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EXCLUSIVE: Disquiet in SSS, officers threaten to undermine Buhari’s reelection, Boko Haram war

President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Yusuf Bichi as the new Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS) has drawn the ire of senior officials within the key national security department, with many of them threatening to undermine not just the president’s re-election bid but also Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operation against Boko Haram.

Multiple officers told PREMIUM TIMES the secret police’s headquarters in Abuja and field offices across the country have been subsumed by an air of anxiety and volatility since Mr Buhari recalled Mr Yusuf from retirement and named him as replacement for Matthew Seiyefa on September 13.

Mr Seiyefa’s removal came a little over a month after he was appointed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Mr Osinbajo, while serving as acting president for 10 business days in August as Mr Buhari took a break in London, decided on Mr Seiyefa as the acting-DG of SSS after firing Lawal Daura for his role in the infamous August 7 siege by SSS operatives on the National Assembly.

Mr Seiyefa was the most-senior official at the time of his appointment, having enrolled in service in 1984. He assumed office with promises to perform his duties differently from his predecessor, who was infamous for his crude and controversial approach to law enforcement.

In his first two weeks as DG, Mr Seiyefa’s soft reform efforts were already being felt with gradual release of ‘illegally-detained’ suspects from custody and the appointment of the agency’s first spokesperson in three years.

A few days before his removal, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Mr Seiyefa’s job was being threatened by top presidential aides, especially the chief of staff, Abba Kyari.

Mr Kyari, whom presidency sources said was unhappy about the sack of Mr Daura, tried to mitigate Mr Seiyefa’s control over the SSS. The chief aide ordered Mr Seiyefa to undo some administrative decisions he had taken, including postings, and operate only as directed by the presidency going forward.

At first, Mr Seiyefa rebuffed attempts to make him subservient to the chief of staff — arguing that he would only report to the National Security Adviser as legally required. But he later caved in under immense pressure from the presidency, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, and reversed most of the decisions.

Senior officers and rank and file who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES during Mr Seiyefa’s face-off with Mr Kyari expressed support for their principal, saying they would reject any attempt to further deface the image of the agency by dragging it into politics.

credit: premium times