The State Security Service has fired a blistering response to a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Aide de Camp, Mohammed Abubakar, ordering personnel of the service out of inner Aso Rock and restricting them to guarding the “outer perimeter” of the presidential villa.
In a memo, seen by PREMIUM TIMES Friday, Mr. Abubakar, a Lieutenant Colonel, had barred SSS personnel from locations inside the State House, saying personnel of the Armed Forces and the police, trained as Presidential Body Guards (PBGs), are to “provide close/immediate protection for Mr. President henceforth”.
Mr. Abubakar said SSS operatives should steer clear of areas such as “Admin Reception, Service Chiefs Gate, Residence Reception, Rear Resident, Resident Gate, Office Reception, C-In-C Control Office, ACADE Gate, C-IN-C Control Gate and Panama”.
“However, the personnel of the DSS in conjunction with other security forces are to man other duty beats/locations located within the immediate outer perimeter of the Presidential Villa,” he said, without providing reasons for the action.
But in a June 26 response to Mr. Abubakar, the Chief Security Officer to President Buhari, Abdulrahman Mani, rejected the directive and gave a counter order asking his colleagues to disregard the spirit, intent and content of Mr. Abubakar’s circular.
PREMIUM TIMES exclusively obtained the SSS memo on Sunday.
Mr. Mani, who pointedly accused the ADC of grandstanding, overzealousness, limited knowledge and outright display of ignorance, insisted that Mr. Abubakar’s circular “grossly misrepresents” President Buhari’s directive.
He however did not say what the President’s exact directive is.
The CSO, a personnel of the SSS himself, continued, “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.
“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. For this reason, personnel of the DSS who are on this schedule are carefully selected and properly trained both locally and abroad. Furthermore, continued background checks are maintained on them to confirm suitability and loyalty.
“In fact, the issues raised in the aforementioned 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 cordons around venues and routes.
“However, all over other security agencies including the army, the police and others 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 statutory prescribed responsibilities.
“Meanwhile, joint training programmes and other incentives will be worked out in the days ahead to ensure that all security 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.”
The president’s ADC is yet to respond to Mr. Mani’s memo. And personnel of the SSS remained restricted to the “outer perimeter” of the Presidential Villa, our sources said.
It’s a routine adjustment — Presidency
The presidency has however described the relegation of the SSS at the presidential villa as a routine adjustment.
“While it is true that a reorganization of security at the Presidential Villa which involves the realignment of personnel from various services is underway, the exercise does not translate to the expulsion of DSS personnel from the premises in any way,” the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said in a statement.
“The changes being made are routine adjustments which are not unexpected in any dynamic environment from time to time.”
SSS top officials beg President Buhari
Meanwhile, some top officials of the SSS have appealed to the President not to humiliate the entire Service because of the alleged partisanship and unprofessional conducts of its leadership.
They asked not to be named because they have no permission to speak on the matter.
“Though there is personal animosity aimed at disgracing the Director General (Ita Ekpenyong), the development is actually affecting Service personnel right now and causing a lot of low morale,” an official told PREMIUM TIMES.
“But majority of personnel not in support of the DG had expected the President to change him or ask him to resign rather than take on the entire service personnel. Majority of the professional staff supported the assumption of office of the president.”
Another top official said, “Many of those Ita (the SSS Director General) believed were sympathetic to Buhari either got themselves relieved of their appointments or given punitive postings to places like Boron, Yobe, some South East States or just benched at the headquarters or non viable commands and formations.
“So many of them are not happy that President Buhari and his handlers such as Dambazzau and Daura (one of our retired directors) would just treat the whole service like this.
“They wish the management would rather be changed and the Service reformed alongside other security agencies and the military so that all agencies can face their constitutional operational roles.”