By Ben Agande, Abuja
In this interview, a security consultant and former Director of the Department of Security Service, Mike Ejiofor, speaks on the implication of the withdrawal of the DSS personnel from protecting the president.
What do you think is the implication of the withdrawal of the DSS from the Villa?
First of all, I don’t believe the story that the DSS has been withdrawn from protecting the president because his security should not be toyed with. If the president is intent on changing the security architecture, a policy formulation should be made. He should come up with a working document streamlining the different functions of the various agencies. Statutorily and constitutionally, the Department of Security Service is charged with the protection of the president, the vice president, the Senate president, the governors, deputy governors, speaker of the House of Representatives and state lawmakers and their families.
The president’s security should not be toyed with. I believe that what is going on now is people who are trying to settle personal scores. Instead of looking at national security, they want to settle personal scores and, in the process, compromise national security and the security of the president. I don’t believe it, but if it is true, it’s rather unfortunate because the military personnel being drafted are not trained in body guard protection. The DSS men are trained for VIP protection and the president falls under VIP.
Let us go down memory lane. How was the National Security Organisation formed? It was established in 1976 after the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed specifically to protect the president and maintain internal security. The NSO continued until 1986 when General Ibrahim Babangida over threw the government of Muhammadu Buhari and clamped down on the NSO because the NSO frustrated various efforts to over throw the government. The president himself can attest to the loyalty and the defense of his government by the NSO. It so provoked Babangida that when he assumed office, he said he was going to overhaul the NSO, which led to the split of the then NSO into three bodies: the National Intelligence Agency, charged with external intelligence, the State Security Service, charged with internal security, and the Defence Intelligence Agency, which is purely a military affair. I don’t want to believe that Mr President gave that directive but silence disturbs. Government should come out to clarify the issues because the life of the president is being toyed with by people who are pursuing personal interest.
The argument is that the DSS was manifestly partisan in the run up to the election and, as such, their loyalty to the new administration cannot be guaranteed.
That argument is neither here nor there. Don’t forget that the SSS personnel are Nigerians. There are many people who have sympathy for the APC in the DSSS. There are people who also have sympathy for the PDP. There are laid down procedures for doing things. If government institutes an investigation and discovers that perhaps the leadership of the DSSS compromised in loyalty to the nation, then appropriate actions should be taken.
In 1999 when Obasanjo came in, he clamped down on the DSSS, accused it of various offences and set up the Oputa panel. Eventually the DSSS was not indicted. So if you are from afar, there are all kinds of allegations people make, but they should be subjected to investigation. What I am saying is that we should not compromise our security architecture on the altar of personal interest. People out there to serve their personal interest are the problem. What ever happened amounts to what the APC said they were coming to fight: impunity. Also recall the directive given even before the president was sworn-in barring AIT from covering the president but it was reversed because the president said he was not aware of it.
Do you think the army has the capacity to provide close body guard protection for the president?
It is a laughable question because, on one hand, the president is directing that the military check points be withdrawn to perform their military duty. How can you now entrust the life of the president to the military when there are people who are statutorily charged with the responsibility? Whether the ADC was given the directive, he doesn’t have the authority and capacity and I stand to be challenged. It cannot come from the ADC. If government has been constituted, such matter should either come from the NSA or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
What do you think is the way forward?
In the present circumstance, government has to issue a statement because the statement from the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity did not deny or confirm that the DSSS has been asked to leave the Villa. There must be a specific statement on whether they have been withdrawn or not. As we speak, we don’t know the true position and it is very dangerous to the security of the president.