Profile of a spymaster: Nigeria's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) DG Ahmed Rufai Abubakar

    The Nigerian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Director General  was born to in Kofar Durbi area of Katsina in Northern Nigeria. Quranic scholarship took his uncle to Republic of Chad and he took young Abubakar with him where he was partly brought up. Abubakar later married his cousin, the daughter of his uncle–Alhaji Ali KD.

    NIA Logo (Photo: Dubawa)

    On his return to Nigeria, Abubakar attended Arabic Teacher’s College, Katsina where he obtained his Grade II Certificate. He later went to Bayero University Kano where he obtained a B.A degree in French Language and Literature, and an M.A degree in Francophone Maghrebian Literature. He worked as a Lecturer at Bayero University before taking up appointment with Katsina State Government. Later he transferred his services to NIA in the 90s.

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    At different times, Abubakar served at the Nigerian Embassy Rabat, Morocco, African Union Peace Mission in Darfur, Sudan and later joined United Nations as Director in Peace Support Operations, Mediation Process, Preventive Diplomacy and Good Governance office. He also worked as Senior Advisor with the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), with headquarters in Ndjamena, Chad before his appointment as Senior Special Assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari.

    He was appointed NIA DG on January 10, 2018 replacing the embattled Ayo Oke. The appointment however sparked off a media war believed to be emanating from the top spy agency of Nigeria.

    A month after his appointment as DG, some aggrieved directors at the NIA have written to the House of Representatives Committee on Security and National Intelligence to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to drop Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the new director-general of the agency. Writing for and on behalf of Concerned Directors of the National Intelligence Agency, they used pseudonyms such as E. O. Olanrewaju, Nelson Obiakor and Ahmed Sarki to protect their real identities.

    The directors, in an advertisement published in a national daily (not Aljazirah Nigeria), had described Abubakar as a “misfit and unqualified for the post of DG of the NIA.”

    Since his appointment by the president, various allegations have come to light over Abubakar’s nationality and competence to head the NIA. Although the presidency came out stoutly in the defence of the new NIA boss, the directors, in their letter to the House Committee, said Abubakar failed to merit elevation to the rank of a director as he had retired from the service (NIA), but has now been appointed to come and preside over people who are not only his seniors in rank, but who fit into the order of precedence.

    They also accused him of being a foreigner from Chad. They argued that someone from a country Nigeria is still struggling to recover from the influx of the Boko Haram insurgents, should not be trusted to head the agency.

    Until Abubakar’s appointment, nobody below the rank of director had been appointed as head of the NIA from inception 32 years ago.  Warning that Abubakar’s appointment as DG would certainly set a dangerous precedent, with equally dangerous implications, they said that if Abubakar goes ahead with his plans to sack all the directors of the agency, the country should expect massive leaks of intelligence to hostile countries.

    They told the lawmakers that the Clandestine Operations Unit of the NIA had been ordered to manufacture and clone documents that could be used to defend Abubakar, who from all indications was facing a legitimacy problem.  “Coupled with this fact, it is an aberration to thrust the headship of Nigeria’s most sensitive security and intelligence organisation in the hands of people from the same ethnic stock, state and even town. In a country of over 200 million people, we feel it was not only highly contemptuous but dangerous,” they added.

    The directors said they were indeed uncomfortable with Abubakar’s appointment. “Already, the nation is in a precarious security condition, and further penetration by hostile intelligence services could portend an even greater danger.  It is very unlikely that we will be insulated from penetration if we are treated as renegades after putting in our best for the country.”

    They noted that they were aware that part of the new DG’s agenda was to retire those of them who were once his seniors, because he was unlikely to want to work with them. “It is evident that he will pursue a vendetta mission, which he has already indicated in his very first address to us.

    However, sources from the NIA disclosed that the allegations lacked substance and merit.  They noted that new DG was not a strange fellow to President Buhari.  "He was upon retirement an aide to President Buhari. As an operative, NIA agents report directly to the president through the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, whose recommendation of Abubakar was appointed," they said.

    “Internal intrigues are normal in the seat of power under a democracy but these won’t affect the workings of the agency in term of intelligence gathering abroad. The appointment of Abubakar is hundred percent in order!” The source said.

    According to the source, “it is laughable to hear that Rufai Abubakar has a double citizenship and earns double pay. The citizenship issue is unfounded but the scope of wages is a normal practice. There are Nigerians who are on ‘secondment’ to foreign missions who also work for the United Nations, UN, and its agencies. They receive both wages and honorarium in those places of assignment.”

    In December last year, the DG was accused by NIA directors of having failed promotion exams three times, and President Buhari was urged to not reappoint him

    “YE (Your Excellency), the current DG, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, left the service in 2012, which was six (6) years before you appointed him as the DG. He was compulsorily retired after failing his promotion examinations, from Deputy Director to Director, three(3) times consecutively,” the NIA directors explained. “This appointment brought a kind of a very odd and awkward relationship between the DG and directors.”

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    SOURCE: Open-source intelligence

    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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