The authorities of the Presidential Villa, Abuja have returned the operatives of the Department of State Services to spots where they can perform “close protection roles” for President Muhammadu Buhari.
They are replacing personnel of the Armed Forces who have been performing the role since June 2015 shortly after Buhari was inaugurated.
Though the DSS officials had been playing the traditional role, the decision to restrict their access to the President was the peak of the inter-agency rivalry that rocked security agencies in the seat of power in 2015 with the coming on board of Buhari.
They were withdrawn from beats/locations such as the administrative reception/passage; service chiefs’ gate; residence reception; resident gate and office reception among others.
They were left to man other duty beats/locations located within the immediate outer perimeter of the Presidential Villa.
This week, the DSS officials returned fully to the beats from where they had been removed in 2015 while the personnel of the Armed Forces left the premises.
The PUNCH learnt that the decision to return the DSS officials was taken by the Office of the National Security Adviser shortly before Buhari went on vacation.
“The DSS officials have taken over fully. They actually took over on Monday evening but the full implementation started on Tuesday. Except for officials of the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps, you can’t see any soldier around here again,” a source said.
Another source told our correspondent that the decision was taken after a series of security meetings that x-rayed the soldiers’ performance vis-a-vis the President’s safety.
The source said, “You will recall that the President was nearly mobbed at the Muslim Praying Ground in Abuja shortly after he took over in 2015.
“The President had to be literarily smuggled out of the place with a crowd of youths surging towards his car. It was clear such incident cannot happen if the DSS operatives who were specially trained for VIP protection were in charge. That incident and others after it were analysed and a decision was taken that the DSS operatives should return.”
As of the time of filing this report, the plain-clothed soldiers were no longer seen at the Presidential Villa.
Authorities have also closed the registers the soldiers opened at some security points inside the Villa where those passing the points, including workers, were logging in and out.