BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI
…Says promotion, recruitment, deployment devoid of ethnic, religious colouration…
ABUJA—Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika gave a shocking revelation Monday on the bomb attack at Jaji Cantonment last year which killed an Army General and several others when he disclosed that the then Commander, Infantry Corps and Centre, Jaji, General Mohammed Isa had security report 24 hours earlier of the plot to bomb Jaji but he chose to ignore the warning.
The army boss gave startling information at a briefing at the army headquarters. His words, “our Intelligence and Military Police departments had gotten information of a plan by terrorists to attack the Jaji Cantonment and the intelligence was immediately relayed to General Isa. The same report that Gen. Isa got was received by the GOC 1 Division on the day before the attack.
“The GOC had to immediately cancel his trip and returned to base. Isa did not act on the report. Isa did not give instruction to his subordinate. I was surprised when I saw Isa at the annual COAS Conference and I asked him, what he was doing in Asaba when his house was on fire”.
The Army Chief disclosed that as a result of the in-action of General Isa then, the Nigerian Army lost a General in the bomb blast apart from those who were killed in the military protestant church.
Vanguard had also reported that an Air Commodore of the AirForce, who was the Chief Instructor of the Air Force Wing at AFCSC, was also killed in the blast.
Lt. Gen. Ihejirika disclosed that the detailed investigations have commenced to determine whether Maj. Gen Isah’s inaction was due to negligence or a demonstration of further involvement in the bombings in which several officers and others were killed.
Meanwhile, the Army Chief declared that the recent retirements, promotions, recruitment and deployments in the army were done devoid of ethnic and religious colouration, pointing out that the Army does not discriminate against any person on the basis of ethno-religious background.
He explained that the delay in the retirement of many officers in the last exercise who were due for retirement, months before last December 2012, was caused by the inability of the Army Council to sit over recommendations of the Board on promotions and retirements.
According to General Ihejirika, the Army Council comprising, Mr. President as Chairman, minister of Defence, Permanent Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Army Staff, has to approve the retirement of any officer of the army before such officer can be asked to go.
His words, “The type of allegations making the rounds (allegation of lopsided recruitment, promotion, retirement and deployment in the Nigerian Army), are not unfamiliar to the Nigerian Army”.
“Every nation has its frontlines and I can say it is these frontlines that are being exploited by faceless groups to cause more problems for Nigerians. I believe they (groups) would have identified that the Nigerian army is one of the few institutions that will stand in defence of this country; come rain, and come sunshine.
“Why do I say this? When we commenced operations in Maiduguri against the Boko Haram terrorist’s sect, text messages were sent round, to the fact that the Chief of Army Staff (Ihejirika) has deployed a General of ‘Igbo’ extraction to avenge the killing of Igbo’s during the civil war. But it is on record that the Boko Haram sect claimed that they were fighting to avenge the death of their leader and other members killed in various encounters”.
“From the operations that are taking place, are people being killed as alleged? Even though the operation being conducted is coordinated by leadership of the Defence Headquarters, but it is being interpreted wrongly to whip up sentiments by making reference to the civil war fought and resolved many years ago. In fact, before some of them were born”.
“They choose to orchestrate the promotion and appointment of some Igbo officers, but they did not bother to talk of appointment generally. I believe that most of you here have come to find out whether the army is still intact or whether there is turmoil in the army as alleged by the faceless groups. You have seen the hierarchy of the army and you can speak for yourself that the army is intact. I believe that while the officers were being introduced, the crème de la crème of the army, what I call the chief executives of the Nigerian army, I believe some of you were taking notes, on the number of Igbo officers”.
“Some of my officers have told me on a lighter note that they would start answering Igbo names soon, so that they become properly Igbonized as alleged. I had a lot of experience before becoming the Chief of Army Staff. I happened to have served in the Military Secretary department. The department that handles promotions, postings and retirements. One of the things we sought to achieve while in that department was to ensure that promotions in the army are made very objective and they are merit based”.
He also dismissed allegations of sending officers from South-East to the North-North on the current operations to stem the Boko Haram insurgency, as according to him, there was no iota of truth in the rumours.
“Each time there was crisis in any part of the country, we know the consequences of such crisis. Before you know it, rumours will be awash that people of certain extraction and religion have been killed and killing will start at the other end. These are issues we must overcome. The Nigerian army has come a long way. So when I said my vision for the Nigerian army is to turn the Nigerian Army into a force better able to meet contemporary challenges; I also took the Nigerian frontlines into consideration. I want to assure you that the Nigerian army of today is not the type that dragged the nation into war in the 1960’s?
“You might wish to know that in my deployments, I have General Gani Wahab in 1 division, Kaduna, I have Brigadier General M. Ibrahim in 1 Brigade and Brigadier General Iliya Abbah in 2 Brigade. And I seat here, very comfortable with that posting. Concerning General Olayinka Oshinowo (former GOC 92 div, Enugu), who happened to have been mentioned in one write up as one of those short changed, it might interest the public to know that General Oshinowo had missed his promotion before I became the Chief of Army staff and that he was promoted to the rank of Major General under my watch”.
Earlier, Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Attahiru read a statement dealing wholly responding to the allegations saying, ‘The attention of the Nigerian army has been dawn to spurious misleading and faceless publications in some national dailies on a baseless allegation of lopsided recruitment, promotion, retirement and deployment of some senior officers of the Nigerian army’.
“It is however surprising that some few media chose to celebrate this calculated attempt of some frivolous, unpatriotic and unscrupulous elements aimed at insinuating that the recruitment, promotion, retirement and recent deployment of senior officers in the Nigerian army were ethnically motivated. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no ethnic or religious consideration in this routine exercises in the Nigerian Army’.
“The motive of the writers appear to be to destabilize the Nigerian army and negatively affect its cohesion thereby, creating chaos in the country. it is a great disservice to the nation for anyone to choose through deliberate falsehood to link the routine activities of promotions and postings of the Nigerian army with ethno-religious consideration. This faceless groups if they had no ulterior motives would have sought to air there grievances through official channels of communications which are available for redress by any genuinely aggrieved person(s) over any policy or actions of the Nigerian Army”.
“The Nigerian army continues to provide aid to civil authority in its counter terrorism effort. We all agree that the Nigerian army has made remarkable achievements with the support of other security agencies in combating terrorist’s activities which is evident in its nationwide deployment of troops. The activities of violent extremist organizations have been seriously curtailed”.
“For instance, on the 6th February 2013, the Nigerian Army conducted a raid at the hideout of suspected terrorists in the Dorayi Quarters in Kano state leading to the arrest of the alleged mastermind behind the attack on the convoy of the emir of Kano . There are likelihood that violent extremist organizations will be intent at using all sorts of subterfuge to counter the coherent and focused fight by the Nigerian army and other security agencies in the fight against terrorism”.
“It is on record that the number of Major Generals promoted since the coming of the present leadership increased from 2008 to date in line with Nigerian army order of battle. This was a view to not only enhancing our force structure, fighting efficiency and cohesion but also to boast the morale of personnel. While 8 and 12 Brigadier Generals were promoted in 2008 and 2009 respectively, 26 were promoted in 2010, 25 in 2011 and 22 in 2012’”.
“So the Nigerian army does not discriminate against any person or group of persons notwithstanding their ethnic callings. We focus on merit and that is the guiding principle. Make no mistake about it. There are very fine officers from each geo-political zones of the federation. For the records, in the last army promotions and posting, there is no zone that was not represented by well qualified senior officers”.