By KINGSLEY OMONOBI, Tony Edike, Ben Agande & JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU
ABUJA—Indications emerged, yesterday, why President Goodluck Jonathan sacked the service chiefs and appointed new ones. The sack of the service chiefs, Vanguard gathered, was to prevent an implosion in the Armed Forces that was capable of threatening the country’s democracy.
Their sack came less than seven months after a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, declared the appointments of the Service Chiefs in the country by the President without recourse to the National Assembly as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, in a statement, said that President Jonathan “has in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria approved the following changes in the nation’s Military High Command:
“Air Marshal Alex Badeh takes over from Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General Kenneth Minimah takes over from Lt.-General Azubike Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin takes over from Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu takes over from Air Marshal Badeh as Chief of Air Staff.
“All the changes are with immediate effect.”
According to him, “President Jonathan has briefed the leadership of the National Assembly on the appointment of the new service chiefs and will, in keeping with the provisions of the law, request the National Assembly to formally confirm the appointments when it reconvenes.”
Earlier court order on service chiefs
It will be recalled that Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had on June 1, 2013 in his judgment in a suit by Lagos lawyer, Mr Festus Keyamo, filed in 2008 challenging the non-confirmation by the Senate of the service chiefs appointed by the President, maintained that it was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void for the President to single-handedly okay persons for appointment as service chiefs.
Justice Bello held that Section 18 (1) & (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A.20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, is in conformity with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and do not fall within the category of existing laws under Section 315 (2) of the constitution which any sitting President may by an order, modify its text to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the constitution.
Meanwhile, Keyamo said, that he had been “absolutely vindicated.”
I’ve been vindicated — Keyamo
Speaking to AFP, he said: “My appeal to all Nigerians is not to be afraid to approach the courts to ventilate your grievance if government has committed any illegality.”
Similarly, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, while reacting to the sack of the service chiefs, said it has nothing against President Jonathan’s decision to replace the service chiefs as it was his prerogative to reorganise the nation’s security whenever it was necessary.
Secretary-General of the organisation, Dr Joe Nwaorgu, said that only the President could explain the rationale behind the removal of the top military officers and the choice of those officers appointed to take over from them as it is purely a security issue.
One of the removed service chiefs, Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Ihejirika, is from the South East zone.
Igbo youths kick
But the Youth Wing of Ohaneze Ndigbo, sees the sack of Ihejirika, differently, as it condemned same, saying that it was calculated to marginalize Ndigbo in the appointment of new service chiefs. It called on the National Assembly to reject the appointment as it lacked federal character.
Also, the Federated Council of Igbo Youths, FCIY, frowned at what it described as a planned attempt to put the Igbo nation in the back seat by the current administration and called on Ndigbo to resist the ongoing alienation of the race.
Reacting to the new appointments, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, wondered why in all the new positions shared, there was no person from the South-East considered worthy by President Jonathan to occupy any of the positions.
Why service chiefs were sacked
Indications emerged, yesterday that the retirement of the service chiefs was effected by President Jonathan with a view to preventing an implosion in the Armed Forces that was capable of threatening the nation’s democracy.
Before now, Admiral O.S. Ibrahim, who was the oldest serving military officer in the land was a Course 17 regular intake of the Nigerian Defence Academy; General Onyeabor Ihejirika was a Course 18 regular intake of the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA while Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba was a Course 22 intake of the NDA.
Ordinarily, the officers by virtue of their years in service or age, ought to have been retired in consonance with the terms and conditions of service of the armed forces (TACOS), but the challenges brought about by the war on terrorism occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency and President Jonathan’s belief in their capabilities to tame the monster made him sustain the officers in office.
However, the sustenance of the very senior officers was causing underground murmuring, disaffection and grumbling among officers because it meant more junior officers, who would have gained promotion or risen to the top echelon of their services may never get there because they would be caught by age on rank or shortage of vacancies for postings, which may lead to early retirement.
For instance, while Admiral Ibrahim was a Course 17 intake, next to him in the Navy, Vice Admiral Ezeoba was a Course 22 intake while their subordinates’ were courses 24 and above with implications that the next looming retirements of officers would have consumed up to Courses 25 and 26, who are the future of the Navy.
In the Army, Ihejirika as Course 18 and still serving meant that many of his juniors have gone on retirement and more would still have gone as the army had become top-heavy and there must be weeding out for the triangle to maintain its shape.
Need to avert implosion
Consequently, an internal explosion was imminent and the question arose, as to whether President Jonathan was unaware of the terms and conditions of service which stipulates 56 years of age and 35 years in service.
Moreover, many junior generals, Rear Admirals and Air Vice Marshals were being retired in compliance with the TACOS to the detriment of the armed forces.
Vanguard gathered that many of the retiring officers petitioned the National Assembly to bring to the notice of their representatives, the fate that may befall their junior colleagues if nothing was done about the anomaly, though they acknowledged that Jonathan has the prerogative to keep a service chief as long as he wanted.
Aside these reasons, Vanguard was told that the President was convinced that the dangers posed by the Boko Haram menace had been sufficiently curtailed by the service chiefs especially with the innovations brought about by Lt. General Ihejirika.
Minimah: New Army Chief
Regarding the new appointments, Major General Minimah, who hails from Rivers State and is a Course 24 intake of the NDA, was until his appointment, the Commander, Infantry Corps.
He was at several times, Brigade Commander 1 Brigade, Sokoto, and General officer Commanding 81 divisions, Lagos. He was redeployed to Jaji as the Commander of Infantry Corps after the unfortunate bombing of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College by Boko Haram terrorists last year. Minimah was born on July 27, 1959.
Jibrin: New Naval Chief
Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin was at the Defence Headquarters before his appointment. He was at several times, the Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Chief of Logistics at Naval Headquarters and Commandant, Defence Intelligence School. He hails from Kogi State.
Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin was born on September 16, 1959 and joined the Navy as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 24 Regular Course.
Amosu: New Air Force Chief
Air Vice Marshal Amosu, the new Chief of Air Staff, hails from Lagos State. At several times, he was the Commander, Presidential Air Fleet, Director of Operations at NAF Headquarters and Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, Makurdi.
Air Vice Marshal Amosu was born on August 1, 1958 and joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 25 Regular Course.
Badeh: Defence Chief
Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, formerly the Chief of Air Staff and now Chief of Defence Staff, hails from Adamawa state.
Badeh was born on January 10, 1957 and joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 21 Regular Course