By Kingsley Omonobi & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA — The fate of all the Service Chiefs will be determined today as indications emerged, yesterday, that President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces will meet with them.
Sources said the main agenda will be the battle against terrorism and the relocation of Command and Control Centre of the military to Maiduguri, Borno State capital. It was gathered that the Service Chiefs may be asked to voluntarily retire from service to give way to new appointees.
According to the source, the plan of President Buhari to relocate the Command and Control Centre to Maiduguri in order to put an end to terrorism did not receive the support of the military high command, hence he needs those who would be ready to work in line with his thinking.
Last Friday, the President in his inaugural speech said victory over the Boko Haram would remain a mirage unless the Command and Control Centre (service chiefs) is relocated to the theatre of operation.
He had said: “The most immediate is Boko Haram insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja.
“The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents. This government will do all it can to rescue them alive.”
7th Division already in Maiduguri
Already, the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, created by former Army chief, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd), commanded by a General Officer Commanding, and made up of two brigades and seven battalions of about 900 officers and soldiers per battalion is in Maiduguri. They are backed by the 3rd Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army with headquarters in Jos, Plateau State.
Military sources express reservations
Though President Buhari’s speech was hailed by many people, military sources, who spoke with some journalists, yesterday, in Abuja expressed reservations about the directive which they see as an “attempt to frustrate and humiliate our chiefs before sacking them.
“Some of us have analyzed the speech and our conclusion is that President Buhari did not appreciate the efforts put in place in fighting the terrorists. In the whole speech, he did not commend us at all but instead seemed to agree with the cynics that we have not been observing human rights in our operations.
“He went further to praise our counterparts in the neighbouring countries who are not in the theatre of operation but were encouraged only to help block their borders to prevent the terrorists from escaping to re-mobilise. As if that was not enough, President Buhari said he wants our Command and Control Centre relocated to Maiduguri. What for?
“We are involved in about nine operations in the country now. If the directive is carried out, then our focus will primarily be on terrorism at the expense of other criminal activities such as kidnapping, armed robbery, piracy, pipeline vandalism and others.”
Directive alien in military operations
According to the source, “Such a directive is alien in military operation anywhere in the world. It is an attempt to frustrate, humiliate our chiefs before sacking them. How do you ask our service chiefs to be in the same place with their commanders? Where is the respect? If he wants them to go, he should simply tell them; rather, he is coming with a blackmail so that he would say he wanted them to remain but they ignored his order so that they might be subjected to humiliation and frustration before kicking them out of the service.”
Asked if the service chiefs have met with the President over the issue, our source explained that Buhari did not speak with them before giving the order.
“How will they meet him without his invitation and if it is tomorrow they would be meeting him for briefing, we don’t know; may be he would ask them to go or ask them to obey his directive before kicking them out,” the source said.
The service chiefs who came into office on January 16, 2014 are Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Kenneth Minimah; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu; and Naval Chief, Vice Admiral Jibrin Usman.
Meanwhile, the President held a closed door meeting with the National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) at Defence Headquarters, yesterday. Details of the meeting were not made available as the NSA refused to comment on the subject of the meeting.
Buhari to visit Niger, Chad, Wednesday, Thursday
Also, President Mohammadu Buhari will on Wednesday and Thursday visit the Republics of Niger and Chad respectively.
The trip which would be Buhari’s first since he assumed office on May 29 was yesterday confirmed to Journalists by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu.
According to Shehu, Buhari will first visit Niger on Wednesday, pass the night there before proceeding to Chad republic on Thursday.
“The president has Niger and chad ahead of him. This will be his first trip outside the country in obvious matters of security”, he said.
President Buhari in his speech vowed to make the war against terror a cardinal Programme of his administration. He said, “Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame following his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion, Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.
“Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origin, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connections to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a recurrence of this evil.
“For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations.
“We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces. Boko Haram is not only the security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land.”