SSS or DSS: What does the law say?

IS it the State Security Service (SSS) or the Department of State Services (DSS)? This is a question many people ask.

Many public organisations are named and established by law. Nigeria’s primary domestic intelligence agency the State Security Service (SSS), known as the Department of State Services (DSS), is one such agency.

Its primary responsibilities include obtaining national intelligence and safeguarding the security of significant political persons.

It functions as a department within the executive branch of government.

The law that created the SSS

The law creating “State Security Service” is known as the National Security Agencies Act 1986.

Section One of the Act says: “There shall, for the effective conduct of national security, be established the following National Security Agencies, that is to say-(a) the Defence Intelligence Agency; (b) the National Intelligence Agency; and (c) the State Security Service”.

According to the National Security Agencies Act 1986, “State Security Services” is created to detect and prevent crimes within Nigeria that may threaten the national security of Nigeria.

DSS Nigeria kidnapping
Operatives of State Security Service /File Copy

However, in recent years, the SSS has portrayed itself as the Department of State Services (DSS) in official statements and all its official social media accounts.

Nigerians and the media have also frequently referred to the agency as DSS rather than SSS, which has generated a lot of debate in the country.

Lawyers’ view on the use of the name DSS 

According to some lawyers who spoke to The ICIR, the name “State Security Services” and the National Security Agencies Act 1986 have not been amended or altered since 1986. 

They agreed that the use of the name Department of State Services (DSS) by the State Security Service (SSS) is illegal and a violation of Nigeria’s National Security Agencies Act.

Hence, the statutory, legal and known name remains “State Security Services” and not DSS.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Adefisoye Okunade, said the name change is unknown to the law and a violation of the law.

“The use of “DSS” is a violation of the law. Section 1(c) of the National Security Agencies Act, Cap. N74, LFN, 2010. 

According to Okunade, the referenced statutory authority provides that:

“There shall, for the effective conduct of national security, be established the following

National Security Agencies, that is to say-

       (a)       the Defence Intelligence Agency;

       (b)       the National Intelligence Agency; and

       (c)        the State Security Service.”

“National Security Agencies Act, Cap. N74, LFN, 2010.

He went further to say the position of the law is that the express mention of one thing is an exclusion of the other.

“Expressio unius exclusio ulterious. That is to say – the express mention of ‘SSS’ in section 1(c) of the NSA Act is an exclusion of any other name such as ‘DSS,’ meaning that the use of self-styled “DSS” is an executive recklessness,” the lawyer added.

In his view, another lawyer, Festus Ogun, told The ICIR that SSS is known to the law and not DSS.

“It is a secret outfit created by law. State Security Service is the secret outfit created by statute. Department of State Security is unknown to law.,” Ogun said.

According to Ogun, the use of DSS is in breach of law.

He blamed the security agency for unilaterally changing its name from the State Security Service. 

He added that the organisation cannot change its name unless the National Assembly amends that law to reflect it. 

“Even from its name, the DSS is not committed to the tenets of the rule of law. Looking at the antecedents of SSS. They’ve been quite lawlessly and recklessly, and you know, they abuse the fundamental rights of our people with reckless abandon.

“So the issue of it unilaterally changing its name without a cause to law is not only illegal but unconstitutional,” Ogun stated.

He added that the National Security Agencies Act created the State Security Service, and since the act has not been amended, it’s a gross violation of the National Security Agencies Act to refer to it as DSS.

Another lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, in a post on X (Formerly Twitter) on July 26, faulted the use of the name DSS by the SSS and called it an act of illegality.

“Part of the lawlessness is the use of the name “Department of State Services”. It is an illegality. It is unknown to law.




    “What is established by law by the National Security Agencies Act is State Security Service (SSS),” Inibehe submitted.

     DSS reacts

    When asked about the legality of the continuous use of the name DSS by his organisation, the spokesperson of the agency, Peter Afunanya, in a text message, said it is not illegal but a creation of law.

    SSS account on X with the inscription DSS
    SSS account on X with the inscription DSS

    When probed further to state the law that changed the name from SSS to DSS, Afunanya said, “Your source is not well informed on the subject matter and may wish to expand his/her research.

    “You are an investigative reporter. Find out for yourself. By the way, DSS Is not Illegal. It is a creation of the law,” Afunanya stated.

    A reporter with the ICIR
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    2 COMMENTS

    1. May God continue keeping you all, continue in all good work… pls do not encourage corruption into the system.

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