Background to the Establishment of the Office of National Security
The Office of National Security (ONS) was established by an Act of Parliament – The National Security and Central Intelligence Act (2002) by the end of Sierra Leone’s 1991- 2002 rebel war. It was to serve as the secretariat of the National Security Council (NSC) to fulfil an urgent demand for a high-level authority to provide for the coordination and oversight of the security sector, the object for which the NSC was established to provide the highest forum for the consideration and determination of matters relating to the security of Sierra Leone.
By the time of the enactment of the National Security and Central Intelligence Act (2002), the office, then referred to variously as the National Security Agency or the Office of the National Security Adviser or the National Intelligence Agency, was in its nascent stage. At that stage, it, by necessity, mainly focused on intelligence collection in support of a government that was faced with the critical challenge of re-establishing its authority.
It had been assessed that until and unless the activities of the security sector were properly coordinated and a strong executive oversight established; the sector would remain disjointed, uncoordinated, wasteful and unable to deal with the lingering and emerging security challenges Sierra Leone and its people continued to face.
Hence, the National Security and Central Intelligence Act (2002), which provided the legal framework for the establishment of the ONS, achieved the key twin goals of full oversight and control and coordination of the security sector.
As referred to above, the ONS is established as the secretariat of the National Security Council and is headed by the National Security Coordinator – Section 17(1) of the National Security and Central Intelligence Act (2002). Without prejudice to the generality of this overarching requirement of the institution, the mandate of the ONS encompasses the specific responsibilities of the National Security Coordinator and other assigned and implied tasks/responsibilities provided in the Act.