By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke, with agency reports
ABUJA—Following the appointment of new service chiefs on Monday by President Muhammadu Buhari, military sources have confided in Vanguard that about 25 Major Generals may proceed on retirement when the Senate confirms the new appointments.
Indications also emerged, yesterday, in Abuja that President Buhari’s forthcoming trip to the United States of America this month for extensive bilateral, economic and financial discussions with US President Barrack Obama, the need to engage his hosts about the terrorism challenges as well as Nigeria’s military capability to tackle the menace conclusively, necessitated the sack of the service chiefs last Monday.
Vanguard was told that with his appointment as Chief of Army Staff, Major-General T.Y. Buratai who is a Course 29 regular intake of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), all Major-Generals from Course 25, 26, and 27 may have to leave the service voluntarily while a few on Course 28 may be posted to Defence Headquarters.
The source noted that General Buratai may decide to post his course mates (Regular 29) and one or two of Course 28 officers to Defence Headquarters.
The source added that the appointment of Major-General Abayomi Olonishakin, a Course 25 regular intake, as the new Chief of Defence Staff, may be the leeway needed for Course 27 and 28 intakes to move up to DHQ.
The military source specifically said that those who are course mates to the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General KTJ Minimah and those of Course 26 to 28 may have to retire since they cannot serve under their junior.
It was reliably gathered that the appointments of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and that of the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) is the exclusive preserve of the President, while only the CDS and the other service chiefs are the ones subject to Senate clearance.
In fact, it was learnt that former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd) had three weeks ago informed the new Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan to proceed on retirement leave. However, luck smiled on him when the President on Monday announced him as the new CDI, taking over from Rear Admiral Gabriel Okoi.
Why service chiefs were sacked
On what informed the sack of the service chiefs on Monday, very reliable security sources told Vanguard that “America might wish to know why the military commanders (sacked service chiefs) were still in place, when after several months of being in control and getting huge financial support from the Jonathan administration, Boko Haram is still biting hard.
“They will present Buhari with the figures and ask how this huge amount of money was spent, and for what purposes? Why is the result not showing? This is because America will tell President Buhari point blank, that there is a package to assist Nigeria conquer this menace but it will be on the grounds that a new team that is tested and will spare no effort in ending the Boko Haram mayhem is emplaced.”
The source said President Buhari will now be able to look Obama in the face and say, “I have a new team in place, trusted, with integrity, and primed to actualize my mission of ending Boko haram insurgency”.
Continuing, the source said, “Buhari will tell the Americans that he has set machinery in motion to investigate how the huge amounts of money so far released to fight insurgency was spent and why after such release to the security agencies, many of the equipment promised, to deal with Boko Haram, are nowhere to be seen.
“President Buhari will also show the Americans a blueprint of how he intends to employ new resources, improve and equip the armed forces, to ensure that any suspected corrupt tendencies are nipped in the bud”, the source added.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said, yesterday, that the Senate was ready to perform its constitutional duty by screening the new service chiefs immediately the upper legislative chambers gets the list from the Presidency.
In a statement, yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, the Senate President also clarified the misconception of an earlier tweet where Saraki was quoted as saying the Senate does not need to screen or confirm the new service chiefs appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said in the statement that “we want to make it abundantly clear that based on inquiries made to the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on whether the Senate was consulted before the appointment of new Service Chiefs was announced, he had in response tweeted that the appointment of service chiefs is the exclusive function of the President as stipulated by the Constitution.
“Let it be known that his comment is now being misinterpreted to say the Senate will neither screen nor confirm the new service chiefs. This is far from the truth.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Saraki has said his comment is without prejudice to extant laws and court pronouncements on the issue and, therefore, that the Senate will do the needful when the list of new service chiefs is sent to it by Mr. President.
“Saraki in a new tweet, yesterday, said: “This is to clarify the earlier position which was not up to date and does not represent the position of the Senate President on the issue of screening of the newly appointed service chiefs. The Senate will perform its constitutional duty when it receives communication from the President on the appointments.” The Senate would resume plenary next week, July 21.
President Buhari had on Monday approved the appointments of new service chiefs and also a new National Security Adviser.
This followed the President’s sack of the former service chiefs. The new appointments are as follows: Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin – Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T.Y. Buratai – Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas – Chief of Naval Staff; Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar – Chief of Air Staff; Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan – Chief of Defence Intelligence and Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.) – National Security Adviser.
Security experts hail appointment of new service chiefs, NSA
Meantime, some security experts have hailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of new service chiefs, describing it as a step in the right direction.
The experts, who spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, yesterday, said the changes would impact positively on operations of the military.
They said contrary to comments in some quarters, the appointments were not belated but calculated toward achieving the vision of the present administration in the security sector.
Retired Air Commodore Yusuf Anas, the Executive Secretary of the Centre for Crisis Communication, an NGO, said the appointments would add fresh ideas to military operations.
Anas said the changes were made at a time when much was expected from the armed forces in tackling resurgence of bombings and attacks in parts of the country.
“As far as I know, it is a welcome development, it is very timely and expected of every new administration with a distinct programme and security policy.
“Appointing the top echelon of the armed forces at this point in time should be supported because it will inject new blood into the operations of the military.”
Similarly, a former Commissioner of Police in the FCT, Mr Lawrence Alobi, lauded the choice of the new officers by the president, describing them as ‘round pegs in round holes’.
He said the appointments would inject new ideas and add a different dimension to the nation’s fight against insurgency in the North-East.
Alobi urged the new service chiefs to key into the President’s programme and bring about the much-needed change in the armed forces.
He urged them to overhaul the entire security network of the nation in line with the expectations of Nigerians.
He said Nigerians expect the new leadership of the armed forces to add value to what their predecessors had put on ground.
Another Abuja-based security expert, Mr Ben Okezie, said the appointments were well informed.
Okezie said the perceived delay in the appointments could have been prompted by the President’s need to carefully study the situation he inherited from the last administration.
He said the President’s charge to the new service chiefs was to remind them of the battered reputation of the armed forces as evident in the recent amnesty report on rights abuses.
“The president’s charge to the service chiefs is reminding them of the amnesty international report that indicted the military in its operations in the North-East.
“What he is just telling them is to be mindful of the content of the report and work toward correcting whatever wrongs that might have been done in the past,” Okezie said.