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Daura remains DG by proxy… Nigerians react to Buhari’s appointment of another retiree as DSS head

PRESIDENT Muhammdu Buhari’s appointment of Yusuf Bichi as the new Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) has become a subject of fresh controversy.

Bichi took over the mantle of leadership at the DSS on Thursday, bringing to an end the 38-day tenure of Mathew Seiyefa, who was appointed as acting DG by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, following the sack of the former DG, Lawal Daura.

The controversy surrounding Bichi’s appointment stems from three reasons: (a) That Bichi has already retired from service having put in 35 years in the DSS. (b) The allegations of nepotism and tribalism against President Buhari, given that Seiyefa is from Southern Nigeria and Bichi is from the North. (c) That while Bichi was in service, he was a strong loyalist of Daura’s, and his appointment simply means that Daura was still in charge, albeit by proxy.

Yusuf Magaji Bichi, new DSS DG

Bichi joined the DSS when the body was known as the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO), in 1982, and retired in February 2017. At the time of his retirement, he was the Director of Finance and Administration. According to Chidi Odinkalu, former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), “It’s likely (that) through him (Bichi), Daura will run the agency (DSS) by proxy. It could get worse.”

Recall that President Buhari had also brought Daura, his kinsman, out of retirement to head the DSS, and under his leadership, the service became notorious for all kinds of legal and human rights violations, ranging from illegal detention to forced disappearance and torture.

Daura’s reign came to an anti-climax following the DSS blockade of the National Assembly complex in August. The incident took place while President Buhari was away in London observing his annual vacation, leaving Osinbajo as acting President.

Reports had it that when Osinbajo queried Daura as to why he ordered the NASS blockade, the latter allegedly responded that he was answerable only to the President.

After Daura was sacked, he was reported to have been taken in for questioning by the police. The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, days later, submitted a report to the presidency, stating that Daura was siding with some politicians to undermine the Buhari administration. Nothing has been heard about the investigation.

Meanwhile, in the few days that Seiyefa was in office as Acting DSS DG, there was a visible change for the better in the service’s operations. First, Seiyefa appointed a spokesman whose job it would be to communicate the agency’s activities to the public. He also ordered a review into several cases involving persons who had spent years in DSS custody without charge, and without their family members knowing their whereabouts.

Odinkalu told the ICIR that so far, his organisation, the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA) in partnership with many other organisations and groups, have negotiated the release of over 100 persons detained incommunicado for over two years by the DSS, “and there are still over 350 still there”.

Whether the DSS will continue on the path of positive reforms as had been kickstarted by Seiyefa, or it would return to the days of impunity as was the case during Daura’s leadership, is yet to be seen.

In the meantime: here are reactions from the social media for and against Bichi’s appointment:

Already, some elders from Southern Nigeria have rejected the appointment of Bichi as the DSS DG. describing Buhari as the most “sectional, narrow, parochial, and tribalistic” President Nigeria has had since the country’s independence in 1960.

“We have looked critically at the profiles of the Acting DG who was removed and the one Buhari just appointed and it is crystal clear that Bichi does not come with any experience close to that of Seiyefa,” the group stated.

“The only qualification for this appointment is therefore only the rabid nepotism of the President which has seen him always masking personal and sectional interest as national interest.

“Besides, Bichi is an out-of-the -system man drafted by Mr Lawan Daura in the days of his nepotism rule at the DSS. The next six most senior persons in line of succession at the DSS after Seiyefa, from our findings, are all southerners, which may explain why the President picked a man who already retired from the DSS to lead because of ethnic affinity.”

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