[TNGtv] NDDC is wasteful, can’t solve Niger Delta problems – Horsfall
Albert Korubo Horsfall is a former Nigerian security chief and prominent nationalist. Horsfall was a pioneer member of the National Security Organisation (NSO). He was also the first director-general in the world who was privileged to have led both the internal and external security outfit of his country.
He was also the first director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the fifth director-general of the State Security Service (SSS) and the pioneer chairman of the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC).
In this interview with TheNewsGuru [TNG] team led by Publisher Mideno Bayagbon; TNG’s Editor-at-Large, Godwin Etakibuebu and Online Editor, Femi Ajasa, he shares his views on insecurity, corruption among other challenges affecting the growth of Nigeria; his view on the gruesome murder of veteran journalist, Dele Giwa under the administration of former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida and rated the performance of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who started his political career in public service working under him [Horsfall] at the then OMPADEC.
Above all , he was emphatic on the futility of NDDC as intervention agency to solve the Niger Delta challenges?
Horsfall who is now a retired public servant described himself as a lawyer in the course of the interview, he, however, stressed that he now does more of agribusiness than legal counselling.
His words, ‘I am a retired public servant but I am not tired because I am still keeping life together effectively. I have a 56-hectare of land on an Island called Omekee-ama in Rivers State, on which I farm and my principal crops are Cassava and Yams. I have harvested Cassava twice from there successfully. I was surprised that in my first harvest I made N1.5m and I am expecting another good harvest by November this year. I also have about five fish ponds in the farm, where I rear catfish and Tilapia, and I make fairly good sales out of that, so, I qualify to be a farmer.
You are very busy – business, farming, but seem to have omitted politics?
I hardly do politics these days, I advise politicians when they come to see me but I have retired from active politics. What I do is put my energy into other things aside from politics.
Several politicians still come to me and I encourage them, young men and women swing in and out of my Port Harcourt home or sometimes here in Lagos. I always remind them that in our days, politics was a battle of ideas and not that of violent or fistful encounters, I tell them to always ensure they live within the rules and ensure there is no blood letting.
Some months ago, about $400m was found in Ikoyi towers and it was said to belong to the National Intelligence Agency, NIA. As a security guru and the first DG of the agency [NIA] what is your view?
You see, security intelligence is the backbone of any modern country. What happened at the time was totally unfortunate and to an extent irresponsible. The director general of NIA at the time , as was reported in the newspapers, gave his views that there was no fraudulent intention.I believe him, but a lot of questions continue to be asked. I think the service is now moving on very well, and one of the things I said then was that the intelligence service of any country is a delicate instrument of the foreign policies of any country especially in an ambitious country like Nigeria – it is delicate because it operates on confidence.
For instance, if you recruit an agent from Libya or any other foreign country to work for you, and he hears that in your country the public confidence is lost in the service, then nobody will agree to work for you. Because, they are afraid that the secret work they are doing for you will somehow soon come into the open and their lives will be in danger.
Therefore, we need to protect it like an egg, so that it doesn’t collapse. I thank God NIA is now back in strength and I hope those who contributed to the threats that befell it will learn their lessons, and others will realise that this instrument of our foreign policy is so delicate that we must put hands together to protect it.
But the problem is not peculiar to NIA, it is common across several security apparatuses in Nigeria?
Yes! Of course they always have issues bothering on inter-agency rivalry, problems with believability among others but that of the NIA is more delicate.
For the police, SSS, others, they can easily repair any internal damage because they are within the country. Like there has been quite a bit of sensation about the SSS lately, it will soon be overcome now that a new director general has been appointed, he will steady the ship.
But that doesn’t work for NIA, the agency’s operation is mainly overseas and it works with human beings and technology and if you threaten those components, it will emasculate the operation NIA.
What is the difference between NIA and SSS?
I do not want to go as far as revealing the cover of the NIA, because they need the cover to operate.
SSS is a security service, it is meant to protect Nigerians and Nigeria’s interest from the dangers of spy. Everyday in this country, the embassies are saddled with the duty to spy on Nigeria’s secret and the job is within Nigeria.
Whereas, the principal duty of the NIA is to spy on other countries to service our own national interest.
Do you think Nigeria’s security services are doing their best in combating crime?
In one word, security can best operate when you have good government, because they are hinged together. Government policies, operations on transparency and effectiveness will enhance the services of the security outfits much better.
But if there are problems everyday, like you mentioned killings, kidnapping, robberies etc, it gives that extra burden to shake the security equilibrium of the country. Since 1999 when we came into this new dispensation, we have had lots of stress that have driven up the temperature of Nigeria’s security operations . So without that enabling environment security is going to be very difficult as it has been. Security doesn’t govern, they only protect, prevent, advise – they follow the trend of governance and the flow of events in the society.
Herdsmen have been a misery to the ruling government: Do you think they are as invincible and invisible as we have painted them to be?
They [herdsmen] are an organised terror gang, and in some quarters they say they are not even Nigerians, for me that makes it easier to contain and stop their evil activities.
If they are from a neighbouring country then we stop them at the border. If they are operating from within Nigeria, who knows maybe they are the offshoot of Boko Haram.
Whatever they are, determined security efforts backed by good government policies as I earlier said , will make it easy to curb their operational capability and eventually erase them.
Arrest the culprits and put them in detention through the court or reorient them. To me, if they are operating from a religious background, you can get religious teachers of their religious practice to reorient them, get the evil side of their operations and encourage them to face the rightful doctrine of the religion they practise.
The major religions in Nigeria believe in peace, Christianity is peaceful and so is Islam. So those who operate violence in the name of any religion are renegades and it is the duty of the religious body to calm them down and restore them to be better fit for the larger society.
Do you think the current government is doing enough on security?
Government can never do enough, I am only certain government is doing what it considers as the best.
As the saying goes, ‘Those who wear the shoe know where it pinches’
Those in the government know where things are bad ; they get weekly, monthly reports on happenings in the society from the security and intelligence services. It is these reports they use in formulating policies to curb the irritation.
So I cannot say the government is doing well or not because I don’t wear their shoes.
As the leader of N/Delta, how do you think we can handle this?
What are the people agitating for? Once you know the source of the problem, the solution is simple. They always complain of injustices, they say they are the people who lay the golden egg but are not getting anything out of it; that is their claim.
For instance, there is a new set of agitators who lamented that NNPC appointed nine member board and it is only one person that was selected from their region. If government listens to these complaints and addresses those that need be addressed, I think the temperature will come down.
I also believe dialogue is one of the best ways to solve all things , not violence.
You have been in the struggle of the Niger Delta for a long time, do you see your efforts in vain or are there gains you can point to as a result of your struggles?
My efforts on Niger Delta have not been in vain, the awareness we have today is partly the result of our struggles of yesterday, that alone is cause for satisfaction.
Those days, we were saying we must be partakers of our resources, we have not till this moment fully actualised the dream but the awareness is there and gradually the objective will come. I hope it will come in my generation
The fact that the struggle is not diminished, the fact that the agitation is stronger than it was yesterday , tells me that there is hope and at the end of the tunnel there will be light.
One of the palliatives thrown at the N/Delta region started with the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) . Today we have the Niger Delta Development Commission,NDDC, would you say the region has efficiently managed the resources from NDDC?
In one word, I will answer you, intervention agencies have never been the way to solve a serious political problem.
For example, if you go to Bayelsa which was created in 1996, you will see vast development, latest of which is an airport. They have one of the best medical centres, advanced educational policies, their children are sent abroad to Lincoln University, etc, there are hundreds of them there now and they are growing by the day.
I can recall that I wanted to introduce the educational policy of training people from our region abroad in OMPADEC at the time. If we had sponsored 300 graduates from the region every year to study abroad then within 10 years our people will be enlightened.
A successful British Prime Minister, Tony Blair when he was coming into power said his major priority was Education! Education! Education!. For a country like Britain which has existed for 1000 years running successfully to think that education is there priority shows that our own priority must be education. If you build a road today, next day you have to patch it to sustain, if you put an industry you have to maintain it, if you train a child through school, it is a rock on which you can build so many other institutions; that is why education is what we should look at. Can we or have we done anything better? I hope we can, but not better than education, it should be the priority at all times.
Most of the resources of the NDDC are frittered away, are you not bothered?
I have said it that intervention agencies won’t bring solutions, it is simply waste of public funds, the government will just keep throwing money into the intervention system but it will be wasted.
For example, Bayelsa that I talked about wouldn’t have been anywhere if it were to rely on NDDC because half of the money would go to the agency’s employees, contractors, donors, sponsors….but because it has become a state you have created an instrument, a state which requires all the paraphernalia of governance and government, the money will be spent on schools, health care among other practical things .
So such money will go into actual developmental areas, but if you left it with an intervention agency like NDDC the resources will be lost.
I remember that in my days in OMPADEC, salaries were not paid by the agency to members of staff, rather we were paid from the federal government emolument funds – today if you pay a
a huge sum to NDDC, the first thing they do is to is to take care of their personal emoluments, allowances. Last year, some people were retired in the NDDC, and one of them reportedly got 70 million naira for various claims, this is public fund being frittered away. So intervention agencies are not the best moves to solve practical societal problems.
The NDDC funds are operation funds, they should go straight to developmental projects that meet the needs of the people.
You were the first DG of SSS, can you tell us the difference between DSS and SSS?
The difference is mere nomenclature, the DSS is a coinage of a recent origin. The SSS to some people sparked anxiety, I recall that even when we were forming the system, the late Air Marshall Alpha didn’t like the name ‘SSS’ ; he was in the community of the then President President Ibrahim Babangida; Defence Chief, Sani Abacha; and myself.
Alpha didn’t like the ‘SSS’ coinage, he said it sounded more like the Gestapo of Germany . I think it was in order to tidy the image of that fearful ‘Gestapo’ connectivity that made them to polish it a bit by renaming it Department of State Security.
You were there as DG of SSS when Dele Giwa was killed, what would you say about it?
It didn’t concern me at all, as the DG of SSS my work was maintenance of the security of Nigeria. Rather interestingly, this incident happened on the very day I was having a meeting in Washington with the then Director of CIA – interestingly, when I got into his office, he opened his drawer and brought out a signal to show me Dele Giwa had been murdered, I said it can’t be true at the time.
So it was there I got to know about Dele Giwa’s death. Much has been said about it, but the truth is that it didn’t come through me. It was the same as the kidnap [Umaru Dikko] . Although I was in the country when that happened they knew that if I had been there even as the number two in NSO, I would not have let it happen.
July 1984, Umaru Dikko, a former Nigerian government official living in exile after a military coup, was kidnapped outside his London estate, packed in a shipping crate and driven to Stansted Airport, to be flown back to Lagos before the intervention of the British Customs.
That also did not pass through my desk . When I went to see Rafindadi, who was my boss at the time, he said that was our operation and I replied, ‘It can’t be, I am the head of operations’.
He told me that they contracted it out to the Israelis . For me, there is no circumstance in which I as head of operations will go and kidnap a Nigerian citizen from another country. Especially from a friendly country as Britain; we have extradition treaty with them, if we want Dikko back in Nigeria we will file for his extradition through the courts to approve it , send it
to the British court and they will execute it . All he can do is employ delay tactics but eventually he will be extradited.
Dele Giwa’s murder was a terrible embarrassment to all Nigerians, including myself especially coming to me at a time that I was talking to the head of intelligence of a foreign country.
It was terrible! What do you achieve by such action?
What was the issue between you and Dr. Junaid Mohammed that made you throw him out of OMPADEC?
Junaid Mohammed is a rather frivolous character, I still say it to him everyday. When he came to me, he brought a letter from my former boss, the late MD Yusufu, urging me to give him cooperation working with us on the agency’s board.
By that letter, Mohammed in his own assumption of Hausa/Fulani claim of superiority was feeling that he was going to act as my deputy which to me is a non-starter . He had suggested to me then, that I should run the agency as a sole administrator and call a board meeting from time to time, but I said no. Rather, I reinstated that every member of the board must have a desk and responsibility assigned to them, I appointed every other member as a commissioner in the OMPADEC . He happened to be the commissioner for rural development, he never liked that because he wouldn’t stay to do the job, he will always take excuses to travel out for politicking and running after his personal businesses.
I recall that we once contacted the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria [ASCON], to send us a facilitator to train OMPADEC commissioners on human management for a period of two months.
In the course of the training, Junaid came to our meeting once, the next time he found an excuse to disappear, and even after the training he kept finding excuse to operate outside Port Harcourt.
As a result of his inefficiency at the agency, I queried him, he would not respond, at some point I stopped his salary.
At some point, Mr. Aminu Saleh who was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, under Abacha, contacted me to say that the Head of State wanted to see me on account of Junaid Mohammed.
I got to Abuja and while I was waiting in Abacha’s reception room somebody told me that I should see the SGF first. I went to see Saleh, and there with him was my brother, Ogbemudia who is late now and Gwarzo.
In the meeting, Saleh asked me why I removed the representative of the Federal government on the OMPADEC board, I said, ‘Who? I am the Federal Government representative..’ He said he is aware that I represent the FG but was actually referring to Junaid Mohammed.
On hearing the SGF, I laughed and reeled out the shortcomings of Mohammed. I told them I stopped his salary because, the principle of the board is ‘no work;no pay’, I also told them I sent someone to Abuja to withdraw his car while he was playing politics in Hilton hotel, I stressed that I did all this because he was no longer working for the board.
I told Saleh that I did not sack him that he Junaid Mohammed has effectively sacked himself. There was no other question for Saleh to ask me, I asked if I was still seeing Abacha he said no. So I got up and left and that was the beginning of the end of my relationship with Abacha.
After this moment, they stopped giving us our subventions when due , so I had to visit Abacha to discuss the issue of funding of the OMPADEC.
When I got to Abacha’s place, his aides were familiar with me so they just told me to go up and see him that ‘oga’ is free. When I got in, Abacha was reading a magazine, when he saw me, he was fidgeting, I saw that he was in a state of confusion, I did not even turn backward, I ceded because I was afraid he could just pick a gun and shoot at me. That was my last encounter with Abacha.
The truth is that Junaid came at the time to serve a role orchestrated by the Kaduna mafia. I made him realise that he cannot come to Niger Delta to serve the interest of the Kaduna mafia, you must be on a wrong posting. Junaid had said the federal government would not spend huge sum of money in the agency without getting anything from it.
His mission was to use the platform of the OMPADEC to engage the Niger Delta people to the Hausa/Fulani agenda of taking over Nigeria. So, what we are seeing today is the continuation of the effort by these friends of ours to colonise the N/Delta for their own political interest, unfortunately I was a bad agent for that.
From the 11th century, the Niger Delta where I come from, had been trading with foreign powers, the Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch, British…so we see ourselves as very independent. So nobody can suggest that he has come to colonise us, especially the Eastern Niger Delta, it will never work.
So that was part of the Junaid problem. Later on he started a propaganda that the government had given me 110 billion naira that I had squandered it; that I filled the whole of OMPADEC with my people and the trouble went on and on until Abacha visited.
When Abacha visited, he saw my development plan for OMPADEC, Niger Delta and asked if the region will remain in Nigeria if we develop the region that much.
In answering some of the security questions you sounded protective of the government, why?
No! Security is an ongoing project, we might not know but people are out there pitching their lives for the sake of the country and it is my duty as a founding member of the organisations to protect the personnel, the image and the operational duty of these security outfits.
If I had said things that could topple this government, how would you feel? We will all end up as losers.
Firstly, I am an elderly man and secondly as the former head of both the internal and external security service, I have a duty to protect the service, the country which is represented by the government.
You were the first employer of former President Goodluck Jonathan into government services, how well did you know him?
He was then an assistant director in OMPADEC, he was heading the department of environment, and that was not high on our agenda.
Almost all the other departments were headed by a director, his was a small department, so I didn’t see much of him. Few times I saw him, I assessed him as a quiet, reclusive character, but he did his job, it was a narrow area, it wasn’t one of the priority areas we handled in OMPADEC.
Were you disappointed by Jonathan’s performance?
As a president, was I disappointed about his performance. I think the problem with Jonathan and his presidency will fall back to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo clearly wanted to impose somebody on the country, who will perform so much less than he has done, so that his [ Obasanjo’s] praise will be sung all the time as the great president.
If you recall, before Jonathan emerged as president, a number of us had vied for the presidency. At the end of the day, there was a primary, the late Admiral Ahigbe was also one of us, Jonathan did not qualify at the time.
I vied for the position because Obasanjo and his associates were plotting to put former Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili as the presidential candidate.
And I said that cannot happen. Odili is a friend of mine today.
On Jonathan, none of us was satisfied with his performance and I blamed it on Obasanjo who brought him from nowhere just to become president. In fact, Jonathan himself said he wasn’t prepared.
Jonathan who just won the Bayelsa governorship race at the time was quoted as saying he is satisfied with being governor and not ready for the job that if Obasanjo wanted a Niger Delta, Horsfall was there, and others.
It was Obasanjo’s political ploy to put someone who wasn’t prepared to for the job so that he [Obasanjo] will be seen as the big performer, that is how poor Jonathan was exposed.
Rivers State has a way of throwing up peculiar characters, Odili, Amaechi, Wike…what is your take?
Rivers State is a mini Nigeria, that is why you have this conglomeration of characters. I think if you look at it from the positive side, you will see that they are of divergent set of people.
So the very qualitative, not so qualitative, the ordinary will emerge from that kind of mix. It is a very free state, which is why the likes of Odili emerged.
Odili came from Ndoni, a small town with a population that is less than that of Buguma where I came from. Although, Odili went to University as a student of Anambra, Rivers and Delta State, he had the three scholarships.
So we have this complexity in Rivers, some brilliant, some not so brilliant, some high on integrity, some very corrupt.
For Amaechi and Wike, they are still active in their seat, I won’t assess their performance until they are out of office, that is when it is best to put marks on them.