Prior to the security lapses that truncated the pre-budget presentation dinner hosted by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians had waited anxiously for the budget’s approval and the subsequent ceremonial laying, before the National Assembly.
The news of the budget approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that Wednesday was seen as a cheering one, especially given the anxiety that greeted the budget delay within the business community.
One of the resolutions from the just concluded Nigerian Economic Summit was the clamor for an early passage of the budget to set the direction for government spending in 2018, as well as fast tract the process of economic recovery.
President Muhammadu Buhari himself was also said to be very eager to beat the October deadline set for itself by the current administration to ensure that the country returns to the January to December budget cycle.
To achieve this, he quickly requested for a dinner with the National Assembly leadership next day, Thursday, as part of diplomatic move to woo the law makers and soften their hard stance against the Executive, a situation that would have ultimately paved way for early passage of the budget.
But these were not to be as poor security arrangements by the President’s men bugled the dinner over procedures that made the lawmakers to turn back in protest, forcing a boycott of the dinner.
On arrival at the pilot gate at the Presidential Villa, the lawmakers were asked to come down for security clearance, unlike the usual practice where such clearance only take place at the entrance into the banquet hall.
Such clearance which would have involved the taking of the photograph of each of the invited principal officers of the National Assembly are usually done for visitors
Only the Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara were exempted while others including Ekweremadu and Lasun and other principal officers were told to get down from the bus to get cleared, before they could proceed to the venue of the dinner.
Senate President Saraki, who was obviously irked by this directive, immediately ordered the bus driver to turn round and go back to the National Assembly where they dropped off the principal officers.
It took the embarrassed President Buhari to personally apologize for the misdemeanor of his security men before the lawmakers could come back for the dinner, five days later.
If the dinner had held, on Thursday, 26th October, it would have still been possible for the President to lay the budget before the National Assembly on Tuesday, 31st October, according to the President’s calculations.
Now, with the planned presentation of the budget on the Tuesday 7th November, it means the budget would have been late with seven extra days.
These lapses on the side of the security personnel, causing the delay in the budget presentation also created avoidable embarrassment for the President.
The obvious fact that this was not the first time such lapses will be occurring, calls for proper training and orientation for Villa security staff, especially with reference to protocol arrangements.
Not too long ago, the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen, faced similar embarrassment at the entrance to the Council Chambers until a senior officer arrested what would have created bad blood between the Executive and the Judiciary.
It was obvious that the security man at the entrance did not know who the CJN was and was about to stop him from entering the Chamber but for the quick intervention of a senior officer.
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State was once subjected to similar embarrassing situation as his phones were seized from him as he made to enter the Council chambers for an event, because the officer did not know that Ayade is a governor.
As the Governor made his way out of the Villa after the function, other security men moved close to bid him farewell, but the young officer got the shock of his life when the governor shunned him as he tried to join his colleagues to greet the governor.
“So, you now know that I am a governor when you took my phones from me,” Ayade said as he walked out.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari took over at the Presidential Villa, in 2015, operatives have struggled to get the security system right.
The first sign that all was not well with the security system was the altercations between the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the President. Abdulraman Mani, and the Colonel Lawal Abubakar, the Aide de Camp (ADC) to the President, over which of the agencies between the Department of State Security Service (DSS) and the Nigerian Army, should provide close protection to the president.
In an apparent show of distrust for the men of DSS, the security apparatus at the Villa opted for soldiers to be deployed as the President’s personal security guards and were posted to the inner cycle of the Presidential Villa.
Following the development, there were speculations that the men of DSS were expelled from the villa, which presidency promptly denied, adding that “President Muhammadu Buhari has given no such order.
In a statement denying the report, Presidency said “While it is true that a reorganisation of security at the Presidential Villa which involves the realignment of personnel from various services is underway, the exercise does not translate to the expulsion of DSS personnel from the premises in any way.
“The changes being made are routine adjustments which are not unexpected in any dynamic environment from time to time.”
The men of DSS later returned to take full control of the security at the Presidential Villa.