The Department of State Service (DSS), has dissociated itself from the statement accredited to a former DSS Director, Dennis Amachree, on plans by the United States to place the embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, on no-fly list.
DSS, Director of Public Relations, Dr Peter Afunanya, told journalists in Abuja, that Amachree’s statement does not reflect the opinion of the service.
Afunanya, who did not address issues raised by the former DSS director on the agency’s role in the screening of Pantami, said: “Opinions expressed by Mr Dennis Amachree on sundry national security issues are his personal positions and do not in anyway represent the stand of the DSS.”
The former director had said the U.S was gathering information on Pantami and would likely place him on a no-fly-list.
Amachree, who said the DSS also had information on all individuals of interest, maintained that the minister’s past extremist views were communicated to the federal government and the legislature.
“There is no information that escapes the DSS, we have all of it. When I was working there, we keep a catalogue of anybody of interest that comes up to the limelight in this country.
“During the vetting process for anybody to be appointed a minister or commissioner or anything, your name is sent to the State Security Service (SSS) for vetting. They check your background up to the extent of your grandmother.
“They check your schools up to the extent of your primary school. And of course, they keep a tab on you online and offline. We get a lot from open source intelligence and I can tell you that in Pantami’s case, we have it.
“But there is a political angle to it. When somebody is being appointed, if the security agencies see that there is something wrong with his name, they will send it to the appointing agency.
“The appointing agency will now decide amongst other variables either religious variable, federal character balancing variable, or political variable and say that, ‘Oh, yes, we know that this guy has this and that but let’s appoint him.
“So, the political decision is not taken by the SSS. Even when you go to the Senate for confirmation, there is party by party and you can see that there are some political candidates that the opposition party will say that this one will not be appointed but because he belongs to that party, they will appoint him.
“So, these are political and federal balancing where they will say that there is nobody from this place that has been appointed, so let’s appoint him.”
The former director further stated that, “He (Pantami) has just submitted his name into US database. The cataloguing of people is not automatic, it comes in drips and drops.
“Now, people are talking about him and that has come to the attention of the United States Embassy in Nigeria already. Now, they will do a deeper dive into his background. They will catalogue him and now they will start watching him and if it comes to a very critical level, they will place him on a no-fly zone.”