The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

by Sam Kargbo
Tinubu addressing Nigeria

The executive powers of the State are vested in the President, who is also the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation. The President is responsible for implementing and maintaining the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the laws made by the National Assembly. He is the most powerful person in the land. He is, therefore, constitutionally empowered to appoint the Heads or Chief Executives of all the Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Executive bodies established under Section 153 of the Constitution, Commissions and ad-hoc bodies of the Federation. He is at liberty to constitute a cabinet that reflects his vision and roadmap for the effective exercise of his constitutional powers.

In the exercise of his power, the President regulates and impacts directly and extensively not just Nigerians, but also every corporation doing business in Nigeria and foreign nationals living or doing business in the country. The all-pervasive nature of the powers of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can only be imagined when one factors the following sectors, areas or businesses that touch directly on the dignity, economy, prosperity, sanity, security, social life, standard of living, welfare and wellbeing of Nigerian citizens and nationals that are under the exclusive control, management, supervision and superintendence of the President:

  1. Accounts of the Government of the Federation, and of offices, courts, and authorities thereof, including audit of those accounts.
  2. Arms, ammunition and explosives.
  3. Aviation, including airports, safety of aircraft and carriage of passengers and goods by air.
  4. Awards of national titles of honour, decorations and other dignities.
  5. Bankruptcy and insolvency.
  6. Banks, banking, bills of exchange and promissory notes.
  7. Borrowing of moneys within or outside Nigeria for the purposes of the Federation or of any State.
  8. Census, including the establishment and maintenance of machinery for continuous and universal registration of births and deaths throughout Nigeria.
  9. Citizenship, naturalisation and aliens.
  10. Commercial and industrial monopolies, combines and trusts.
  11. Construction, alteration and maintenance of such roads as may be declared by the National Assembly to be Federal trunk roads.
  12. Control of capital issues.
  13. Copyright.
  14. Creation of States.
  15. Currency, coinage and legal tender.
  16. Customs and excise duties.
  17. Defence.
  18. Deportation of persons who are not citizens of Nigeria.
  19. Designation of securities in which trust funds may be invested.
  20. Diplomatic, consular and trade representation.
  21. Drugs and poisons.
  22. Election to the offices of President and Vice-President or Governor and Deputy Governor and any other office to which a person may be elected under the Constitution, excluding election to a local government council or any office in such council.
  23. Evidence.
  24. Exchange control.
  25. Export duties.

26     External affairs.

  1. Extradition.
  2. Fingerprints identification and criminal records.
  3. Fishing and fisheries other than fishing and fisheries in rivers, lakes, waterways, ponds and other inland waters within Nigeria.
  4. Immigration into and emigration from Nigeria.
  5. Implementation of treaties relating to matters on this list.
  6. Incorporation, regulation and winding up of bodies corporate, other than co-operative societies, local government councils and bodies corporate established directly by any Law enacted by a House of Assembly of a State.
  7. Insurance.
  8. Labour, including trade unions, industrial relations; conditions, safety and welfare of Labour; industrial disputes; prescribing a national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof; and industrial arbitration.
  9. Legal proceedings between Governments of States or between the Government of the Federation and Government of any State or any other authority or person.
  10. Maritime shipping and navigation, including –
  11. shipping and navigation on tidal waters;
  12. shipping and navigation on the River Niger and its affluents and on any such other inland waterway as may be designated by the National Assembly to be an international waterway or to be an inter-state waterway;
  13. lighthouses, lightships, beacons and other provisions for the safety of shipping and navigation;
  14. such ports as may be declared by the National Assembly to be Federal ports (including the constitution and powers of port authorities for Federal ports).
  15. Meteorology.
  16. Military (Army, Navy and Air Force), including any other branch of the Armed Forces of the Federation.
  17. Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas.
  18. National parks being such areas in a State as may, with the consent of the Government of that State, be designated by the National Assembly as national parks.
  19. Nuclear energy.
  20. Passports and visas.
  21. Patents, trademarks, trade or business names, industrial designs and merchandise marks.
  22. Pensions, gratuities and other-like benefit payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public funds of the Federation.
  23. Police and other government security services established by law.
  24. Posts, telegraphs and telephones.
  25. Powers of the National Assembly, and the privileges and immunities of its members.
  26. Professional occupations as may be designated by the National Assembly.
  27. Public debt of the Federation.
  28. Public holidays.
  29. Public relations of the Federation.
  30. Public service of the Federation, including the settlement of disputes between the Federation and officers of such service.
  31. Quarantine.
  32. Regulations of political parties.
  33. Service and execution in a State of the civil and criminal processes, judgements, decrees, orders and other decisions of any court of law outside Nigeria or any court of law in Nigeria other than a court of law established by the House of Assembly of that State.
  34. Stamp duties.

57     Taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, except as otherwise prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

  1. The establishment and regulation of authorities for the Federation or any part thereof –
  2. To promote and enforce the observance of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles contained in the Constitution;
  3. To identify, collect, preserve or generally look after ancient and historical monuments and records and archaeological sites and remains declared by the National Assembly to be of national significance or national importance;
  4. to administer museums and libraries other than museums and libraries established by the Government of a State;
  5. To regulate tourist traffic; and
  6. To prescribe minimum standards of education at all levels.
  7. The formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and Customary law, including matrimonial causes relating thereto.
  8. Trade and commerce, and in particular –
  9. trade and commerce between Nigeria and other countries, including import of commodities into and export of commodities from Nigeria, and trade and commerce between the States;
  10. establishment of a purchasing authority with power to acquire for export or sale in world markets such agricultural produce as may be designated by the National Assembly;
  11. inspection of produce to be exported from Nigeria and the enforcement of grades and standards of quality in respect of produce so inspected;
  12. establishment of a body to prescribe and enforce standards of goods and commodities offered for sale;
  13. control of the prices of goods and commodities designated by the National Assembly as essential goods or commodities; and
  14. registration of business names.
  15. Traffic on Federal trunk roads.
  16. Water from such sources as may be declared by the National Assembly to be sources affecting more than one State.
  17. Weights and measures.
  18. Wireless, broadcasting and television other than broadcasting and television provided by the Government of a State; allocation of wave-lengths for wireless, broadcasting and television transmission.
  19. Any other matter with respect to which the National Assembly has power to make laws in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
  20. Any matter incidental or supplementary to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list.

Until recently, Prisons and Railways were included in this exclusive list.

See the Exclusive Legislative List in Part of the Second Schedule to the Constitution.

No other organ, institution or authority in the land can exercise any overarching executive power over any aspect of the matters on the exclusive list or compete with the President over them. All those areas are exclusively reserved for the President.

In addition to the enumerated exclusive powers, the President also shares powers with State Governors in a commanding position in other areas, including the allocation of revenue, Antiquities, Archives, Collection of Taxes, Correctional Services, Elections, Electric Power, Exhibition of Cinematograph Films, Industries, Commercial or Agricultural Development, Railways, Scientific and Technological Research, Statistics, Trigonometrical, Cadastral and Topographical Surveys, University, Technological and Post-Primary Education.

If you want to reduce the powers of the President in a mathematical measurement, then you can simply subtract the powers of the legislature and the judiciary and the rest would be his.

Because it is not humanly possible for the President to single-handedly exercise executive powers over the sphere of coverage of his executive powers, the Constitution provides that the President can either exercise his executive powers directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation.

Unlike the President of the United States of America, who may only “require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except Cases of impeachment” (See Article II Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States), the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has the power to hire and fire all the principal officers of each of the departments and agencies managing the sectoral powers listed above.

In addition to these surrogates and agents are Special Advisers and Special Assistants who are to assist the President in the performance of his functions.

The Personal Political Staff of the President

The presidency has career civil servants that administer the State House. We are not concerned with the Permanent Secretary, Directors, Heads of Departments and staff that administer the State House. We are concerned with the political aides appointed by the President and are entirely subject to his pleasure.

We shall treat the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) separately. That office is responsible for the leadership, management and capacity development of the Federal Civil Service, which is the engine of governance and the administrative machinery for implementing the federal government’s policies and programmes.

A liberal interpretation of “the personal staff” of the President will include all the staff the President can hire without the confirmation of the Senate. This category of staff is wide; it includes the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government, National Security Adviser, Special Advisers, Special Assistants, the Head of Protocol, Principal Secretary, Personal Assistant, and many others. The personal staff of the President constitute a very formidable bloc that has a decisive impact on not only the functioning of the entire presidency but also the capacity of the President to coordinate the entire ambit of his powers and the machinery of the Government as a whole. That bloc is supposed to be constituted by non-political high-end experts whose appointments are based on merit and not tainted by political considerations. They are the knots and bolts of the presidency.

Though they function at the absolute discretion of the President, as their roles are not constitutionally imposed nor their appointments subject to Senate confirmation, the Chief of Staff to the President and other staff under the rebrick of Special or Personal Assistants have become a solid base and engine of the presidency. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, recognises them under Section 171(2)(e). These are people who work with the President directly and some of them have access to him daily. Their influence is enormous and can be telling on the overall performance of the Government. Irrespective of their respective nomenclatures, there is a correlation between the importance and influence of each Special Adviser or Special Assistant and the administrative style of the President. The personal relationship between the President and the Adviser or Assistant also counts. It is highly improbable for a President to be better in output and overall functioning than the quality of his staff.

Although the number of the President’s Special Advisers has to be approved by the Senate, the President has an expansive discretional space to compose and work with any kind of personal staff structure. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a huge number of sectoral positions within his media frame, which perhaps emphasises his desire to have his sectoral governance performance communicated to the people. The category of personal staff that are discussed herein are those that have over time grown to stand out and recurring to all Governments since the beginning of this Republic.

Among these are the offices of the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the National Security Adviser. Although the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is a member of the President’s staff, we shall discuss the office of the SGF when treating the constitutionally recommended offices of the presidency.  For now, we shall discuss only the office of the Chief of Staff and the National Security Adviser.

The Chief of Staff to the President

Caveat: Being an opinion paper and not an official statement on the responsibilities and functions of the offices of the Chief of Staff and the National Security Adviser, the reader is warned to note that the writer relies heavily on grey literature and his intuition in arriving at the conclusions and extrapolations he makes in this article.

Like the United States of America where the idea is borrowed from, the Chief of Staff is the President’s de facto chief aide, who serves as the gatekeeper and oversees the President’s schedule. The sanity and effectiveness of the President are largely dependent on the professionalism and political acumen of the Chief of Staff and his ability to make the delicate but necessary balance between the President’s private life and his official chores. The daily routine of the Chief of Staff includes the organisation, management and supervision of the staff working in the Presidential Villa and the official life of the Presidential Villa in general. It is the job of the Chief of staff to control human traffic to the Presidential Villa and official engagements of the President. Besides the daily routine of superintending over the day-to-day affairs of the Presidential Villa and generating the ethics, culture and work standards in the Villa in line with the governance principles and style of the President, the Chief of Staff interfaces with the office of the Vice-President, cabinet members, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, etc. and manages the flow of official correspondences, decisions, information and other official business from those offices to the President and from the President to those offices and the public. Depending on the powers he delegates to the Chief Protocol Officer and the hierarchy of the civil servants in the presidency, the Chief of Staff makes schedules of appointments with the President and monitors public sentiments and policy implementation and developments for informed advice to the President. He is also the usual bearer and carrier of the concerns of the President about the performance of political appointees and officers of the Public Service of the Federation. He follows up and reports back to the President on the official decisions and directives of the President. To make the decision process of the President easier and more effective, I will borrow the words of Patrick Aylward, a Vice President and Chief of Staff at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, to say that the Chief of Staff should be:

serving as an air traffic controller for the leader and the senior team; as an integrator connecting work streams that would otherwise remain siloed; as a communicator linking the leadership team and the broader organization; as an honest broker and truth-teller when the leader needs a wide-ranging view without turf considerations; and as a confidant without an organizational agenda.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the office of Chief of Staff, which was first introduced in our democratic lexicon and presidential governance system by President Olusegun Obasanjo in May 1999, is one of the most coveted political offices in the land. The present holder of the office, Femi Gbajabiamila, is the seventh Chief of Staff since the appointment of Major-General Abdullahi Mohammed (rtd) who served as Chief of Staff to Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from 1999 to 2008. Though not an alternate President, the office oozes power and influence. The caveat is that the office is not one for a person with political ambition and/or personal agenda. A Chief of Staff with personal ambition and an eye for future higher political office is capable of destroying a government and bringing a President to his knees. A wise counsel will be for a President to have regular security reports on his Chief of Staff and to whip him into line whenever he steps out of bounds.

The National Security Adviser

Like the office of the Chief of Staff that was imposed on the administrative structure of the presidency by Olusegun Obasanjo, the office of the National Security Adviser, a powerful office, was introduced by Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in 1983, and has since then assumed a constitutional life of its own.

A good starting point in understanding the office of the National Security Adviser is provided by the following statement on the website of the Presidency:

The Office of the National Security Adviser is responsible for the leadership, management and capacity development of the security architecture of the Country.

The writer has not been able to lay his hands on another official document or instrument that sets out in detail the responsibilities and functions of the office of the National Security Adviser. An entry in Wikipedia describes the National Security Adviser in the following terms:

The National Security Adviser is a senior official in the cabinet of the President of Nigeria who manages national security on behalf of the President and serves as his chief advisor on all matters that are vital to the very survival of the State. The position is a statutory member of the Presidency, National Security Council and Federal Executive Council.

The National Security Adviser is appointed by the President and does not require confirmation from the Nigerian Senate. The duties vary from administration to administration; and depend, not only on the qualities of the person appointed to the position but also on the style and management philosophy of the incumbent President.

The National Security Adviser is only mentioned in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) in the composition of the National Security Council. This office is, however, bigger than many ministries combined. Before going into the details of the office of the National Security Adviser, we must have an understanding of the meaning and scope of National Security. National security is different from law and order, and that is why the office of the National Security Adviser may not conflict with the ministries of Defence, Internal Affairs, Police Affairs or Foreign Affairs.

The Maintenance of National Security Is a Primary Purpose of the State.

Like the maintenance of Law and Order, National Security is also a primary purpose of the State. The State has to safeguard the country and its people from harmful threats and attacks. It must protect the country and its people from foreign domination and nonconsensual political and economic influences. It must give assurance or engender in the people the confidence that their lives, including their economic and socio-cultural activities, their properties, the boundaries and physical integrity of the country and its political and governance systems are free from adverse external influence and manipulation by internal non-state actors. National Security is the best definition of a country’s independence or autonomy, prosperity, and well-being. National Security is not only about a country’s dignity and worth in the eye of the world but it is about the value of the lives of its citizens and nationals.

National Security extends beyond national defence and the ability to secure the country’s borders. It encompasses the security and health of the State’s economy and institutions. Although it emphasises the strength of the Armed Forces of a State to ward off internal threats and/or attacks and the ability of its security agencies to detect such threats and attacks early enough for effective response, National Security is also heavy on the ability of the State to safeguard its secrets, which include its operations.

National Security focuses on the duty of the State to ensure and preserve the country as a single entity. For instance, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria does not only provide in Section 1 that, “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except by the provisions of the Constitution,” but emphasises in Section 2 that, “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The President, who is the donee of the executive powers of the State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, is the accounting officer of these provisions and the National Security of the State is, therefore, in his hands and the team of military, security and police leaders he works with.

 It is this duty that elevates the protection of the integrity of a country’s national and political institutions and bureaucracies to matters of National Security. It is also the reason why defence, economic, immigration, foreign and multilateral policies and engagements are vital to the National Security of a State. National Security is the environment in which National Interest is expressed and safeguarded. National Security is, therefore, also related to the health of national boundaries and borders. It gives explanations for overtures that a country makes to its neighbours and other diplomatic endeavours.

The difference between Public Order and National Security

The Relationship between Public Order and National Security

Public Order and National Security are related but different. National Security is defined in the 10th edition of The Black’s Law Dictionary as “the safety of a country and its governmental secrets, together with the strength and integrity of its military, seen as being necessary to the protection of its citizens” (p. 1187). This definition, like many others, does not set a clear standard for determining what exactly constitutes National Security and what does not. However, it is imperative to have a straight discussion path if no universally acceptable definition is available. This is because our understanding of what is National Security reflects on our expectations of what the State should do and not do. We can, therefore, relate National Security to any natural, environmental and human factor that threatens the existence or well-being of the population of a State or jeopardises the stability of a nation’s economy or institutions.

Threats to National Security by individuals and groups of individuals or nations must prima facie or, in the broad sense, be unlawful, unconstitutional and a danger to individual and peoples’ liberties and freedoms.

A self-sustaining State is dependent on the safety and welfare of its individuals, citizenry and nationals. The State will lose its sovereignty and its existence the moment it cannot ensure the safety, security, socio-economic-cum-political well-being and justice of its population. National Security is at the foundation of the quality of the daily lives of the individuals and people that populate a State. Anything that disrupts or that is capable of disrupting the accustomed pattern of lives of the people should be a matter of National Security. With that, we can understand the pervasive deference to the State in its role as the protector of National Security or in its efforts to protect the citizenry and nationals from National Security threats.

Threats to National Security

The sources of threats to National Security can be internal or external. They can also be natural/environmental or human. Direct aggressive actions like wars are becoming less fashionable. States are, however, regularly proliferated by external enemies and competitors. Hostile foreign states and entities can infiltrate and affect National Security through espionage and foreign intelligence activities and the sponsorship and masterminding of sustained acts of terrorism, cross-border banditry, internal agitations, ethnic nationalism and other social disruptions. The Internet has also introduced and made cybercrimes dangerous to National Security.

The possible threats to National Security are limitless. Most African states are undermined by natural or environmental disasters, poverty, poor funding of their military, police and other security agencies that stymied their professionalism and competencies, hunger, pandemics, terrorism and banditry. Aggressive agitations by its nations (their citizens) not only compromise their well-being but disrupt their ability to respond to other challenges.

African states are also prone to self-inflicted threats to National Security. Poor governance and the inability to deepen democracy or the conscious and deliberate erosion of the integrity of public political institutions and bureaucracies have made political insecurity one of the most dangerous threats to National Security. State actors who exercise legislative, executive and judicial powers are often drivers of threats to National Security. It is not uncommon for them to associate, conspire, operate and sustain oppressive and rapacious political regimes. Though they constitute an infinitesimal ratio of the population, this class of people often appropriate the majority of the State’s resources and benefits. Many of the conflicts and crises rocking many African states are traceable to conflicts among the political and bureaucratic elites scrambling for the political and economic soul of the State.

National Security Policy and Response

For each of the threats to National Security, the primary victim or prey has always been the individual and the people of the State. It is, therefore, not rational to leave the fashioning of National Security policy and response mechanisms to the State alone. The people, the nations, and all interest groups must be involved in the provision of the framework that will set clear boundaries between National Interest and regime or Government interest. The framework should prescribe how the State secures the citizens and defines or provides guiding principles for the determination of the interests, values and goals that are rooted in the National Interest, and not those of the Government or state actors.

This is hardly the case in Africa. The framework for National Security policies in most African countries is derivable from broad constitutional provisions and the statutory powers and responsibilities of the Military, Police, Intelligence and other Security Agencies. In Nigeria, the National Security Agencies Act established (a) the Defence Intelligence Agency; (b) the National Intelligence Agency; and (c) the State Security Service for what it terms the effective conduct of National Security. Under Section 2 of the Act:

The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) shall be charged with responsibility for –

(a) the prevention and detection of crimes of a military nature against the security of Nigeria;

(b) the protection and preservation of all military classified matters concerning the security of Nigeria, both within and outside Nigeria;

(c) such other responsibilities affecting defence intelligence of a military nature, both within and outside Nigeria, as the President, or the Chief of Defence Staff, as the case may be, may deem necessary.

The National Intelligence Agency(NIA) shall be charged with responsibility for –

(a) the general maintenance of the security of Nigeria outside Nigeria, concerning matters that are not related to military issues; and

(b) such other responsibilities affecting national intelligence outside Nigeria as the National Defence Council or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.

The State Security Service (SSS) shall be charged with responsibility for –

(a) the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria;

(b) the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and

(c) such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.

The above provisions of the Act shall affect the provisions of any other law to the contrary, or any matter therein mentioned.

Little room is left for views of non-state actors, and amendments to incorporate them are rare. This insularity and inflexibility not only make it difficult to harmonise National Security policies with the principles of legitimacy and public accountability but also create jurisprudential challenges for the courts in both their powers of interpretation and judicial review of actions and activities undertaken by the State in the name of National Security.

The State would never want to give up its appropriation of the sovereignty and destiny of its territory, including its physical strength and persuasive powers. It regards people’s initiatives and efforts to influence the behaviour and conduct of individuals or groups within the State as an affront. The State would see any challenge or threat to its sovereignty or sovereign powers as a threat to National Security. In this sense, even strong political and social intercourses or inter-nationalism among nations within the State could frighten the State and could be viewed as a threat to National Security. It is also this assumption that instigates the State to strive to subordinate the interests and aspirations of individuals and nations within it to its control and oversight. This insular mindset is personified by the arrogance and impatience of the State’s instruments and bureaucracies of power. The Military, Police, Intelligence, Law Enforcement and Security Agencies, including the Courts, are quick to defer to the State’s classification and characterisation of actions, behaviours, conducts and events that relate to National Security. This can explain why National Security and the interests of individuals and nations pull in different directions.

The Conflict between National Interest and Human /People’s Rights

The State has as much of a duty to protect the fundamental rights of the individual and the peoples’ rights as the duty to provide National Security. Both State functions are necessary and intrinsic to the existence of the State. Indeed, the latter should be for the enhancement of the former. Judicial precedents are, however, to the effect that fundamental rights are waivable and can be overridden by National Interest. For example, the Supreme Court of Nigeria held, in the case of DOKUBO-ASARI V. FRN (2007) LPELR-958(SC), that where National Security is threatened or there is a real likelihood of it being threatened, human rights or the individual rights of those responsible take second place. Human rights or individual rights must be suspended until National Security can be protected or well taken care of. This is not anything new. The corporate existence of Nigeria as a united, harmonious, indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation, is certainly greater than any citizen’s liberty or right. Once the security of this nation is in jeopardy and it survives in pieces rather than in peace, the individual’s liberty or right may not even exist.

Though not inconsistent with the general principles that elevate the common good over individual pursuits, such judicial reasoning does not define National Security or provide a connecting plank between the two. It exposes individuals and groups of individuals to unjustified violation of their rights under the pretext of National Security. This, therefore, forces a deeper consideration of what constitutes the common good of the State that requires the subordination of the interest of individuals and groups of individuals, including nations, to the National Interest. Like many other philosophical principles, the common good is traceable to the published thoughts of many philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. In modern times, the common good is beyond the good life of the people of a State. It is viewed in terms of what is of common advantage and benefit to everyone in the State as against that which only appeals to the interest of some individuals or groups in the State. The common good, then, consists of the totality of conditions that enhance the capacity and ability of the self-fulfilment of the individual. The common good is an umbrella of collective interests and a condition that caters for, and with broad standards of equality, every individual in the State. It is an all-inclusive and nonexclusive standard and benefits. In this sense, the interest of an individual or nation that is not reflected in the basket of the interest of collective interests of the State is anti-common good and can, therefore, be overridden by National Security considerations.

This is why it is necessary to underscore that where the National Interest collides with the interest of either the individual or a Nation, the mediating consideration should be the common good and the abiding duty of the State to protect not only citizens but also the economic stability of the State. In scrutinizing the legitimacy of an activity undertaken by the State in the name of National Interest, the yardstick should be hoisted on the cruciality of National Interest to the lives of the people and the nations themselves.

Unlike the maintenance of law and order, the subjection of a State’s activities that border on National Security may weaken the State’s ability to identify and respond to potential threats to the National Interest. Be that as it may, concerns that the State may hide under the façade of preventing or combating the threat to National Security to suppress political dissent and critical political views are legitimate and justified. Inversely, efforts should be made not to conflate National Security with other matters that are captured by the ordinary laws of the land. In other words, there should be a criterion for relating personal problems and challenges to National Security threats. Personal challenges, such as social injustices and economic deprivations whose redress is provided for by the statute and procedural books, should not be a matter of National Security.

The Functions of the National Security Adviser

There is no statutory instrument or rule book that speaks directly to the responsibilities and functions of the office of the National Security Adviser. The terse provision on the functions of the National Security Council speaks to advising on matters relating to public security, including matters relating to any organisation or agency established by law for ensuring the security of the Federation as against the functions of the National Defence Council which advises the President on matters relating to the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria.

In the United States of America from where Nigeria took the idea of The National Security Council, the office of the National Security Council was established in 1947 to co-ordinate responses to threats to National Council. That body is responsible for advising the American President on the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to National Security to enable the military services and other departments and agencies of Government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving National Security. It will be safe to say that in broad terms, the scope of the functions of Nigeria’s National Security Council – and foot soldier of those functions – is the National Security Adviser.

Without the knowledge of the content of the instrument of appointment, it is difficult to tell how distinctive and self-constituting it is within the National Security architecture.

The 2017 report by L. Bolton on “National Security Office Responsibilities and Functions” (K4D Helpdesk Report Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies) prepared for the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and its partners in support of pro-poor programmes did not cover Nigeria. However, the report’s overview of the responsibilities of the NSA in the United States of America, UK, Canada, Israel, Iran, Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and Serbia is instructive and helpful. The overarching responsibilities and functions of the NSA as gathered from the report are as follows:

(1) Advising the President on National Security matters and providing political leadership in matters concerning National Security;

(2) Monitors, analyses and evaluates emerging, lingering and escalating trends in security challenges and responds by coordinating, strengthening and integrating kinetic and non-kinetic efforts and policies of all the line ministries, departments and agencies dealing with National Security;

(3) Uses the information and intelligence reports he receives from security agencies and departments connected with National Security to make informed recommendations to the President on policies that can appropriately address the security situation of the country;

(4) Serves as a centralised server for all departments and agencies that are involved in the maintenance of National Security and coordinates and prioritises their activities on National Security;

(5)  Integrates safe and effective intelligence-sharing mechanisms and monitors the implantation and where necessary updates National Security activities and strategies to make them functional and effective.

(6) Fashions and advises the President on policies that facilitate the boosting of coordinative and cooperative inter-agency relationships for the overall maximisation of the benefits of collective and several efforts in combating security challenges.

(7) Ensures a seamless implementation of policies that enhance the capacity of security agencies to respond effectively to security threats.

(8) Adopting policies and measures that minimise the tendency of security agencies to work in silos and /or engage in unhealthy rivalries.

(9) Be hands-on on all security matters and mechanisms and be able to identify and advise the President about the economic and socio-cultural challenges that constitute a direct threat to National Security.

 (10) Maintains a good and symbiotic relationship with security agencies in other countries that have succeeded in overcoming security challenges that are similar to those being faced by Nigeria to borrow from their experiences and share useful ideas with them.

(11) Be up to speed with global security management mechanisms and techniques to enable him to be in a good position to support the President in National Security and foreign policy.

(12)    Injecting a sense of urgency into the interagency process.

(13)    Advises the President and all security agencies on how to cut a good balance between necessary kinetic efforts and constitutional limits and the need to adhere to the principles of the rule of law.

(14) Having his eyes and ears on global security trends to assess their nearness and relationship to Nigeria’s National Interest.

Parting Statement on Special Advisers and Assistants

On the average, Special Advisers and Assistants provide the following services for the President:

  • Specialised and technical administrative support; and
  • Report on the effect of policies and public sentiments and responses to policies.

Furthermore, they

  • Research, analyse and appraise problems and suggest solutions;
  • Interpret policies and suggest guides and procedures for the effective implementation of policies; and
  • Serve as the eyes and the ears of the President, and as such, keep their eyes on the affairs of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies they are connected to.

Being handmaids of the President, the Chief of Staff and Special/Personal Assistants are not alternatives to the President, but personal staff advising and coordinating the vast landscape of the President’s powers. The professionalism and effectiveness of these political aides are critical to the success of the President in a constitutional democracy. They are supposed to be watchdogs of the President over the line Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The President is doomed to fail when his personal staff is composed of power and material seekers.

It is also instructive to note that whatever they do or say is ascribed to the President and characterised as the act or statement of the President. Unlike other aides, this category of helpers should be composed of people that the President knows and trusts, and not opportunistic limpets. They must be people he can give his life to and go to sleep. They are supposed to be his Guardian Angels who are at all times ready to take the bullet for him.

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