issues involved. You can’t build an intelligence agency in one day, not even in one year. When you expose this service the way you are going, everyday on paper, television, you will never be able to get an intelligence service in this country in the next twenty years.
You think it is like recruiting police people and putting them in uniform? You can’t build an intelligence service in five, ten years. It will take a sound professional mind to rebuild the intelligence service if you destroy this.
Have you made efforts to address the authorities on this?
I was in Abuja for one week to see the authorities. I could not see number one or number two. So this is the only option opened to me as the founding DG to use the media for this quite delicate matter. Of course, all the issues are in the media.
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