On June 10, 2016, Nigerian Army Spokesman, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, informed Nigerians that thirty eight senior army officers were retired based on “service exigencies”.
His statement defended the retirement on the basis that: “It should be recalled that not too long ago, some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 general elections. Similarly, the investigations by the Presidential Committee investigating the Defence Contracts revealed a lot. Some officers have already been arraigned in Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). People should therefore not read this out of context. The military must remain apolitical and professional at all times. We must applaud and support this laudable initiative by the government.”
The Army Chief, Lt General Tukur Buratai and the Defence Minister, Brigadier-General Dan-Ali (retd) in attempts to justify the retirements, noted publicly that all officers were granted a fair hearing and given opportunities to defend themselves before being retired. The Army, through one Gen Nicholas on June 14, 2016 during an interview on Channels News TV, stated categorically that all the officers were allowed to defend themselves during the investigation process.
Recently, the media has been awash with stories that not all the officers were granted fair hearing. However, some of the affected officers alleged a witch-hunt, stating that the Army did not give them fair hearing. Further investigations revealed that as many as twenty officers were not given fair hearing. It is now public knowledge that more than half of those retired were not called before any panel of inquiry. They just found their names on the Internet, falsely accused and were retired!!!
If this is true, then we have a situation that has created more questions than answers. First, did the Army Chief and the Minister of Defence deliberately mislead the President and Nigerians, when they said everyone retired was granted fair hearing? This is very serious and places grave doubts on the credibility and sincerity of the whole exercise.
Second, was the retirement a witch-hunt? If so, it implies that some of the retired officers were innocent. It does not augur well for the military if its officers can be summarily retired without recourse to laid-down administrative and judicial procedures. It would, therefore, be grossly unfair and unjust to retire innocent Nigerians from their careers in which they and government have invested heavily.
President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of high integrity, and Nigerians elected him into office based on his proven track record. Furthermore, as a man who has been a victim of injustice in the past, he should not allow Nigerians to be treated unjustly under his leadership.
As the Commander-in-Chief, if indeed there were irregularities in the processes leading up to the retirements, he should immediately intervene and direct the Army to reinstate those affected. While Nigerians support the laudable initiatives by government, the same Nigerians do not like injustice.
Over to you, Mr President.