The recent invasion of the Ikoyi, Lagos office, of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) has, once again, brought to the fore the inter-agency rivalry common in the nation’s security system. On May 30, the Awolowo Road, Ikoyi Lagos office of EFCC was invaded by overzealous officials of the Department of State Services (DSS), who barricaded the entrance with armoured personnel carriers.
While the siege lasted, there was pandemonium within the vicinity of the EFCC as the officials of the commission were prevented from accessing their offices. It took the prompt intervention of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the DSS to vacate the premises. The needless fracas is equally embarrassing and not good for inter-agency relations.
The agencies have separately commented on the shameful action. The ownership tussle over a building hosting the EFCC is believed to be the cause of the DSS invasion. In a statement by its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC said the development was strange to the commission given that it had cohabited with the DSS in that facility for 20 years without any incident. The EFCC also claimed that denying its operatives access to their offices disrupted its operations at its largest hub with over 500 personnel, hundreds of exhibits and many suspects in detention.
It further claimed that cases scheduled for court hearing for that day were aborted, while many suspects who had been invited for questioning were left unattended. Also, suspects in detention were left without care. The ugly development impinged on the human rights of the inmates. This can equally affect the nation’s fight against economic and financial crimes.
However, the DSS has denied laying siege on the Ikoyi, Lagos office of the EFCC and preventing its officials from gaining access into their offices. The Public Relations Officer of DSS, Peter Afunaya, said its operatives were only carrying out an official duty in the building. According to him, “it is not correct that the DSS barricaded EFCC from entering its office. No. It is not true. The Service is only occupying its own facility where it is carrying out its official and statutory responsibility. The DSS further stated that “there is no controversy over No 15A Awolowo Road office in question, adding that the building was where the DSS started from.”
Irrespective of the explanations given by the two agencies, the invasion of the EFCC office is in bad taste, vexatious and unacceptable. Regrettably, the agencies failed to use all available legal channels to resolve the matter until it degenerated to the apparent fisticuffs and show of strength. Let the fracas be thoroughly probed with a view to finding out the culprits and sanctioning them appropriately. Moving forward, the government should use this case to show that it will no longer tolerate such a show of shame among its agencies. The open display of power by the two agencies of government is indecent and uncalled for.
We laud President Tinubu’s quick intervention, which prevented the situation from escalating. The ugly development could have led to dire consequences if left unchecked. The incident is not good for the security of the country.
This is not the first time the DSS would be engaging in such embarrassing outing. On August 7, 2018, masked operatives of the Department barricaded the gates to the National Assembly complex, shutting out lawmakers. The latest action, coming a day after the inauguration of the new administration in the country, makes it more ridiculous. We condemn the invasion of the EFCC office by officials of the DSS. There should be better ways of handling inter-agency misunderstandings. EFCC has also on occasions gone outside its briefs to the point of ignoring court orders.
Government should take necessary measures to forestall inter-agency rivalry. What played out between the DSS and EFCC demonstrates the absence of inter-agency relations and calls for understanding among government agencies. The two organisations are not the only agencies involved in the show of power. There have been instances of the police clashing with soldiers. Naval Officers have also clashed with the police and other security agencies. Policemen are also known to have quarreled with the officers of the Correctional Services at some points. Let this be the last time the country will witness such an ugly display of power by government agencies. The friction between the DSS and EFCC reiterates the need for seminars on inter-agency relations by the government.