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State Security Service (Nigeria)


State Security Service (Nigeria)

State Security Service
Agency overview
Formed 5 June 1986
Preceding agency
  • National Security Organization
Jurisdiction Nigeria
Headquarters Aso drive, Abuja
Employees Classified
Annual budget Classified
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Key documents
  • National Security Agencies Act of 1986 (Decree 19)
  • Presidential Proclamation; SSS Instrument I of 1999

The State Security Service (SSS), also known as the Department of State Services (DSS), is the primary domestic intelligence agency of Nigeria. It is primarily responsible for intelligence gathering within the country and for the protection of senior government officials, particularly the National Security Organization (NSO), dissolved in 1986. The SSS operates as a department within the presidency and is under the control of the National Security Adviser.


  • Directors General of the SSS 1
  • Origins 2
  • Mandate 3
  • Successes, Failures and Fatalities 4
  • Controversy 5
  • Weapons and Equipment 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Directors General of the SSS

Directors General of the SSS Term of Service
Colonel Abdullahi Mohammed (DG NSO) 1976–1979 (October)
Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi (DG NSO) 1979 (October) – 1983 (November)
Ambassador Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi (DG NSO) 1984 (January) – 1985 (August)
Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo 1986 (June) – 1990 (September)
Chief Albert Horsfall 1990 (September) – 1992 (October)
Chief Peter Nwaoduah 1992 (October) – 1998
Colonel Kayode Are (Rtd) 1999 – 2007 (August)
Afakriya Gadzama 2007 (August) – 2010 (September)
Ita Ekpeyong 2010 (September) - 2015 (July)
Lawal Musa Daura 2015 (July) - Present


Nigerian SSS operative with IMI Tavor TAR-21

Fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as Ismaila Gwarzo and Deputy Director Lt. Col. A.K. Togun. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) handled external intelligence and counterintelligence. The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) was responsible for military-related intelligence outside and inside Nigeria.[1] The first headquarters of the agency was located at 15, Awolowo road, Ikoyi in Lagos; this site currently houses the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The SSS headquarters was finally moved to Abuja during the regime of General Sani Abacha, the headquarters complex is informally known as the "Yellow House", it is located on the northern edge of the three-arms zone on Aso drive in Maitama, Abuja.

Its present Director General is Lawal Musa Daura who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari after the resignation of Ita Ekpeyong in July, 2015.[2]


The mission of the SSS is to protect and defend the Federal Republic of Nigeria against domestic threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of Nigeria, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to both federal and state law-enforcement organs. The SSS is also charged with the protection of the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, State Governors, their immediate families, other high ranking government officials, past presidents and their spouses, certain candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, and visiting foreign heads of state and government. The SSS has constantly adapted to various roles necessitated by evolving security threats in Nigeria including counter-terrorism and counter-insurgent.

Successes, Failures and Fatalities

The SSS has been reasonably successful in performing its primary internal security responsibility. The agency in its early day was credited with the arrest of the Egyptian bomber Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq in 1993 while he was trying to enter Nigeria through the Nigeria-Benin republic border. Rezaq was wanted by the United States for leading the bombing of an EgyptAir plane for the Abu Nidal group in 1985 he was subsequently rendered to the United States after an official request was received from the State Department. [3]

In October 2010, the SSS intercepted a large cache of arms and ammunition originating from Iran at the Apapa port in lagos; this in spite of a UN arms embargo on Iran. The arms which included artillery rockets, shells and mortars were concealed in thirteen containers falsely declared as "building materials", it was alleged that Nigeria was being used as a transhipment destination while Gambia was the final destination for the arms.[4]

The agency has also been reported to have infiltrated a number of religious extremist groups in the country including the Pakistan, India and Malaysia. .".[5] Also according to wikileaks, in 2009 another itinerant preacher was arrested in Taraba state and was also deported.[6]

The SSS has also recorded some successes in combating kidnapping in Nigeria with the arrest of some kidnappers and the rescue of their victims. In October 2011, the agency rescued the Parish Priest of St Bernard’s Catholic Church Eguaholo in Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state, Rev. Fr Sylvester Chukwura, from his kidnapper's hideout. The kidnappers were baited with the ransom sum and were subsequently ambushed by SSS operatives. In the same time frame, the SSS also arrested another kidnapper in Edo state known as Binebi Sibete, who was described as a notorious kidnapper and killer. Binebi was wanted amongst other things for killing an SSS operative in 2010 and also burning down the state government patrol boat at Gelegele.[7]

The SSS has been criticised for allowing Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the "underpants bomber", to board Northwest airlines flight from Lagos despite his father having previously warned security officials of his sons radical views on America.[8] In its defence, the SSS said it was not informed by Mr. Mutallab's father of his sons alleged radical beliefs, the agency said that Mr. Mutallab's father had actually spoken with officials at the United States Embassy in Abuja and also sought the help of a past Nigerian National Security Adviser. The SSS held that the American authorities did not share the information that Mr. Mutallab senior had given them and the former National Security Adviser had also not contacted the agency hence their inability to act on information they did not possess.

The agency was also criticized heavily in the wake of the August 26, 2011 [10]

In early November 2011, the Nigerian press ran stories alleging that the United States government had issued a travel advisory on Nigeria.[11] The travel advisory according to the papers included the threat of bomb attacks at major hotels in Abuja frequented by expatriates. The story immediately generated panic among the populace and accusations of incompetence made against the security agencies, the SSS inclusive. The story also alleged that the American ambassador had given a statement explaining that the US had given the warning directly because the Nigerian security agencies had failed to act on previous intelligence shared with them. In the end, the situation was only brought under control when the National Security Adviser, Gen. Owoye Andrew Azazi demanded evidence that the Americans had indeed given such a warning or that the American Ambassador had actually said what had been attributed to him in the press.[12] The story turned out to be false, the threat to hotels was actually an intelligence analysis of possible threats made by the SSS some months earlier which was circulated in government circles. The SSS had failed to manage information in a timely and proper fashion which had led to the public losing confidence in the organisation.

The agency has lost a number of operatives in the line of duty, while fatalities are not generally publicised some cases do get a mention in the media. During Nigeria's 50th anniversary celebrations in Abuja on 1 October 2010, a car bomb killed an Assistant Director of the agency and Mr Tahir Zakari Biu an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operative while they were trying to remove abandoned vehicles from a roadside a few kilometres from the venue of the celebrations.[13][14] The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the attack. The SSS was able to trace the registration of the car used in the attack and subsequently arrested suspects in Lagos, the mastermind of the operation Mr. Henry Okah was arrested by the South African authorities and put on trial in South Africa on terrorism charges. On April 13, 2007 a Security Protection Officer (SPO) working in the close protection detail of Mr. Onyema Ugochukwu, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) 2007 governorship candidate for Abia state was shot in an assassination attempt on his principal. The bodyguard was shot in the head and in his hand. In 2013, a botched security operation in Nasarawa state in the middle belt region of the country to arrest the leader of the Ombatse cult group who many claim possesses super natural powers used in the maiming of other ethnic groups especially the Fulanis, left scores of security personnnel dead including not less than six men of the SSS allegedly killed using occultic powers[15]

In February 2013, the SSS broke up a terrorist cell led by Iranian handlers that was gathering intelligence for future attacks on American and Israeli targets in the country.[16]


Although the notorious NSO was dissolved, the new security establishment in 1990 continued to act arbitrarily and with impunity. The government proscribed radical interest groups like NANS and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the central body of all university professors and lecturers. Several innocent citizens were subjected to physical assault without government reparations. Human rights remained substantially circumscribed. Decree Number 2 remained in place, and numerous citizens had been incarcerated under it, although the allowable period of detention without charge was reduced from six months to six weeks in January 1990. With the aid of this and other decrees that restricted freedom, usually promulgated retrospectively, such radical and outspoken critics of the government as Gani Fawehinmi, Tai Solarin, and Balarabe Musa were regularly detained. Despite having annulled Decree Number 4, the government had several brushes with media organizations. In 1988 Newswatch was proscribed for six months, and journalists, academics, and civil rights activists continued to be harassed by state security agents.

Government security forces frequently harass, arrested, and detain editors and reporters from journals critical of the regime. On 4 November 1997 Aoetokunbo Fakeye, defense correspondent for The News, was arrested. On 8 November, Jenkins Alumona, editor of The News, was arrested by SSS agents at a Lagos television station. On 9 November, Onome Osifo-Whiskey, managing editor of Tell magazine, was arrested by SSS agents in Lagos while driving to church with his children. On 29 October, Osifo-Whiskey had warned that the magazine had received a written death threat, which listed the names of 27 staff members. On 16 November, SSS agents arrested Babafemi Ojudu, editor of the News/Tempo. Rafiu Salau, an administration editor for the News/Tempo, was also arrested in mid-November. Former chairman of the editorial board of the daily The Guardian and a visiting professor of journalism at a US university, Olatunji Dare, was detained overnight and his passport seized upon his arrival from the United States on 2 June 1997. He was told to report to the DSS to retrieve his passport. After being interrogated on 17 June by SSS officials about his activities abroad, his passport was then returned.

The SSS has also been accused of repressing the political activities of opposition groups. Public meetings are arbitrarily canceled or prevented, including cultural events, academic conferences, and human rights meetings. On 25 September 1997, police and SSS agents broke up a Human Rights Africa (HRA) seminar for students in Jos, arrested HARA director Tunji Abayomi and 4 others, and briefly detained some 70 students. Abayomi and the others were held for 10 days and then released on bail. A 1 May 1998 workshop on conflict management in Port Harcourt was canceled when the SSS warned local coordinators that such a meeting could not be held on Workers Day, a local holiday. Similar workshops elsewhere proceeded unimpeded despite the holiday.

Weapons and Equipment

As of 2010, the standard issue assault rifles used by SSS Combat Operatives/Security Protection Officers (S.P.O) are the IMI Tavor Tar-21 assault rifle produced by Israeli Military Industries and the FN P90 personal protection weapon, FN F2000 assault rifle, both manufactured by FN Herstal;[17] these rifles replace the Uzi as the primary assault weapon of the SSS. Operatives also use various side arms and pistols from a number of manufacturers including Beretta, Glock, and Browning.

The agency has also deployed van mounted backscatter X-ray screeners from Basix Technologies for detecting Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) due to an upsurge in bombing incidents arising from an Islamist insurgency in the north east of Nigeria. In this counter terrorism role, the agency also uses mobile IED jammers for VIP protection in public spaces like stadiums and in a mobile configuration for use in convoys.

Due to the disproportionately large GSM mobile phone subscriber base in Nigeria and the use of cellphones as the principal means of communication by kidnappers and terrorists, the agency has had to develop telephone call intercept capability. IMSI number catchers and signal direction finders have been deployed for intercepting and tracking GSM and satellite phone communications.

The agency maintains a fleet of armoured limousines and SUVs that are used to ferry the President, Vice president and visiting dignitaries. Other vehicles mainly SUVs produced by Ford Motor Company are also used by the agency.

See also

  • National Intelligence Agency (NIA) - Responsible for Foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations
  • Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) - Responsible for military intelligence.
  • National Security Organization (NSO) - Precursor of the State Security Service and the National Intelligence Agency


  1. ^ Nowa Omoigui. "NIGERIA: THE PALACE COUP OF AUGUST 27, 1985 PART II". Urhobo Historical Society. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  2. ^ Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Chuks Ohuegbe, Golu Timothy, Emmanuel Iriogbe an Igwe Ernie (8 July 2015). "Igboman Heads Army 40 Yrs After Civil War".  
  3. ^ Derek, KJF, blackmax. "Torture, Rendition, and other Abuses against Captives in US Custody". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  4. ^ Vanguard Newspapers. "Arms Seizure - Iran Behind Shipment - Security Agents". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  5. ^ United States Embassy, Abuja. "NIGERIA: cable 01ABUJA3238, NIGERIA: SSS DG ARE ON AL QAIDA". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  6. ^ United States Embassy, Abuja. "Nigeria:cable 10ABUJA197, NIGERIAN SECURITY CHIEF BRIEFS FOREIGN PARTNERS ON MUTUAL". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  7. ^ Osagie Otabor. "SSS rescues kidnapped Catholic Priest". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  8. ^ "Nigerian Terrorist Attempt to Bomb US Airline: Critical Family and National Questions". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  9. ^ "UN House Bombing - Boko Haram Claims Responsibility". Vanguard Newspapers. Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  10. ^ Kingsley Omonobi; Daniel Idonor; Ikechukwu Nnochiri. "Boko Haram to mark nation’s independence with bombings". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  11. ^ Seyi Gesinde; James Bwala. "US warns of fresh bomb blast in Abuja •Asks officials to stay away from luxury hotels •As UN condemns terrorist attacks, killings in Nigeria •Pope calls for end to violence". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  12. ^ "NSA Azazi Dismisses US Terror Warning Over Abuja Luxury Hotels". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  13. ^ "Nigeria media filled with stories on security breaches at Nigeria@50". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  14. ^ Mahmud Jega. "CP Zakari Biu - Down, Up and Down Again". http://Daily Trust Newspapers. Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  15. ^ "The Profile Of Theodore Ahamefule Orji". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Beegeagle's Blog. "NIGERIA: STATE SECURITY SERVICE IN PICTURES". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  • Some material for this article was derived from the Nigeria Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.

External links

  • RSF/Reporters Without Borders Summary on State Security Service (SSS)
  • Nigeria: NIA: 20 Years of Service
  • Nigeria: The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) At Twenty - A Tribute
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