The United States Intelligence Community monitored Nigeria’s just-concluded national elections and tracked top-level talks within the Department of State Services (DSS), according to leaked files.
The briefing slides were part of a cache of highly classified documents circulated online in recent weeks that revealed information about the U.S. spying on allies and adversaries. It included intelligence on South Korea, France, Israel, Ukraine, and Russia.
Though the U.S. government has not confirmed the authenticity of the documents, it said it was “actively reviewing” the issue. Officials, however, told CNN and the New York Times that the documents appear legitimate “though at least one of the dozens of pages of classified reports had been altered”.
The markings on the Nigerian files showed that it was a compilation of assessments from open-source intelligence and highly sensitive communication intercepts.
One of the top-secret briefs obtained through intercepting communication revealed that security services were aware of the malfunction of some of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) prior to the elections.
“Nigerian Department of State Services (DSS) Assistant Director for the Communications Intelligence Department Usman Sani on 19 February recounted to DSS Director-General Yusuf Bichi that INEC Deputy Director of Information and Communication Technology Lawrence Bayode earlier that day revealed to probably INEC Principal Engineer Victor Igboh that some BVAS devices began malfunctioning prior to being sent out to their designated locations,” the brief stated.
Igboh was said to have responded that the majority of the BVAS devices stored at the INEC headquarters in Rivers state were malfunctioning due to swollen batteries, “an issue he claimed would likely affect the election if not quickly remedied”.
The document also reported “unspecified challenges with the BVAS” and card reader machines in the northeast region.
The brief, which was the most sensitive on Nigeria among the dozens leaked, indicates that American intelligence was keeping tabs on the communications of senior officials of the country’s domestic intelligence agency.
The other files focused on the Central Intelligence Agency’s updates on the outcome of the election. It noted that Nigeria’s electoral commission (INEC) had announced Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President-elect.
It also highlighted that INEC confirmed that Tinubu had passed the benchmark of 25 per cent of votes in two-thirds of the country’s 36 states and the capital. The threshold for declaring the winner of the election has since become an issue surrounded by controversy and is currently a subject of litigation.
Another file with a label indicating that it was secret but authorised for release to the Five Eyes Alliance reported that imagery analysis had revealed that in early March the Nigerian government maintained an increased security posture following the announcement.
Akelicious contacted DSS and INEC spokespersons about the development but has yet to receive comments at the time of filing.
On Monday, Reuters reported that the U.S. national security community was grappling with the fallout of the leaks, including the impact on sensitive information-sharing within the government and ties with other countries.
Attention was drawn to the documents by a series of publications by the New York Times, and the U.S. authorities have especially found them troubling because of the unusual recency of the information they contain.The leaks also indicate that the U.S. “has plugged itself into [Ukrainian] President Volodymyr Zelensky’s internal conversations and those of even the closest U.S. allies, like South Korea.”