Buhari will sack Service Chiefs at the “appropriate” time – Presidency

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The bungling contraption that the Muhammadu Buhari presidency has become symbolized by the fierce battle for supremacy between the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd), and the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, over the nation’s security; got another ignominious public advertisement on Tuesday after the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, criticized those mounting pressure on government to sack the heads of security agencies, saying “This is not the right time to do so.”

“You don’t sack people like that. You don’t just wake up and say sack people, it doesn’t happen like that. There are processes and I believe that at the opportuned time, those processes will be followed. We are in a very difficult time now. We need everybody to be on board. We need synergy within the intelligence community, within the military formations that will help fight this war,” Mustapha told journalists in Abuja at the formal launch of the book: “CAN, Religion, Politics and Power in Nigeria” written by former General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samuel Salifu.

Mustapha said the prevailing insecurity puts the country in a very difficult situation. “We are in a very difficult situation and when we begin to create cracks and divisions, who will be the beneficiaries? The adversaries are the ones that are going to exploit those deficiencies and further the cause of destabilizing the nation. At this moment, what we need is for everybody to be on the same page, fight the battle of securing the nation for protecting lives and property and ensuring that every Nigerian has the opportunity to live a prosperous live. I think that should be our main focus,” he said.

The SGF’s admonition came as the presidency is still reeling from revelations of a power struggle between the NSA and Kyari, who is said to have hijacked presidential powers and is acting like a de facto president. The signs have always been there; but the inter-agency rivalry, uncoordinated national security, and other policy missteps, discordant tunes on all matters and a hardly coherent presidency blew into the open after a leaked memo first published by Sahara Reporters on Monday exposed the underbelly of bad blood within the presidency.

In the memo purportedly written by Monguno, he accused Kyari of undue and dangerous interference in matters bordering on national security, among other scathing allegations. Also, in the memo, the NSA warned Kyari against meddling in security affairs in the presidency. The memo dated December 9, 2019; addressed to the service chiefs and copied to the president and ministers for foreign affairs, defence, interior, police affairs and Kyari himself, warned the service chiefs to stop taking orders from Kyari and to be wary of his interference.

Kyari has long been hailed as one of the most powerful men in the Buhari presidency and the head of a cabal accused of running President Buhari’s administration behind the scene. The chief of staff is known to be one of the president’s closest aides. He plans Buhari’s schedules while ministers are said to queue in his office to see the president. Kyari’s influence became clear to many during a retreat organized by the presidency for the then ministers-designate.

While declaring the retreat open on November 5, 2015, Buhari said: “In addition, all communications and appointments from you (ministers) to the presidency should be routed through the Office of the Chief of Staff as it is the normal (procedure) in this presidential system.”

But Monguno has warned all service chiefs to desist from taking further directives from Kyari, alleging that Kyari’s directives were sometimes issued without the knowledge much less approval of President Buhari; a practice he said had added to the government’s failure to contain insecurity.

“Chief of staff to the president is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country,” Monguno said in the December 9, 2019, memo. “As such, unprofessional practices such as presiding over meetings with service chiefs and heads of security organisations as well as ambassadors and high commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising ministers are a violation of the constitution and directly undermine the authority of Mr. President. Such acts and continued meddlesomeness by the chief of staff have not only ruptured our security and defence efforts but have slowed down any meaningful gain that Mr. President has sought to achieve,” the memo noted.

The NSA was further quoted as having told the service chiefs that “As professionals, you are aware that the security of the Federal Republic of Nigeria requires concerted and centralized effort taking into account internal, external and diplomatic factors. It is therefore detrimental to our collective security that the chief of staff who is a non-supervising minister holds meetings with diplomats, security chiefs and heads of agencies. Pursuant to the foregoing, you are by this letter directed to desist from these illegal acts that serve nothing but the continuous undermining of our national security framework. Any breach of this directive will attract the displeasure of Mr. President,” the memo warned.

Presidential spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, ignored Huhuonline.com text messages and requests for comments. Monguno’s letter came as insecurity and renewed attacks by Boko Haram is fast reducing Nigeria to a killing field. President Buhari has repeatedly promised to end the crises, but the situation only seems to be aggravating. Security experts and federal lawmakers have responded by calling on the president to fire his service chiefs. The service chiefs have been unable to rein in Boko Haram insurgents since 2015 when Buhari appointed them.

While previously held swathes of land have been reclaimed from the terrorists, deadly attacks on civilians and military targets have worsened since 2018.  The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, said in recent media interviews that the military had degraded Boko Haram’s capacity to attack cities outside the war-ravaged northeast, saying sacking the service chiefs will not end terrorism in Nigeria.

The memo underscored the frustration faced by Monguno and others who found Kyari’s influence over the president too pervasive for national benefit, the sources said. In its reaction to the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the revelation by the NSA that strange persons, including Kyari, had hijacked presidential powers, had validated calls for Buhari to resign as president.

The party further said that “following this revelation by no other person than the NSA, it reiterates its earlier position that President Buhari should waste no further time in relinquishing his position as president since it is now obvious that he has become overwhelmed by official duties.” According to the PDP, security is the most important element of governance followed by the welfare of the citizens, and since President Buhari has relinquished these statutory responsibilities, he has no other reason to remain in office.

The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “The NSA’s letter, which is already in the public domain, further exposes the fact that our nation has been on autopilot under President Buhari, whose abdication of serious matters of state is directly responsible for the untold suffering, anguish, pain and escalated insecurity in the country.”