Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate removal of officers and men of the Nigerian Army and replaced them with officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) as his body guards.
Investigations revealed that the approval for the removal of the soldiers was given by the president shortly before he embarked on an annual vacation to the United Kingdom where he is undergoing medical check-up.
A source at the DSS headquarters who confirmed the development, told THISDAY that the battle between the two security agencies over whose responsibility to provide protection for the president started soon after Buhari moved into his official residence in Aso Rock in 2015.
The source said there had been a running battle between the former Chief Security Officer (CSO), Abdulraman Mani, and the Aide de Camp (ADC) to the President, Colonel Lawal Abubakar, on which of the agencies should provide close protection to the president.
At first, the president, because of his distrust for the DSS inherited from the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, preferred the company of the army.
While Mani insisted on allowing men and officers of the DSS to protect the president in the inner circle, the ADC was rooting for soldiers to serve as body guards.
The battle between the two aides led to the removal of the former CSO by the president.
Mani, in a memo dated June 26, 2016, countered the ADC insisting that the DSS officials should disregard the ADC’s directive as it was a misrepresentation of the president’s order.
While quoting relevant sections of the constitution which empowers the DSS to carry out such security functions, Mani who copied the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Chief of Defence Staff and the Director-General of the DSS, said the various security agencies at the villa would be educated on their responsibilities.
The memo read in part: “In fact, the issues raised in the aforementioned (ADC’s) circular tend to suggest that the author may have ventured into a not-too-familiar terrain.
“The extant practice, the world over, is that VIP protection, which is a specialised field, is usually handled by the Secret Service, under whatever nomenclature.
“They usually constitute the inner core security ring around every principal. The police and the military by training and mandate are often required to provide secondary and tertiary security cordons around venues and routes.
“However, all other security agencies, including the army, the police and others, also have their roles to play. It is on this note that heads of all security agencies currently in the Presidential Villa and their subordinates are enjoined to key into the existing command and control structure. They are to work in harmony with each other in full and strict compliance with the demands of their statutorily prescribed responsibilities.
“Meanwhile, joint training programmes and other incentives will be worked out in the days ahead to ensure that all security personnel at the Presidential Villa are properly educated to understand their statutory roles and responsibilities.
“This is with a view to avoiding obvious grandstanding, overzealousness, limited knowledge or outright display of ignorance in future.”
Buhari himself, it was learnt, was more inclined to working with the soldiers than officials of the DSS because of the manner in which the agency treated him during the 2015 presidential election.
The sack of the soldiers this time, our correspondent gathered followed series of complaints from the current CSO, Bashir Abubakar who has not been comfortable with the arrangement of having soldiers as first security aides of the Commander-in-Chief.
Buhari on assumption of duty on 29 May, 2015, dislodged the DSS as first ring security around him and replaced them with soldiers.
According to the source, “protection of the president by body guards is actually the work of the DSS but Mr. President did not have confidence in the service because of the way they treated him during the campaigns.
“The soldiers were moved into the inner circle of the security network while DSS operated at the periphery. This has not gone down well with both services. Mr. President was convinced to reverse this order,” he said.
As at the time of filing in this report, officials of the DSS had taken positions previously manned by the soldiers.