Leon Usigbe – Abuja
SOLDIERS who have been providing close body protection for President Muhammadu Buhari have been disengaged from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
They have been replaced by personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS) just as it was in previous dispensations.
It was learnt that the president authorised the redeployment before he left for his medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
The deployment of the soldiers to protect the president at the inception of his administration in 2015 generated heated controversy as both his then Chief Security Officer (CSO) and DSS personnel, Abdulraman Mani, and the Aide de Camp (ADC) to the President, Colonel Lawal Abubakar, were involved in public spat.
While Mani argued that it was the responsibility of the DSS to provide close body protection to the president while members of other services could man the outer protection ring, Abubakar insisted on having military personnel as close bodyguards.
At the heat of the disagreement between the two top security aides to the president, Mani wrote a well publicised memo dated Friday, June 26, 2015, arguing against the position of the ADC’s directive to have soldiers close to the president.
He backed up his claim with relevant portions of the constitution and copied National Security Adviser (NSA), the Chief of Defence Staff and the Director-General of the DSS.
Aspects of the memo read: “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, who sided with the ADC, retained the soldiers and relived Mani of his appointment.
It was gathered that the President has apparently made a u-turn having been inundated with reports of lapses on the part of the military bodyguards.
The present CSO, Bashir Abubakar, was also said to have expressed reservations about the handling of the president’s protection by the soldiers.
With the redeployment of the soldiers, DSS personnel now man all the security points that were previously the responsibility of the soldiers in the Presidential Villa.