President Muhammadu Buhari will fire more of his aides who have been using their positions to undermine him by “cutting deals”, TheCable understands.
This is coming on the heels of what a security source called an “astonishing discovery” of hundreds of millions of naira in the accounts of some presidential villa staff accumulated in the last three weeks.
The sources of the deposits are still being investigated, but initial suspicion is that some aides might have “commercialised” access to Buhari.
It is an open secret that some highly placed Aso Rock officials collect bribes, both solicited and unsolicited, from those seeking favour from Nigerian presidents.
Some of them promise to grant access to the president by way of fixing appointments or influencing such.
It is an old practice dating back to the military era, but it has gone virtually unchecked in the last 16 years and no presidential aide has ever been sacked for it.
On Friday, the president fired Abdulrahman Mani, his chief security officer (CSO), and Widi Liman, administrative officer (AO), allegedly for “undermining” the president.
Mani, in particular, was accused of leaking information to Diezani Alison-Madueke, former minister of petroleum resources, on the then president-elect’s trip to London in May.
But Mani has reportedly told his friends that the “leak” accusation was cooked up to get him out of the presidential villa and destroy his career.
An insider had told TheCable: “The president was very angry to learn of the leak to Diezani, but that was just one of Mani’s sins. There was also the case of a police officer who has been serving at the presidential villa for years. During a recent shake-up, Mani told the inspector general of police (Solomon Arase) that Buhari said the officer should be retained.
“Arase eventually met with Buhari and tried to confirm if it was true he wanted the officer retained. Buhari said he never gave such an order. Arase said, ‘But your CSO told me you did.’ The president was so angry that he summoned Mani and tongue-lashed him. He then walked Mani out of his office. This is nothing but treachery.”
It has now emerged that Mani’s loyalty has been questioned by the president on several occasions but he still stuck to the secret police officer who had been working for him since 2011.
When Buhari survived a bomb attack last year in Kaduna, Mani was allegedly on the phone giving information to unidentified persons.
His phone, TheCable learnt, was seized and smashed on the ground by one of Buhari’s security operatives who was angered by his curious conduct.
It was also alleged that Mani, who was named CSO in April this year, was regularly passing information on Buhari to Ita Ekpenyong, who was replaced as DG of Department of State Services (DSS) on Thursday.
For this, Mani allegedly got double promotion. He is reportedly one of the officers to be affected by the decision to cancel all promotions done since March 2015 which were considered “irregular”.
“At some stage, Buhari told his associates that he had begun to ask himself how he trusted Mani so much to get so close to him, ” the insider added.
Rivalry and infighting
Last week’s memo by Mani seeking to override Buhari’s ADC’s letter on the positions to be manned by DSS at the presidential villa was the final straw, according to insiders.
Mohammed Abubakar, the ADC, had issued a memo limiting the DSS operatives to certain areas in the villa, but Mani — thought to be acting on the instructions of Ekpenyong — issued a counter order.
Abubakar was apparently acting on the instructions of Buhari but Mani did not crosscheck before going ahead with his own memo, which was beginning to worsen the chaos and ego wars in Aso Rock since Buhari assumed office.
“Mani’s audacity meant the president had had enough. It was a catalogue of offences and things only got worse by the day. Plus, Buhari has been suspicious of DSS officials all along because of the very partisan role they played under former President Goodluck Jonathan. They did not do anything to allay his fears,” one of the insiders told TheCable.
Victim of witch hunt?
TheCable learnt that Mani has told his friends there was a campaign against him before Buhari and maintained that he is not guilty of the accusations being levelled against him.
The source said: “It is true that Mani wrote that counter memo, but it was to protect the DSS, not to undermine Buhari. He has been working with Buhari for years, so how come his loyalty is now being doubted?
“There are some guys who are very close to Buhari who think Mani is too junior to occupy that position and they have been feeding the president with all sorts of lies just to get him out of the way. The Diezani leak was cooked up and Buhari believed it. All this talk about Mani collecting money for people to fix appointments with the president were cooked up.
“Buhari needs to be very careful with those jostling to provide him with security because they do not mean well. If they can do this to Mani out of desperation, you can imagine how many other things they would be ready to do. Buhari must be alert to their antics.”
Most of those working with Buhari since he assumed office have not been officially announced as aides.