…They must go, Reps insist
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Amid the calls for the sack of Service Chiefs over worsening insecurity, especially in the North-East where troops are battling Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT), President Muhammadu Buhari has the final say.
They came with lofty credentials. They were prepared. Hope was alive. Expectations were high. Trust and confidence in them soared. They were the men with the balls. And, indeed, they showed courage, finesse and dexterity. And within weeks of their appointments, they conquered the merchants of deaths and restored the boulevards to regular use and got hailed by the people.
That was the most auspicious, singular act of bravery that endeared the Service Chiefs to the hearts of Nigerians soon after they assumed office having been appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 13, 2015.
Events that predated their coming were scary and brutal. To say that Nigeria was at war then won’t be an overstatement. On daily basis, threats by Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East were made manifest. A string of assaults dotted the country. The bombs were going off at random. Almost the entire northern Nigeria was on fire. Outside the northeast region which was (and still is) the den of the terrorists, Kano had had its fare share. Niger State was not spared. Kaduna too. And then, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
From the Police Headquarters in high brow Central Business District of the FCT down to the densely populated Wuse 11, bombs ripped through the United Nations, UN, building and Emab Plaza.
The mother of the terrorist attacks appeared to be the Nyanya bomb blast which number of deaths and other casualties dropped down the jaws of many residents in utter shock and disbelief.
Worse still, in April 2014, Nigerians were treated with the most absurdity of kidnapping theatrics in Chibok, Borno State.
That over 200 school girls were awoken from their sleep and marched out through the bush to waiting trucks for possible evacuation to the land of the “dead” was, to say the least, most unfathomable.
Yet, it happened.
BHT annex, parallel govt
That’s not all. Hitherto, about 14 local government areas in the state were annexed by the insurgents who audaciously hoisted their flags, establishing a parallel government in the area. But trust the Nigerian military.
With superior firepower, tactics and strategy, they won and reclaimed the North-East. To also show the success of their efforts, the military dismantled most of the checkpoints in the geo-political zone and opened previously closed routes to traffic in most towns and cities for public use.
Apparently, it was for those reasons that the Service Chiefs became the toasts of both the Buhari’s administration and the people.
Give it to them, their gallantry decimated Boko Haram, chased the fighters to the fringes of Zambiza forest and facilitated the return of several displaced persons in the area to their original places of abode.
Of course, it was also to the credit of the top brass of the military that Nigeria went into jubilation when many of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls were safely returned home and rehabilitated some years back.
To further show them appreciation, Buhari extended their tenure which should have ended on July 13, 2017, based on the Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service.
With the extension, they were to stay till December 2017.
While many had thought they would have left in 2017, the Chiefs clung on to the job to the admiration of their boss.
So far, they have spent 5 years, thereby unarguably becoming the longest-serving military chiefs since the return of democracy in 1999.
They are General Gabriel Olonishakin, Chief of the Defence Staff; Lt-General Tukur Buratai, Chief of the Army Staff; Vice Admiral Ekwe Ibok-Ette Ibas, Chief of the Naval Staff; and Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar, Chief of the Air Staff.
Before they came to their current office, the Service Chiefs had triumphed in various military exploits and serviced in different capacities. It will not be out of place to say that their track records earned them the topmost jobs.
Olonisakin (N/6901), who hails from Ekiti State, was, until his appointment as Chief of Defence Staff, the Head of the Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command in Minna, Niger State.
Buratai, on his part, from Borno State, was until his appointment the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force which had its headquarters in Ndjamena.
He previously served as Commander of the Nigerian Army’s 2nd Brigade, Port Harcourt and Commander of the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji.
Similarly, Ibas (N0746), who hails from Cross River State, enlisted into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) as a member of the 26th Regular Course in 1979 and was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in 1983. His previous appointments included Naval Provost Marshall, Chief Staff Officer, Naval Training Command, Chief of Administration, Naval Headquarters, Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command and Chief of Logistics, Naval Headquarters. Until his appointment as Chief of the Naval Staff, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Navy Holdings Limited.
For Abubakar (NAF 1433), who hails from Bauchi State, his previous appointments included Chief of Standards and Evaluation, NAF Headquarters; Chief of Defence Communications and Air Officer Commanding, NAF Training Command. Until his appointment as Chief of Air Staff, he was the Chief of Administration, NAF Headquarters.
Renewed killings and sack calls
But the efforts of the security forces in Nigeria were brought under scrutiny when killings across the nation suddenly resumed.
From Benue to Zamfara, some states in the northern region boiled.
Of course, pockets of attacks had not also abated in the hotbed of Boko Haram. Elsewhere in the South, kidnapping and thievery reigned supreme. What went wrong?
It was amid the increased state of insecurity that the House of Representatives, at plenary on January 30, 2019, took a resolution, asking the Service Chiefs to either resign their appointments or be sacked by the President.
Incidentally, on the day the House deliberated and took the decision, the floor at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was also agog on the same issue and where a similar resolution was reached.
The National Assembly’s demands
The resolutions clearly passed a vote of no confidence in the Chiefs who were seen to have completely run out of new ideas.
The House decision stemmed from a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by the Chief Whip of the House, Hon, Mohammed Tahir Monguno, and 14 others.
Titled ‘Need to curb the incessant attacks of the Boko Haram Insurgents in the North-East Zone’, debate on the motion took a better part of three hours with members expressing anger at the rising insecurity in the country.
Monguno expressed concerns about the upsurge in attacks by BHT in the North-East.
“Recently, the insurgents forced the Nigerian military to close traffic on the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road for some days. The Damaturu-Maiduguri road is the only access from Maiduguri to other parts of Nigeria”, he said.
The resolutions of the two chambers of the National Assembly were later conveyed to Buhari at the Presidential Villa. But the President wouldn’t make any express commitment in the sack calls.
Service Chiefs Not to be Sacked – SGF
At a time the calls had reached a crescendo for the sacking of the Chiefs to probably inject fresh blood, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, obviously speaking the mind of the President on the issue, said there was no relieving the military top heads of their duties now.
Speaking in Abuja after a book presentation titled: ‘CAN, Religion, Politics and Power in Nigeria’, written by a former General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Engr. Samuel Salifu, Mustapha said there are processes to follow.
He said: “We are in a very difficult time now. We need everybody to be on board. We need synergy within the intelligence community, within the military formations that will help fight this war.
“We are in a very difficult situation and when we begin to create cracks and divisions, who will be the beneficiaries? The adversaries are the ones that are going to exploit those deficiencies and further the cause of destabilising the nation.
“You don’t sack people like that. There are processes and I believe that, at the opportune time, those processes will be followed. You don’t just wake up and say, ‘sack people’, it doesn’t happen like that.”
We stand on our resolution- Reps
Though the Service Chiefs are not leaving anytime soon, the House of Representatives has insisted on their resolution to get them out.
The House, however, said that the resolution was advisory, reflective of the wish of the people but not binding on the Executive.
A spokesman for the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, told Sunday Vanguard when approached on the matter at the weekend.
“The House operates through bills and motions; while the first, when passed to law, is binding on all, the second produces resolutions which are recommendations or if you like advisory.
“We recommend based on the needs analysis of the people we represent. It is persuasive, not coercive on the executive yet once the gavel goes down on it, it becomes alive until another motion to rescind the already existing resolution is moved by the sponsor of the first motion.
“Presently, this is yet to be done and, in all parliamentary practice, it has to go through that process for it to stop existing; by implication, the position of the House is not yet changed.
“It is important to note that in addition to the resolution, it is the thinking of some of us, including the leadership of the House, that beyond removing the Service Chiefs, the police in charge of handling internal security should be better equipped and structured to meet the demands of our time”.
Whether the Service Chiefs are sacked or not, what is, unfortunately, certain is that it has been one death, too many. The Constitution of the land clearly stipulates that the primary responsibility of government is to protect lives and property. Nigerians in their numbers do hope that President Buhari and indeed all the security apparatuses have not forgotten this aspect of the Constitution they swore to protect. So, help them, God.