Home Explainers Fact Shield Is the Special Adviser on Security same as National Security Adviser?

On Thursday, June 15, 2023, Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu appointed a set of Special Advisers, including the Special Adviser on Security.

Tinubu appointed Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as his Special Adviser on Security. 

However, many people are curious whether the position of the Special Adviser on Security and National Security Adviser (NSA) are the same or different.

Who are Special Advisers?

Section 151 of the 1999 constitution provides that the president may appoint any person as a Special Adviser to assist him in the performance of his functions.

The number of such Advisers and their remuneration and allowances shall be as prescribed by law or by resolution of the National Assembly.

The appointment of that person will be at the pleasure of the president and shall cease when the president ceases to hold office. 

Special advisers (or assistants) are essentially the personal staff of the president. They are not subject to screening by the National Assembly, and there’s usually no limit to their numbers. 

They also do not have a budget head nor do they control any resources. Like their names suggest, they only serve advisory roles. 

What are the various hierarchies of Special Advisers?

Special advisers could be ranked into Special Advisers simpliciter, Senior Special Assistants to the president, Special Assistants, and Personal Assistants.

Special Advisers are the most senior. Their status is almost equivalent to a Minister. Examples include Chief Economic Adviser to the president, Special Adviser on Ease of Business, National Security Adviser, etc. 

Senior Special Advisers are the next in rank. They usually head functions such as Senior Special Adviser on Sustainable Development Goals. Their status is obviously lesser than Special Advisers and they earn a bit lesser. 

Special Assistants are slightly more junior than Senior Special Advisers. They usually provide support to ministers.

Lastly, Personal Assistants, who are the lowest in rank, are mostly often political and often partisan. 

Who’s a National Security Adviser?

A National Security Adviser (NSA) is essentially a Special Adviser to the president. He manages national security on behalf of the president and serves as adviser on all matters that are vital to the survival of the state. He’s appointed by the president and does not need confirmation by the National Assembly.

The constitution recognises the ‘office’ of the NSA under Federal Executive Bodies. It stated that the NSA shall be a member of the National Security Council, the Federal Executive Council, and the National Defence Council. 

Apart from the constitution, other legislations like the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022 recognises the special function of the NSA and provided roles to be played by the NSA in countering terrorism. 

Is the president mandated to appoint a National Security Adviser? 

As it has been stated earlier, the NSA is essentially a Special Adviser, and personal staff of the president. His appointment and removal is therefore subject to the discretion of the president. 

The constitution does not mandate the president to appoint an NSA. However, the National Securities Agency Act requires the president to appoint a ‘Co-ordinator on National Security.’

The Co-ordinator on National Security shall be a principal staff officer in the office of the President and shall, amongst other things, be charged with the duty of advising the President on matters concerning the intelligence activities of the agencies. 

It’s therefore pertinent to state that the term used by the National Securities Agency Act is ‘Co-ordinator on National Security’ and not ‘National Security Adviser’. However, the roles played by these individuals may be one and the same. 

What has been the norm?

Past presidents of Nigeria have always appointed an NSA, however, in furtherance of the president’s unfettered powers under Section 171 of the Constitution to appoint any person to any position as he deems fit.

Almost, if not all, these NSAs were former military generals. It has been suggested that presidents appoint former military generals as NSAs because they could command respect of the military and security forces. So the appointment of former military generals is a tradition rather than a matter of legislation.

Is Special Adviser on Security the same as National Security Adviser?

From the foregoing, we could discern that the Special Adviser on Security and the National Security Adviser are essentially all Special Advisers to the president. What may distinguish the two is just the nomenclature used. 

Presidents have, however, always traditionally appointed an NSA pursuant to section 171 of the constitution.

In corroborating our stance, the president, Bola Tinubu announced the appointment of Nuhu Ribadu as the National Security Adviser on Security. 

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