Some elder statesmen from the south and parts of central Nigeria have condemned the removal of Matthew Seiyefa as the Director-General of the State Security Service by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The leaders said Mr Buhari’s action has further shown that he does not believe in a united Nigeria in which state duties are conducted with fairness and equity.
Mr Seiyefa was replaced by Yusuf magaji Bichi from Kano State Thursday night. He will take office on Friday, the presidency said in a statement announcing the changes.
Mr Seiyefa, from Bayelsa State in the oil-rich Niger-Delta, was appointed on August 7 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Mr Osinbajo, who was acting-president at the time, took the decision as part of a disciplinary action against Lawal Daura, who was accused of organising organising an SSS siege to the National Assembly without approval from the presidency.
Mr Seiyefa’s appointment was widely hailed by rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners who largely saw him as fitting for the position based on his antecedent in service.
Although he was due to retire next year, there have been strong indications that Mr Buhari was keen on removing him from office in order to appoint someone he feels more comfortable with ahead of 2019 elections.
According to reports, Mr Seiyefa was pressured into subservience by Mr Buhari’s Chief of Staff Abba Kyari. Mr Kyari overruled some personnel and administrative changes made by Mr Seiyefa shortly after assuming office, despite strong protest from the top spy chief.
Mr Seiyefa was the most-senior official at the SSS when Mr Osinbajo asked him to lead, a development that was widely celebrated at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja and field offices across the country.
It was not immediately clear whether he would be asked to return to his previous position at the SSS training school or be compulsorily retired when Mr Bichi assumes office Friday.
President Buhari’s action has drawn criticism from leaders in the southern parts of the country, who condemned the president for being too quick to undo the laudable appointment made by Mr Osinbajo, which also placed a southerner in the top national security position for the first time since Mr Buhari assumed office in May 2015.
The leaders in their statement said Mr Buhari has dismantled all precedents that engendered a united Nigeria in order to satisfy his sectional inclinations.
They said Mr Yusuf magaji Bichi has retired from service but was only brought back because six most-senior officials at the SSS who should have led the agency based on hierarchy are all southerners.
Mr Buhari has been accused of glaring lopsidedness in his appointments, especially into security and law enforcement agencies. He often pushes back against this claim by pointing to some appointments he made from the south.