THE State Security Service (SSS), popularly known as DSS, established a new department on Wednesday, September 27 – the Directorate of Public Relations and Strategic Communications (DPRSC).
In a statement released in Abuja, the SSS said creating the new Directorate was part of its efforts to continue engaging with Nigerians.
The initiative has been greeted with mixed reactions, with many wondering if it’s just a gimmick or a genuine attempt to bridge the enormous communication gap between the Service and the citizens.
According to the Service, the Directorate was to enhance further democratic governance, openness, and accountability in providing services.
The SSS said creating the Directorate was part of its attempts to showcase its work.
It appointed its spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, a doctorate holder, as the first director of the DPRSC.
SSS’s rampant lack of response to request
Over time, the SSS has been known to operate in secrecy and has failed severally to respond to enquiries on essential issues or communicate with the public.
Many observers have faulted Afunanya’s attitude towards the media and the general public, as there are complaints that he hardly responds to requests made by journalists.
After much criticism, in February 2023, the Service opened social media accounts, including X and Facebook @OfficialDSSNG, to enable it to move closer to the people.
Bridging communication gap
However, some security experts in a chat with The ICIR expressed doubt if the creation of the new unit of the SSS would help bridge the gap between the Service, the media and other Nigerians.
A security analyst, Salihu Dantata Mahmud, who is the director of publicity at Arewa Youths for Peace and Security, said he didn’t think the creation of a Directorate of Communications by the SSS would make any difference since, according to him, the same person is still in charge.
“The secretive nature of the DSS as one of the civil intelligence agencies often makes it difficult to share certain information with the media and general public.
“I am not so confident that it is going to change anything,” Mahmud stated.
Another security expert, Oladele Fajana, told The ICIR that creating a new directorate by the secret Police is an attempt to redeem its image.
He stated that the Service created the unit to interact freely with the people.
“I think they’re trying to redeem their image to be functional, increase the time of quick response to press requests in terms of arrest, detention and release.”
He said Service was also trying to build its reputation and bridge the gap between it, the public, and the media.
“That’s one of the reasons they’re trying to create that opportunity, but we should wait and see how it will impact their image and job.”
According to him, it is essential to have a free society without crimes and criminality.
Meanwhile, another security expert, Senator Iroegbu, noted that establishing the DPRSC within the SSS marked a significant stride toward enhancing transparency and communication with the media and the citizens.
Iroegbu went further to outline strategies through which the new Directorate could effectively bridge the existing communication gap:
- Appointment of a designated and substantive spokesperson
According to him, the Service must appoint a credible and readily accessible spokesperson capable of efficiently liaising with the media and the public.
“This individual should exhibit responsiveness to calls, text messages, and inquiries from journalists and citizens.”
Iroegbu said this appointment would present an opportunity to leverage alternative communication avenues beyond traditional media.
“By doing so, the office can effectively safeguard and promote the interests of the SSS through diversified public relations and communication approaches.”
He urged the new Directorate to champion transparency by proactively implementing measures such as regular press briefings, issuing public statements, and releasing pertinent information to the media.
He listed other things that could assist the new Directorate as follows.
- Strengthen engagement with media houses;
- Create user-friendly platforms;
- Investment in training and sensitisation;
- Enhancement of responsiveness;
- Implementation of feedback mechanisms;
- Ensuring FOI Act compliance.
He added that the new Directorate must uphold transparency, integrity, and a steadfast commitment to fostering open and constructive dialogue. This approach, he stated, is indispensable in building trust and accountability between the DSS, the media, and the Nigerian citizenry.
In August, The ICIR did a report in which lawyers clarified that the correct name of the secret service backed by law is the State Security Service (SSS) and not the Department of State Services (DSS) as it is popularly known.