The Senate has been given a knock for ordering reinstatement of 38 Army officers compulsorily retired from the services of the Nigerian Army in June 2016 over professional and allied misconducts.
The Coalition for Truth and Justice, in an open letter dated November 30, signed by its National Coordinator, Chief Charles Timothy, esq and addressed to President of the Senate, and copied the President, Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said it found the resolution strange, unwholesome, and abuse of the extant procedures of the Armed Forces of Nigeria Act 2004 and a subtle attempt to usurp the functions of the Armed Forces Council and the Nigerian Army Council.
The Senate had acted on a petition submitted to it by Colonel Chidi Kalu Ukoha, one of the army officers compulsorily retired from the Nigerian army, alleging wrongful retirement from service.
It consequently passed a resolution directing the Nigerian army to reinstate/recall the petitioner and the 37 other officers purported to have been wrongfully retired from services of the Nigerian Army.
But the group in the letter accused the Senate of failing to conduct proper studies on statutory bodies in the Armed Forces Act as a guide before deliberating and passing a very important resolution.
“We believe, the Senate erred by its failure to conduct proper research on the organogram and powers of the tissues of statutory bodies in the Armed Forces Act as a guide before deliberating and passing a very important resolution, such as the one ordering the reinstatement of the 38 retired officers.
“This blunder has invalidated the Senate resolution from the outset as evidenced in the routing of their directive to the wrong Service or institution or body or wrong person in the bid to resolve the compulsory retirement of the 38 officers.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Armed Forces Act, Chapter A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, which provides for the command, maintenance and administration of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, in Part II established the Armed Forces Council, which is vested with enormous powers, including the discipline of erring officers.
“Specifically, the Armed Forces Act stipulates in Part II, Article (1) that subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, the Forces Council shall be responsible, under the general authority of the President, for the command, discipline and administration of, and for all other matters relating to the Armed Forces”.
The group argued that besides wrongly intervening in a matter that was meant to sanitise the military, the Senate directed the cause of action the wrong quarters.
“In effect, aside the wrong intervention of the Senate, it has directed the cause of action on its validation of the purported claims of faulty compulsory retirement of the Army officers to the wrong quarters – the Nigerian Army, whereas the Army council, which adjudicated on the fate of the indicted and retired officers, issued the proclamation of retirement. It is a separate body under the law, with defined functions and powers which are different from the Nigerian Army as an institution.
“It is an unpardonable error of judgment for the Senate to assume the Nigerian Army retired the officers, instead of the Army Council. In Part IV of the Armed Forces Act, Article 9 (1) which establishes the Nigerian Army Council, clearly identifies its membership as: “There shall be established for the Army a council to be known as the Nigerian Army Council(in this Act referred to as “the Army Council”). (2)The Army Council shall consist of (a) the Minister of Defence who shall be the Chairman; (b) the Chief of Defence Staff who shall be the Vice Chairman; and (c) the Chief of Army Staff (3) The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence shall be the Secretary to the Council.”
The group further cautioned the Senate to be dispassionate in their resolutions so as not unnecessarily burden the Nigerian public and spur hatred on the Chief of Army Staff for his refusal to comply with it’s resolutions in respect of the retired officers.