An appeal has been made for Civil Society Organisations, CSO, operating in Nigeria to team up with security agencies to make Nigeria safer and better.
The appeal was made in Abuja by the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Alhaji Yusuf Bichi, while declaring open a one-day brainstorming session between officials of the agency and civil society organisations.
The theme of the brainstorming was “Civil Society and National Security in Nigeria”, and was attended by a cross-section of human rights groups, non-governmental organisations, media leaders and rights activists in the country.
Alhaji Bichi, who was represented by the Director in charge of Administration in the DSS, Alhaji Kabir Sani, also appealed to civil society organisations and other non-state actors not to lend themselves to being used by external forces to harm Nigeria but to cooperate with Nigeria to tackle its challenges.
The DGSS called on CSOs to lead the way in fighting fake news and hate speech in Nigeria, which he noted had become more worrisome in recent times and capable of exacerbating insecurity and other forms of threats in the country.
The DGSS said: “We must cooperate as partners and solve Nigeria’s challenges together, knowing that CSOs can play a vital role in promoting national security as they are the driving force in national security, peace and development.
We need more partnership now than ever with CSOs and religious organisations to be able to tackle the rising wave of security threats, especially, as some elements have leveraged social media to spread misinformation and escalate insecurity in the country.
“As we all know, the spread of fake news and misinformation is capable of weakening the hands of security operatives and give rise to mistrust between then CSOs and the DSS,” Bichi noted.
The Public Relations Officer of the DSS, Dr Peter Afunanya, explained that the session was organised to establish a better relationship with CSOs and to ensure the stability of Nigeria and make better progress.
Afunanya pointed out that since CSOs also set agenda like the media, they need to work in synergy with the security agencies in the land and to always give out the kind of information that would engender hope, peace and progress at all times.
The Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, Mr Clement Nwankwo, in a goodwill message at the opening ceremony, lauded the initiative of the DSS in convening the interface between CSOs and the security agency, arguing that it should be done routinely to galvanise ideas towards better relationship and promotion of human rights.
Nwankwo dismissed the notion that CSOs in Nigeria was working for external forces and insisted that they were actively working to ensure the enthronement of good governance and the promotion of human rights at all times.
“We are very passionate about our country, Nigeria and I can state clearly that no CSO is interested in being used by foreign agents
to bring down Nigeria. We do not work for foreign agents but are very passionate about this country,” Nwankwo stated.
But Nwankwo pleaded with the DSS not to allow governors in the country to use the security agency to breach the rights and freedom of the citizens since such rights have been guaranteed by the constitution of Nigeria.
The National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr Chris Isiguzo, said that all efforts must be made by the security agencies and CSOs in Nigeria to ensure that peace and security reign so as to protect and promote the nation’s democracy.
Mr Isiguzo pointed out that peacebuilding as a vital ingredient of national security and democratic sustenance must be promoted by security agencies, civil society organisations and all Nigerians in order to make the country safer and better.
The NUJ president asked for more protection from the security agencies in Nigeria for Nigerian journalists to be able to discharge their duties so as not to put the nation’s democracy in jeopardy.
Others, who spoke at the event, were: the National Security Adviser, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Osita Osita, Study Group Coordinator, NISS, Aliyu Bello, Deputy Director of Internal Security, DSS and Chief Mike Ejiofor, a former director of DSS and Managing Director of APEX Safety and Security Consultants.