In what is clearly a breach of the extant rules of the public service, a petition addressed to President Buhari on alleged discrepancies in the appointment of ambassadors surfaced mysteriously in the online media.
The reports carried in the online media gave details of the developments at the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) from where the appointments emanated including names of officers, their designations and locations in our embassies.
From the detailed nature of the report, it must have been authored either by insiders or by persons who were commissioned and furnished with classified information from within the agency.
It bears reminding that operations of this sector of government, more than any other, are as a rule not subject to open disclosures for obvious reasons. That is why officers and operatives are subject to strict confidentiality. This is to protect both the operatives and the institution from being compromised in the course of undertaking such delicate tasks on behalf of the nation.
It is regrettable, therefore, that the officers who ought to know better should embark on this course of action in seeking redress for whatever perceived grievances they may have regarding their employment.
In the first place, it was improper to have addressed such issues to the president which, apart from going against the general order of the civil service, disrespects the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The officers who embarked on this course of action know full well that there are procedures and reporting channels for such issues to be exhaustively addressed within the hierarchy of the civil service. Going straight to the president in this instance, no matter the veracity of the claims, diminishes their case.
But what is of more fundamental implication here is the fact that the petition was leaked to the media which in turn reported the matter in graphic details thereby jeopardising the lives and career of the named officers and by extension Nigeria’s foreign operations.
In one act of indiscretion, the officers responsible for this have blown the cover of their colleagues and put asunder years of painstaking efforts put together to effectively run our foreign operations.
Henceforth, countries and international organisations would be reluctant to share sensitive information on mutually beneficial issues between them and Nigeria, and sources of reliable information on matters vital for our development and security will dry up.
Our officers abroad will be targeted and subjected to unusual scrutiny and attention, exposing them to unnecessary dangers. There can be no greater sabotage to a country by officers that have been entrusted to guard its most treasured secrets than this. By doing this, they have exposed our country to opprobrium and ridicule.
In view of this development which affects our reputation and standing as a country in the comity of nations, we accordingly recommend strongly that the relevant agencies of government wade into this matter urgently.
This is with a view to finding out those responsible and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of our extant laws. Whatever reliefs they expect to get from embarking on this course of damaging action, they have vitiated it by endangering their colleagues and the nation.
By their action they can no longer be trusted to act as sentinels of the nation’s precious secrets on whom our collective security rests. Finding them out and meting appropriate sanctions will send signals to those who may want to resort to this type of action in future that there is a heavy price to pay.
Going forward, there needs to be a thorough stocktaking of the nation’s intelligence and security agencies to identify and fish out those officers that are not in tune with the services’ rules of engagement.
As Nigeria is now in the throes of existential security challenges, the least we need are officers and operatives whose minds and actions do not measure up to the standards that the services expect of them.