Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
About "Security Breach" and "Coup Scare"
The terms "security
breach" and "coup scare" have become topical in recent weeks. Normally I do not
muse about current or very recent events but the webmaster has asked that I put
things in perspective for readers. Therefore, I shall reflect on these issues
and muse over some of the more curious elements in the story as it broke,
including contradictions in news accounts and implications for civil-military
relations. As a rule I shall stick to publicly available information.
What exactly is a "security breach"?
According to an
information security glossary, "A breach of security is where a stated
organisational policy or legal requirement regarding Information Security,
has been contravened." [http://www.yourwindow.to/information-security/gl_securitybreach.htm]
The same principle applies to other forms of security. If, for example, a stated organisational policy or legal requirement regarding physical security has been contravened then a breach of security has occurred.
The information security glossary goes further to say that "Every Security Breach will always be initiated via a Security Incident, only if confirmed does it become a security breach."
What then is a "security incident"?
"A security incident is an alert to the possibility that a breach of security may be taking, or may have taken, place." Indeed, "every incident which suggests that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information has been inappropriately changed, can be considered a Security Incident." The reason why these elements are critical is because the loss of any one of them can directly threaten the existence of any private or public entity. Confidentiality basically implies an "assurance that information is shared only among authorised persons or organisations." Organisations go to great lengths to classify information so as to define the appropriate level of confidentiality. Integrity refers to the sense of "assurance that the information is authentic and complete" and that the information is accurate and reliable enough for the purposes for which it is meant. Availability, on the other hand, describes the "assurance that the systems responsible for delivering, storing and processing information are accessible when needed, by those who need them."
A few recent
examples of such incidents and breaches will help place the terms in
perspective. Most will recall that in November 2003, just before US President
Bush was to visit the UK, Ryan Parry, an undercover reporter working for the
Daily Mirror voluntarily revealed that he had worked for two months at the
Buckingham Palace as a footman. He had gained unrestricted physical access and
employment after using a false reference in his application. The revelation,
which proved to be a serious embarassment, and could have resulted in disastrous
consequences had it not been a prank, led to a security review by the UK
There have been numerous other incidents and breaches, including internet based attacks of large information systems, at US government (e.g. Pentagon), US Universities (e.g. University of Texas at Austin) and US Airports (e.g. Oakland International Airport). A few weeks ago it was reported that 22 persons illegally obtaining security badges at Port Canaveral, a massive Port which hosts many cruise ships and millions of passengers.
Some of the more
sensational incidents and breaches have occurred at the United Nations and the
European Union. Many will recall the public revelation of bugs planted on UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan's phone lines, by, presumably, British and American
intelligence. The European Union has also recently revealed that bugs were found
on phone lines of France, Germany, Spain, Britain and Austria at the EU's
headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
In Nigeria, we have a long history of security incidents and breaches, only that they do not often get called by those names. I am sure many will recall the frequent incidents of examination paper leakages which actually go by many local "fond" names. Behind every leakage, however, is a security incident and a serious breach of security. Similarly, Nigeria's long history of electoral malpractices is laced with many excellent examples of security breaches.
Anyhow let us come to the matter at hand.
The term "coup scare" is very familiar to Nigerians. Rumors of real and imagined coups and counter-coups have pervaded national life for decades. They usually occur in "epidemics" usually during or just after some national incident which exposes acute, chronic or acute-on-chronic fissures and frustrations within the military, between the military and political class or in the polity as a whole. Security experts prefer the phrase "coup indicators." We have also been treated to few examples in foreign countries lately, including the Equatorial Guinea mercenary saga.
Beginning with an April 1st Vanguard story headlined "FG tackles coup scare in barracks ", - which some observers initially considered an "April Fool's joke" - the stage was quickly set for what has now become a fixation about an alleged military coup-in-utero. The newspaper said "Ten months into the second term of Obasanjoís Presidency, the military authorities are battling frantically to contain a coup scare threatening the democratic rule and espirit de corps in the Armed Forces. As at the last count, not less than 22 officers are said to have been interrogated and the net has been cast wide for more suspects." It went on to say, "Vanguard sources hinted that the masterminds of the unlawful intent to disrupt the democratic rule had been recruiting officers along religious, ethnic and geo-political lines with intent to incite men under arms against the state." Needless to say, this unfortunate comment - which the article could have done without - came across as if the alleged 'plot' had geopolitical and religious fault lines. In a country with a track record for conspiracy theories and easy incitement, red flags immediately went up and the discourse was poisoned from then on with a regional-ethnic-religious undercurrent.
But the Vanguard
story did not stop there. It went on to outline a catalogue of "democratic era
woes" as the backdrop to the alleged "plot": According to the newspaper, "The
suspects, from the rank of Majors and above, were
Deep into my daily
routine of scowering the international media for security and defence related
information for my archive, I was still trying to assimilate the incredible and
highly embarassing revelation (if true) that it took a "coup scare" to prompt
"immediate payment of all arrears of salaries and wages of military men" when I
stumbled across a related story in the same newspaper. In an account titled "Police
avert jailbreak as Kirikiri inmates protest Al-Mustapha's transfer" the
Vanguard reported contradictory accounts, saying,
"A source told Vanguard on account of anonymity that, the armed policemen
stormed the prison at about 6p.m. on Tuesday to effect the arrest of Mustapha,
but other inmates foiled the move, following which the policemen went away to
re-group. They returned at 10p.m. fully armed and even arrested a top official
of the prison who were taken away hand-cuffed. Vanguard learnt that there were
sporadic gun shots by the policemen who took the prison official to his
residence, very close to the prison, which was searched also. But, according to
another account, the DMI operatives arrived the maximum prisons at about 11.30
p.m. following a directive from Abuja to transfer Al-Mustapha to DMI. It was
gathered that in the process, some armed robbery suspect inmates reportedly
forced their way out and attacked the prisonís staff who went to hand
Al-Mustapha to the DMI operatives. Other inmates were said to have joined in the
scuffle with a view to preventing the DMI men from taking Al-Mustapha. Some
prisons staff were reportedly held hostage in the process. It, however, took the
intervention of a large number of patrol team which comprised MOPOL and
conventional policemen to quell the situation. The team said to have been led by
the Area Commander, BRAVO MOPOL, Mr. L.F Salami, shot sporadically into the air
to scare away the inmates."
On that same day,
another newspaper (Guardian) provided "details" about what the Vanguard
described as "the movement of Major Al-Mustapha from Kirikiri Prisons by the
Directorate of Military Intelligence yesterday ...." The newspaper said, inter
alia, that "Hamza Al-Mustapha..........was forcefully removed from detention at
Kiririki Maximum Prisons, Lagos in a dawn operation by security men Wednesday."
However, (and this is important), the report specifically said "the Nigeria
Prisons Service (NPS) has denied that Mustapha was abducted." In other words, a
reasonable reader can conclude that there may have been trouble in expropriating
the Major from one form of custody in the state apparatus to another but he
certainly was not "abducted."
In response, the
current presiding judge of the Ibru case, ostensibly "ordered" that "all
parties", namely the DMI, State Security Service (SSS), Police, and Comptroller
of prisons, be put on notice and is said to have fixed Wednesday March 31st for
arguments. In the meantime, however, he did not issue a specific temporary
injunction restricting Mustapha to KiriKiri - a loophole the Director of Defence
Information, Defence Headquarters, Colonel Ganiyu Adewale, would later point
Early on that
appointed morning for arguments, however, according to one Frank Ezekweche, of
J.B. Dawodu Chambers, (also a counsel to Mustapha) "armed uniformed operatives
invaded Kirikiri ......at about 12:00 a.m. and kidnapped Mustapha." Ezekweche
reportedly also told the court that there were about 200 ""armed uniformed
operatives" involved. He also alleged that they "shot sporadically into the air"
and that "some of the inmates and the prison officers attempted to prevent them
from taking him away."
Another newspaper, Daily Trust, on the same day, apparently relying on information obtained in the "court premises" from Mr James Danbaba, a former Lagos State Commissioner of Police who is currently an inmate of the Prison and fellow defendant, went further to specify that the Major "was whisked away from the prison to an unknown destination by operatives of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI)." Indeed, the newspaper went further to claim, (citing Danbaba) that "the security agencies that stormed the prison between two and three in the morning were made up of the navy, the DMI, the department of State Security Services (SSS) and the police all numbering about 200 men in 20 vehicles." To all of this was added the juicy detail that Mr Ibe Logher, deputy comptroller of Kirikiri prison, was arrested and his house searched. Putting two and two together, it appears then that Mr. Logher was among the "prison officers" Mr. Ezekweche was referring to that attempted to prevent the "armed uniformed operatives" from taking Mustapha away - against the directives of his bosses within the NPS.
described as an attempt to 'prevent' Mustapha's transfer was characterized by
the Trust as "a riot" during which "many inmates were said to have been
seriously wounded." All available accounts agree that there was "sporadic
shooting." The Trust additionally reported that urgent medical assistance was
requested for the wounded and that some lives may have been lost. It went on to
say that "Frank Ezekueche......narrated how the DMI men invaded the prison"
further cementing what became a widely held but patently false public perception
that soldiers, on orders from the DMI, invaded the Prison to "abduct" the Major.
The story gained even more sensation when a public statement issued by the family of the Major - and cited by the Trust - claimed that, "Information reaching us indicated that the gunmen arrived the prison at 11:00 pm yesterday (Tuesday) and attempted to abduct him. But they met stiff resistance from inmates and prison guards which resulted in a shootout which lasted up till 3 am when they eventually succeeded in gaining access to his cell, and shot him in the leg. Only Allah knows how many got killed or wounded in this process of abducting my brother....." The background was further laid for a perception that the Major was a victim of a complex conspiracy when Alhaji Hadi Al-Mustapha, the family spokesperson, was quoted as saying that the family had received information to the effect that the Major and his family were to be eliminated via a cooked-up coup charge "in order to divert national and international attention from his unending detention and eventually isolate him from his fellow political detainees, and later have him killed either by poison or physical elimination." All of this was amplified by a report that the President of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) had alleged that there was a move to transfer Al-Mustapha and other defendants, to Ilorin, in Kwara state outside the jurisdiction of the Lagos High Court and far away from the location (in Lagos) of the alleged crime.
These were not the
only newspapers to report on matters related to the issue at hand. With such
insinuations inserted into the public consciousness, the next day, April 2nd,
This Day newspapers reported in an account titled "Why Al-Mustapha
Was Moved, By Prisons Service" that the Nigerian Prisons Service statement
issued late on April 1st in response to early news accounts said that
"Al-Mustapha was taken away from Kirikiri Maximum Prisons by operatives of the
Directorate of Military Intelligence for interrogation over a matter it did not
disclose." Interestingly, the NPS was at pains to explain that Mustapha is still
in the "custody of the Nigeria Prisons Service" even though "taken away to where
he is being interviewed by the DMI" because of his status as an active duty
soldier. As was the case with other many other newspaper reporters, the This Day
reporters concerned did not question how the prisoner could be in the custody of
the NPS and at the same time be "taken away from Kirikiri Maximum Prisons by
operatives of the Directorate of Military Intelligence." In fact what
really happened - as we shall see later - was that the Major Mustapha was
physically moved out of KiriKiri by NPS officers, transported in an NPS vehicle,
and then delivered to the DMI. No soldiers were involved.
account published on the same day directly quoted the NPS as saying that
"Al-Mustapha was invited for interview as a serving member of the Nigerian
Army.......He remains in custody of the Nigerian Prisons Service and will be
returned to Kirikiri Prison or any other designated place on completion of his
interview by the Directorate of Military Intelligence."
It was from the This Day account that the phrase "security breach" entered the discourse. According the newspaper,
"Al-Mustapha was alleged to have recently made a
telephone call to President Olusegun Obasanjo's hotline during which he
reportedly made some unguarded remarks on the state of the nation.
On the same day, The Independent newspaper,
in an article titled "Al-Mustapha whisked to Abuja" also reported that
"Mustapha was moved from Kirikiri by operatives of the Directorate of Military
Intelligence (DMI), with the approval of the prison authorities, for questioning
over "matters of national security." The story went further to reveal,
curiously, that the Internal Affairs Minister was only just going to be briefed,
after-the-fact, by the CGP. To confirm that there may indeed have been a problem
at KiriKiri, it also quoted Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer,
Emmanuel Ighodalo, as saying that "A report was lodged at the Kirikiri police
division that there was an attempted jail break and we quickly mobilised our men
to prevent such a thing from happening...." However, Ighodalo claimed the Police
was not involved in any shooting. But even Ighodalo's partial admission was
denied by others. An account, on the same day, titled "Al-Mustapha has case
to answer Ė Defence Hq" in the Punch quoted the CGP as saying:
"The attention of the Nigerian Prisons Service has
been drawn to certain news broadcast in local and international media
speculating a shoot-out and jailbreak in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison,
Lagos. This is untrue. There was no shoot-out or jailbreak at the Maximum
Security Prison, Kirikiri or any of our prisons during the period."
Also, on the same day, the Guardian, in a
story titled "IG, SSS deny role in Al-Mustapha's transfer" further
contradicted Ighodalo. The paper quoted Inspector General of Police, Tafa
Balogun as saying, "We were not in any way involved. What concerns the police
with that [?] We are not prison officials. No, no!, the police have no hand in
that...." It also quoted the Director of the State Security Service (SSS) in
Lagos, Mr. Toyin Akande, as saying that "we are not aware of the incident...the
Directorate of Military Intelligence is in the best position to comment on the
issue since it is a military affair." The Guardian cited unnamed "sources
at the DMI" as saying that "the operation on Wednesday morning was purely a
military affair and in the interest of the nation." The same story explained
that "Al-Mustapha would be brought back to the prison as soon as the DMI
finishes with its investigations"
The orgy of denials, partial denials, statements and counter-statements continued. The same Punch newspaper story quoted above account cited Colonel Ganiyu Adewale, Director of Defence Information, as saying that
"I am not sure that they took him (Major Mustapha)
in an unusual manner. He is there to answer questions concerning the military
aspect of his offence. He is still under investigation; he is still being
investigated. It is an ongoing process. If he was arrested by the military at
all, he is to face military investigation for his involvement in the offence
for which he is in court. (Italics mine) It is a normal process."
The Director of Defence Information went on to say, concievably in response to the Vanguard "coup scare" headline mentioned earlier,
"I am confirming to you that as far as Iím
concerned, Iím not aware of any coup attempt. Iím not aware of any officer that
has been arrested for coup attempt. No officer was taken to any prison. I donít
know where those who published it got their information. As far as Iím concerned
at the Directorate of Defence Information, Defence Headquarters, Iím not aware
of any coup scare. It is not true."
But later, on the same Friday, April 2nd, the BBC, in an article titled "Nigeria probes 'security breach' " quoted Presidential spokeswoman Remi Oyo as saying that a "considerable" number of Nigerian military officers - including Major Hamza al-Mustapha - had been arrested following "serious breaches of security......". In the second paragraph of the story, the BBC claimed that she said the investigation followed "rumours of a coup plot". But the same BBC story then went on to say that "She told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that she could not reveal the nature of the alleged offences. "I am not at liberty to say what kind of allegations they are, we will leave that to the intelligence community which I do not belong to but what is important to say [is] that they are being investigated alongside civilian collaborators...." Further complicating the public's understanding of what actually transpired at KiriKiri, the BBC said "Mr al-Mustapha was seized from prison by police earlier this week and handed to military intelligence."
But the BBC did make the astute observation that
"there is still no indication of who might have been conspiring against
President Obasanjo or why." Like the Vanguard story of April 1, it also
reflected on some potential faultlines in the polity, by stating, "....there is
a sense of unease in Nigeria. The president has not been able to stop a series
of ethnic clashes in various parts of the country, or the vicious political
infighting within his own party. And despite high oil prices, daily life is
still difficult for Nigerians, including soldiers, who have been complaining
about delays in receiving their pay."
For its part, the Agence France Presse (AFP), in a
report titled "Nigeria probes military officers amid coup warnings"
quoted Ms. Oyo as saying, ""It's true that the intelligence community --
national and military security agencies -- are investigating what looks like a
serious breach of security on the part of some military officers and apparent
civilian collaborators...." An Army Captain told the AFP reporter in Kano that
"It's true that arrests have been made in military circles of officers accused
of attempting to subvert the government, but military intelligence is keeping
the issue very confidential....We don't know what this is leading to..."
Separately, an unnamed Army General revealed that "most of those questioned were
disgruntled elements without current commands and, while being potential
troublemakers, were no threat to the government." Citing unconfirmed reports,
the AFP also claimed, unguardedly in my view, that "Some reports said that most
of the officers under investigation are from the Hausa people, one of the three
largest linguistic groups and the dominant culture in Nigeria's mainly Muslim
north." In closing, the AFP report also said President Obasanjo "was
re-elected in April last year, in a poll which both Nigerian and international
monitors said was marred by widespread ballot-rigging."
Meanwhile, the SSS issued a public statement from Kano saying (according to Vanguard),
"We are aware of the press statement issued by
Hadi Mustapha that Hamza Al-Mustapha (Major), was abducted and shot in the leg
in the early hours of 31st March, at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos. "We
want to state categorically that there is no iota of truth to the effect that
Al-Mustapha was abducted and shot in the leg in the early hours of 31st March,
2004, at Kirikiri Maximum Prison and moved to an unknown destination."
"For the avoidance of doubts, Al-Mustapha is
presently with the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). He was specially
conveyed by the prison officials in their vehicle for clarification of some
security matters. It is, therefore, not true that he was abducted and shot, as
it is being circulated."
On the same Friday, from Abuja came reports that
the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, met with Defence
correspondents. He was quoted (by the Saturday Punch) as saying,
among other things,
".....I have heard things about national security.
The fact is that I have not been in Abuja. I just came to Abuja this
afternoon.....National security is so important that I will not want to
speculate about rumours........I will only talk of what I am 100 per cent sure
of, with details and facts.......I do not believe that any civilised person in
Nigeria today will go to abduct anybody, I do not also believe that any
organisation will do that. But if the army I am commanding has become
uncivilised, I will be shocked. Though I have been out of Abuja, I believe that
if the Army has been involved in anything like that, I would have known. If the
Presidency has made a statement then, why are you asking me again? I am telling
you with all sincerity that because I am not 100 per cent sure about some of the
things I have read in the newspapers, I will crosscheck with the military
source, from DMI and from my officers. When I ascertain that they are true, then
I will talk. But I will not just talk because I love to talk.........."I will
hate to allow rumour to spread and it will be most dangerous if I will be the
one spreading the rumour........."That is what some of you are encouraging me to
do, to spread rumours. I have to be absolutely sure before telling you. Please,
donít be disappointed because I want us to deal with facts and each time we meet
with you, I will want to speak on facts......"Iím not aware of what you are
saying that an Army officer has been detained. I am not aware. So, let me check
the facts from my principal staff officers, DMI, the Provost Marshall, the Chief
of Training, Chief of Policy, all the others, let me check the facts. I will
come out. I am sure if I donít, our spokesman will speak...."But if the
Presidency has made a statement, that saves all of us the trouble. Go and get
the facts from there." ....."We will continue to do business with facts and
sincerity but the way we publish news frightens me. We write so much
speculation. Let me say this, I will not, I repeat, I will not deceive any of
you. I will not lie, I will not speculate. I arrived too late today (yesterday),
to get the facts for you."
Nevertheless, inside sources continued to leak
snippets of information to the Press. The Sunday Punch reported on
Sunday, April 4th in an interesting report titled, "FG hunts Al-Mustaphaís spies
... in Aso Rock ē ĎSecurity breachí explained" that "the on-going interrogation
of the detained Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the Late Gen. Sani Abacha, Major
Hamzat Al-Mustapha and 27 others followed security tips that he might have
penetrated the Presidential Villa and that some moles within the seat of power
were collaborating with him." It observed that "the presidency considered it as
the "highest level of security insubordination" for Al-Mustapha to have got the
hotline of President Olusegun Obasanjo.... the "audacity of Al-Mustapha" caused
a security upset for the presidential Villa." It also quoted an unamed source as
saying "The essence of investigating the security breaches is not to take
anything for granted. You will remember that ex-President J.J. Rawlings was in
prison when he staged a coup díetat in Ghana." Going further, an insider
apparently claimed that "the presidency limited investigations to security
breaches, (instead of coup) because of certain security signals or indices that
neither Al-Mustapha nor Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi could command loyalty for a
successful coup.......Another reason why Al-Mustapha or even General Bamaiyi
cannot succeed is that, most of the present General Officers Commanding (GOCs)
were allegedly maltreated during the Abacha era, by Al-Mustapha and for that
reason alone, it is not within the realm of possibility. Another "source" was
quoted as saying that "Moreover, Nigeria is not a Banana Republic, it is
therefore absolutely impossible for an Army Major, that has been incarcerated
for up to four years to mobilise support and loyalty to plan a coup, I repeat,
it is impossible." Nevertheless, in a tantalizing oblique reference to the
possibility of an internationalization of the inquiry, the report claims that
"the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) may employ the services of other
security agencies to track down suspected collaborators with Al-Mustapha,
although these agencies have not been contacted."
The Sunday Punch also claimed that measures
were adopted earlier this year to nip in the bud what was thought to be "an
emergence of disloyalty among some elements in the military". It said, "Though
no arrest was made, (sic) a massive redeployment was carried out, apparently to
disorganise what ever plans that might have been afoot." It went on to reveal
that "an innocuous remark by an Army Major to three retired Generals at a
wedding ceremony in Jos sometime ago resulted in the belief that some elements
in the military were disloyal to the present administration. When the DMI was
confronted with this information, it claimed that there was nothing in its
records to indicate such a stress. It was learnt that the Director of the DMI
was again summoned to Abuja early last month, over the pervasive atmosphere and
rumours of disloyalty in the military, and he was said to have assured the
Presidency that, there was no cause for alarm."
Meanwhile, This Day Sunday reported that
investigations had been extended to "detained advance fee fraud ('419') suspects
and bank chiefs." Some '419' characters happen to be current detainees at the
Kirikiri maximum security prisons and are alleged to have led the efforts of
fellow prisoners at KiriKiri to resist Mustapha's transfer to the DMI. Bank
chiefs reportedly have come under focus because of certain alleged financial
transactions by Mustapha. The account quoted a source as saying,
"I also understand that the military intelligence
officers are looking at the banks where withdrawals were effected. They also
want to know those details to get their facts correctly and the heads of those
banks may be invited to answer a few questions. That is normal in the military
once there is alleged plot to undermine the government of the day. They look at
As might be expected, various military
personalities have gone public with pledges to the democratic order. Examples
include the Chief of Training and Operations at the Defence Headquarters,
Major-General Samuel Adejumo, (Daily Champion, April 5), and Brigade of
Guards Commander, Brigadier-General Julius Oshanupin (Daily Trust, April
5), among others. A joint statement from the quarterly Chief of Army Staff
conference said the same thing. (This Day April 6) Curiously, the Defence
Minister, Rabiu Kwankwaso, was listed in a Guardian newspaper story among
federal ministers slated to be dropped or redeployed - but there has been no
word from the government on this matter. Clearly, this may not be the time to
reshuffle a cabinet and send unintended signals to various constituencies.
Meanwhile, in a cryptic comment, the Minister of State for Defence, Dr. Rowland
Oritsejafor told the Vanguard (April 6) that the federal government
"would not allow anybody to use the military to fulfill their own personal
TO BE CONTINUED
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.