…President should not be pushed – Buratai
By Kingsley Omonobi
Since the return of Nigeria to democratic rule in 1999, after decades of military regime, never in the history of the armed forces has the nation witnessed the type of animated controversy generated by the call to sack or retain Service Chiefs.
Firstly, the argument was that the appointment of the Service Chiefs, made up of the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete Ekwe Ibas and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, by President Muhammadu Buhari reeks of nepotism especially when the Director General of DSS, Alhaji Bichi, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu, the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Mongonu, are all from the North.
It did not end there.
The Customs Service, the Immigration Service, the National Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Prisons Service are also headed by officers from the North.
After years of discourse of the alleged lopsided appointments in favour of the North, Nigerians of the South extraction seemed to have resigned themselves to live with the ‘anomaly’.
However, the vexed issues of insecurity of lives and property, wanton killings, herdsmen attacks and intransigence, kidnappings, astronomical rise in banditry and the unending Boko Haram terrorism have gotten Nigerians’ patience stretched to the tipping point, hence the attack on both Buhari and the Service Chiefs with many calling on the President to sack them.
The truth, however, is that the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces cannot be stampeded or forced to sack the Service Chiefs by either the National Assembly or anyone except he so wishes based on what he set out for them to achieve and his assessment of their performance.
The two chambers of the National Assembly had lamented the rising insecurity in the country and passed a vote of no confidence on the Service Chiefs and other heads of the security community in the country.
Consequently, the Senate and House of Reps urged Buhari to sack the Service Chiefs, saying they have outlived their usefulness.
In a heated debate at the Senate chamber on the issue, lawmakers said the Service Chiefs had overstayed their tenure.
“The security architecture of Nigeria is overstretched and is no longer effective. We are told that the current strength of the Nigeria Police is about 300,000 to police about 200million people”, one senator added.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that one of the reasons for the continued retention of the Service Chiefs is the monumental and debilitating impact such an action may have on the military if the Commander-in-Chief, who has the prerogative to appoint any officer from the rank of a Major General, goes ahead to pick a junior Major General and equivalent as a Service Chief.
The example of what happened in the police, when the President appointed Ibrahim Kputom Idris as the 19th indigenous Inspector General of Police (IGP) following the retirement of Solomon Arase from office when he was about number 25 in the hierarchy of appointment, is still fresh in memory.
This is because 24 of Idris’ seniors had to be retired unceremoniously just for him to become IGP.
Going by feelers from security circles, if Buhari decides to appoint Service Chiefs from the junior cadre of Major Generals and equivalent as the situation is today, more than 100 Major Generals and their equivalent in the Navy (Rear Admirals) and Airforce (AVMs) would be sacrificed for no fault of theirs.
Because for Generals of Courses 25, 26 and 27 to have been kept in service to this day, many Generals of Courses 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32 have had to be retired for vacancies to be created for promotions and appointments.
Though in the military, it is generally known that the aspiration of every career officer is to attain the position of a Major General, as any promotion or appointment after that is political, like the Service Chiefs.
It is against this backdrop that the Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) Officers 2017 for the armed forces spell out the ‘Tenure of Defence and Service Chiefs’.
Section 11.08 stipulates – An officer appointed the Chief of the Defence Staff, Chief of the Army Staff, Chief of the Naval Staff, Chief of the Air Staff shall bear four-star General and may hold the appointment for a continuous period of 2 years from the date of expiration of the initial 2 year period.
Section 11.09 stipulates – The foregoing notwithstanding, the President, C-in-C reserves the prerogative to extend the tenure of a CDS/Service Chief irrespective of his age or length of service.
Speaking on the situation recently, Buratai stated, “The solution is not the removal of Service Chiefs” as President Buhari “knows where it pinches” and is the right arbiter because he knows where the problems are”.
He continued, “I am tempted not to comment on this particular issue because I am directly involved.
“However, I want to believe that whatever happens, the Commander-in-Chief is the right arbiter, and he knows where it pinches, he knows where the problems are.
“I think the decision should be left to him. He should not be pushed or prompted in this regard.
“Presently, we are into a very serious issue which should not be taken lightly. This is why when you say a particular crop of leaders in the military should be removed for whatever reason, it sounds very odd because we are not addressing the issues.
“I am not saying this because I am the Chief of Army Staff and I do not want to leave. No, that is not the issue.
“It is beyond that because this is a national issue, an issue of national pride and national interest. Those who would cry loudly against the Service Chiefs are within, and they are the ones who should be more vocal in the things that are not going right.
“We are not questioning the wisdom of the National Assembly. I believe they also have their sources of information; they drew their analysis and came to that conclusion.
“But in reality, they have to look at it within the context of what are the responsibilities of the executive arm of government, as well as the mandate of the legislative arm of government”.