How DSS indiscretion triggered crisis in presidential security
WHEN operatives of the Department of State Security arm of the Presidential Body Guards (PBGs) barred the Aide De Camp (ADC) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Lt.–Col Mohammed Abubakar, from accessing his principal who was presiding over a scheduled meeting penultimate week at the Presidential Villa, many thought it was either an indiscretion or avoidable mischief.
However, that faux pas is taking its toll on the security apparatus at the Aso Villa seat of power, Abuja and has turned into an embarrassing institutional rivalry between the DSS and the military, with the Nigeria Police and other paramilitary agencies watching .
The military arm of the PBGs comprises elements from the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), Naval Intelligence and Air Intelligence and they operate under the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Casualties have continued to mount.
First was the forced resignation of the former Director General of the Directorate of State Security, Mr. Ita Ekpeyong, last Thursday. It was done in such a hurry that a retired director of the security service from Buhari’s hometown of Daura, Alhaji Lawan Daura, was appointed as the substantive DG, by-passing all the senior officers still in service.
The appointment caused such massive ill feelings at the DSS headquarters that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, who is now saddled with issues of Presidential appointments in the absence of a substantive Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), had to reverse self by issuing another statement same late Thursday by clarifying that Daura’s appointment was in acting capacity.
Now, late Saturday, news began to filter out that the circumstances that led to the replacement of Ekepyong also caused the replacement of CSO Mani, who has been redeployed to Ebonyi State Command of the DSS. Manu was appointed Buhari’s CSO after the presidential election in March, although he had been in charge of his security since 2011. The new CSO is Mr. Bashir Abubakar, a former assistant director in the Bayelsa State Command of the DSS.
In addition, Buhari fired the State House’s Administrative Officer (AO), Mr. Widi Liman , a close aide to the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai while he was the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
The former AO has been transferred to Oyo State command of the DSS. The AO, whose office was made popular during the era of military rule, has since the return of democracy on May 29, 1999 been on the staff of the DSS. The occupant plays a vital role in coordinating security services on behalf of both the ADC and CSO.
Sources told The Guardian that what triggered the misunderstanding between the ADC and the Chief Security Officer to the President, was that some DSS operatives stopped the ADC from entering a meeting being presided over by Buhari.
This angered the ADC who felt that he ought to have access to his principal at all times, but the DSS operatives at the door to where the meeting was holding blocked this entry, despite all entreaties and explanations, giving the excuse that the President was already seated and the meeting was in progress.
At a point, the operatives specifically told the ADC they didn’t know him in person and as such could not allow him in. After the meeting, the ADC duly informed Buhari. The President, who was already uncomfortable with the DSS for their perceived partisanship in the run up to the 2015 general elections, was reportedly livid. He then ordered all DSS personnel around him be redeployed.
Buoyed by the President’s posture, the ADC wrote the now-famous memo barring DSS personnel from locations inside the Presidential Villa. According to the memo, PBGs from military and the police were to immediately “provide close/immediate protection for Mr. President henceforth.”
He also warned DSS personnel to stay away from specific areas of the Presidential compound, and that they would man only the outer duty beats and locations located within the immediate outer perimeter of the presidential villa “alongside other security forces.”
Obviously unaware that the ADC’s memo had the blessing of the President, the former CSO, Mani, fired back, issuing a counter circular which directed the DSS personnel to disregard the orders contained in the ADC’s memo because relevant statutes give DSS the responsibility of close protection for the President.
Citing relevant instruments to justify his firmly stated position, Mani declared: “Though further actions have been initiated in this regard, including routine redeployment of close body guards out of the Villa, and deployment of new ones, it is important to state that the duties hitherto performed by the personnel of the DSS (SSS) in the Presidential Villa and/or any other Key Vulnerable Points (KVPs) are backed by relevant Statutes and Gazetted Instruments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Among others, these roles include close body protection of the President in line with standard operational procedures and international best practices.”
He continued: “For the avoidance of doubt , Section 2(1)(ii) of Instrument No. SSS 1 of 23rd May, 1999, made pursuant to Section 6 of the National Security Agencies (NSA) Decree of 1986 which has been re-enacted as Section 6 of NSA Act CAP N74 LFN 2004, empowers personnel of the DSS to provide protective security for designated principal government functionaries including, but not limited to the President and Vice President as well as members of their immediate families. It also mandates the DSS to provide protective security for sensitive installations such as the Presidential Villa and visiting foreign dignitaries.”
A source explained to The Guardian that “the ADC is usually the link between the President and the outside world even when he is in a meeting.
It is the ADC that would usually be sent on errand by the President anytime and anywhere. He always is expected to sit along with the CSO behind the President. He is, therefore, expected to have free exit and entry to any meeting even if it is meetings of the National Security Council and National Defence Council. So, the President had to act fast to restore confidence within his personal security circle and douse the tension between the DSS personnel and the military arm of the PBGs.”
To compound matters, the issues between the ADC and the CSO started playing out in the media, a platform that is already being saturated by the confusion in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over elections in the National Assembly and appointments towards the constitution of the government. As is usual when issues of suspicion in the corridors of power crop up, sweeping forensic audit of the activities of all DSS personnel especially those working close to the President were subtly embarked upon.
And it was the result of the investigations that unearthed the allegations that the former CSO was involved in “shady deals” in fixing the President’s appointments, “undermining” the president and other misdemeanors “chief among which was a recent discovery that he was actually the one who leaked Buhari’s itinerary to former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke when Buhari travelled to London in May.
‘‘Investigations also revealed that Mani has been actively undermining the President, working against every value the President upholds and conducting himself in such a manner as to suggest that he is out to pull down the President.”
The former AO, Liman, was allegedly relieved of his appointment because he was said to be hand-in-gloves with Mani in turning securing appointments with the President into a “business venture, one of the major things that destroyed the Presidency of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.”