President Muhammadu Buhari’s National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and the Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Lawal Daura, are locked in a bitter battle for supremacy, PREMIUM TIMES has been reliably informed.
The cold war between two of the nation’s most senior security officers has festered to an extent that it is beginning to have implications on national security, government officials said.
Sources told this newspaper that the two officials have stopped talking to each other, and President Muhammadu Buhari has been unable to make them call a truce.
The row started last August when Mr. Buhari directed the NSA to set up a committee to probe military procurement from 2007 to 2015.
Multiple security sources said as Nigeria’s secret police, it was taken for granted that the SSS would be represented in the committee. But at the point of choosing members of the panel, Mr. Monguno declined to allow representation from the SSS, they said.
According to our sources, when asked why the SSS official was turned back, the NSA said he wanted the panel, made up of mainly retired military officers and a representative from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to be closed-nit, to avoid leakage of confidential information about the committee’s work.
“The DG of the DSS found that insulting,” our source said. “According to him it was rude and illogical to claim that an agency in charge of intelligence gathering and other serious confidential security issues for the entire country is not considered worthy of keeping information about a committee.”
From then the relationship between both men deteriorated and has not recovered, officials said.
Unending turf war in the Villa
Last year, PREMIUM TIMES obtained a memo sent by Mr. Buhari’s aide de camp, Mohammed Abubakar, a lieutenant colonel, dated June 24, ordering SSS operatives to stay away from the interiors of Aso Rock presidential villa, and restricting them to the perimeters of the villa.
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 in the memo.
Despite a counter memo from the president’s Chief Security Officer at the time, Abdulrahman Mani, who said Mr. Abubakar’s directive should be ignored, SSS personnel still guard only the periphery of Aso Rock, our sources said.
Mr. Daura, a kinsman of President Buhari, is still seething about that too, officials told PREMIUM TIMES.
According to our source, Mr. Daura accuses Mr. Monguno, a retired Major General and former Chief of Defence Intelligence, of supporting the expulsion of SSS from inner Aso Rock.
Arrest of Mohammed Umar
PREMIUM TIMES also learned that the relationship between the two men was further strained following the arrest of Mohammed Umar, a member of the presidential arms panel. Mr. Umar was arrested by the SSS.
According to our source, Mr. Monguno, who is a close ally of the retired Air Commodore, was furious about the manner the SSS raided Mr. Umar’s house, before detaining him.
Mr. Monguno repeatedly complained to security officials close to him that he loathed the way Mr. Daura carried himself as if he was the NSA.
Mr. Monguno also complained that Mr. Daura appropriated the job traditionally assigned to the office of the NSA, our sources said.
“The NSA is complaining that the DG of the DSS is over-reaching himself and performing his duties,” our source stated.
The duties of the NSA include the coordination of departments of internal security, and counter-terrorism operations and lawful interceptions.
That means that security agencies including the SSS are supposed to report to the NSA and regularly brief him on intelligence gathered and take directives from him.
However, since both men no longer see eye to eye, the SSS stopped briefing the office of the NSA and hardly takes directives from that office, our sources said.
Mr. Daura, according to those sources, however argued that the NSA was never available for his work.
He said Mr. Monguno was in the habit of travelling around the world with President Buhari, leaving a vacuum in the co-ordination of national security.
Both officials could not be reached to comment for this story. Mr. Daura did not answer or return calls. Mr. Monguno’s media contact insisted the NSA is not enthusiastic about discussing the development.