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NIA, ECOWAS and Nigeria’s national interest

By Valentine Tobechukwu Achum

No other government agency or department is more privy to the handling foreign counter-intelligence matters like the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Created in 1986 under Decree 19 issued by the then head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, the secret organisation which has been in the news in recent times for reasons unrelated to its mandate of embarking on surreptitious foreign intelligence operations, is the Nigerian equivalent of U.S.A’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or M16), and Russia’s Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR).

NIA has a manifest (albeit covert) role of preserving Nigeria’s eminence, pride and dignity through repossessing and intercepting secret information that is capable of imperilling its National Interest and breaching its National Security.

Mind you, the subject matter of national security could be the most abstract, yet cardinal; nebulous, yet ubiquitous issue an one can ever contend with. Same with national interest. This is why one scholar gave a fairly escapist definition of national interest to be “whatever government says it is”.

Although, this definition is different from another view which sees national Interest as the aggregate sum total of the demands of the people, I do not have any interest here to further over- heat this debate.

Instead, one debate that has caught my interest over the last few weeks is Morocco’s admittance into ECOWAS, and whether it is against Nigeria’s national interest (and national security).

Although, a lot of people have called for the outright rejection of Morocco’s application as it may whittle down Nigeria’s influence in the commission, another school of thought proposes that Morocco’s admittance into ECOWAS will help Nigeria reduce its financial burden in the funding the commission. They argue that Morocco’s admittance into ECOWAS will be a blessing in disguise, as it will help in funding the commission, which will help Nigeria cut down its huge spending, and divert such money home for capital projects, job creation, education, research and development.

It is no news that our commitment to ECOWAS is more on the giving side, and less on the receiving. We give most of the resources used in running ECOWAS, yet we are almost always being schemed out of things at the commission by countries we consider as kid brothers.

Even though Nigeria contributes 60 percent of ECOWAS funding, and even hosts the three major arms of ECOWAS’s government (ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS Court and ECOWAS Parliament), the country still receives “thrashing on any matter requiring voting. Its positions are often discarded and, not only do shortages exist on her staff quota for a nation with millions of unemployed,  some of the openings are seized by smaller, but smarter nations”.

With all these in mind, my curiosity seems to be: Who knows if Morocco’s admission into ECOWAS will wake Nigeria up from her diplomatic slumber at the commission? Who knows if Morocco’s admission into ECOWAS will serve as an opportunity to reduce Nigeria’s burden in funding a commission it does not benefit much from? Lastly, like most people seem to fear, who knows if Morocco’s admission into ECOWAS poses a threat, not only to Nigeria’s super power status in West Africa, but also as a threat in “crushing” and bullying other smaller nations whom Nigeria sees as kid brothers?

The NIA has a role to play in getting information on the real mission of Morocco in ECOWAS. It has a role to play in providing counter-intelligence that will help expose any hidden motive (if any) behind Morocco’s application to join a regional body when it does not belong to that region.

NIA needs to urgently come up with a classified position, solely to inform the government and help it in taking a decision on whether to accept, reject or just remain neutral on Morocco’s quest to join ECOWAS.

At this period of our diplomatic dilemma, so much depends on this agency that many Nigerians do not know so much about.

Valentine is a Post-graduate Student in the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos.          

 

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