January 27, 2021

Cheers, jeers, hope as new service chiefs take over

1. Chief of Defence Staff: Major-General Leo Irabor 2. Chief of Army Staff: Major-General I. Attahiru 3. Chief of Naval Staff: Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo 4. Chief of Air Staff: Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao

1. Chief of Defence Staff: Major-General Leo Irabor
2. Chief of Army Staff: Major-General I. Attahiru
3. Chief of Naval Staff: Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo
4. Chief of Air Staff: Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao

*We hope new service chiefs’ll justify Buhari’s confidence in them — ACF

*Nothing special — Afenifere

 *Wrong not to have S-East appointee — M-Belt Forum

*PANDEF lauds Buhari

*Nwodo disdains non-appointment of Igbo as service chief

*APC expresses confidence in new service chiefs

*PDP, Fayose want probe of ex-service chiefs

By Kingsley Omonobi, Dapo Akinrefon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Peter Duru, Egufe Yafugborhi, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Dennis Agbo, Omeiza Ajayi, Bashir Bello, Dirisu Yakubu & Ibrahim Hassan

After several years of agitation for replacement of service chiefs, following heightened insecurity in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari finally relieved them of their duties yesterday.

The outgone service chiefs, who ought to have retired from service two years ago but had their stay in office extended till yesterday, include the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, the service chiefs were replaced by Major-General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O Amao, Chief of Air Staff.

“President Buhari thanks the outgoing service chiefs for what he calls their overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country.

“The President congratulates the new service chiefs, and urges them to be loyal and dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities,”  the statement read.

The appointment of the new service chiefs drew positive reactions from all parts of the country, as individuals and groups which had been in the forefront of pressuring the President to sack them, lauded him for doing same, though belatedly.

They include Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, its counterparts in the Middle Belt and Niger Delta, the Middle Belt Forum and PANDEF respectively, as well as Southern and Middle Belt Belt Leaders Forum, now coordinated by former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo.

Others are Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai and Dr. Junaid Mohammed, among others.

We hope new service chiefs will justify Buhari’s confidence in them — ACF

Reacting to the appointment, the National Publicly Secretary of ACF, Mr.Emmanuel Yawe,  said: “The cry for this change was everywhere, we only hope the new chiefs will justify the confidence the President has placed in them.

“When Buhari came into office as President, we at the ACF had expected him to sort out the security problems of Nigeria speedily. Of late, we have complained endlessly about his security failures. We only pray his new security chiefs will serve him and Nigeria better.”

Nothing special— Afenifere

In its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said the President has done nothing special.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin said: “He has not done a special favour to make us jump in joy. The nepotic way he has handled the security sector has created damage that will take a lot of time to repair if we shall ever be able.”

It’s wrong not to have a S-East appointee — M-Belt Forum

Although the Middle Belt Forum lauded the replacement of the former service chiefs, it however kicked against the fact that nobody was appointed from the South East.

National President of the Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said exclusion of the South-East from the list of new appointees is wrong and capable of worsening the volatile situation in that zone.

Bitrus, who spoke to Vanguard in Makurdi, said: “These changes are coming a bit late in the day. He didn’t have to wait till things start degenerating or deteriorating to the level it is now before effecting the changes because as we are talking now, it is like we have already gone to war.

“Based on what is happening in the South-West, what is happening with the South-East Security Network, what is happening around Benin area, it appears it is coming a bit late in the day.

“It is these troubles that forced him, it appears, to do what he has done, rather than wise counsel. Because people told him over and over to change the people since they lacked new ideas and there was need to inject new ideas but he refused for whatever reason.

“Okay, he has done it, we hope these people he has picked will do the job because if I were him, I wouldn’t have had a Fulani man as head of the army, given the kind of cries all over the place that Fulani herdsmen are the people behind the atrocities.

“If Nigerians know that another Fulani man is heading the army, it will still be trouble and it wouldn’t have solved any problem.

“Though we are yet to confirm that, he was supposed to use wise counsel in the appointment but it is too early to give an assessment.

“What I expected is that in the situation we found ourselves, he should have avoided having one of his own to head either the army or the air force for peace to reign.

“Again, the fact that nobody from the eastern part of the country was appointed a service chief showed that up till now, the thing is skewed in one direction.  So it serves little or no purpose at all.

‘’The people from the south east will still feel aggrieved that they are not in the scheme of things, more so that they are now nearly on the verge of war, given the kind of situation the South East Security Network is having with the army. I think it is not a wise decision to leave them out.”

PANDEF lauds Buhari

On its part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari on the new appointments.

PANDEF in a statement, signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, also commended the President for responding, though belatedly, to calls of well-meaning Nigerians by accepting the resignation of the erstwhile service chiefs.

Nwodo decries non-appointment of Igbo as service chief

Efforts made to get the reaction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo yesterday proved abortive but the immediate past President-General of the group, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who now serves as national coordinator of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, of which Ohanaeze is part, expressed shock and disappointment at President Muhammadu Buhari’s non-inclusion of an Igbo among the newly appointed service chiefs.

Nwodo insinuated that Buhari’s action is an obvious expression of disdain on the Igbo people and a statement that suggested that no Igbo was fit to head  any of Nigeria’s security agencies.

“Gen Buhari, thanks for making us in Igboland feel, once more, that we are not fit to head any of the security services,” Nwodo said in his terse statement.

APC expresses confidence in new service chiefs

Also reacting, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in a statement by its Secretary, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, expressed confidence in the abilities of the new appointees.

The statement read: “We are confident that the new service chiefs will consolidate on the remarkable achievements of their predecessors in keeping the country safe and peaceful.

“The party calls for public support for the new service chiefs as they perform their constitutional roles of protecting our country’s territorial integrity and tackle emerging security threats. We also urge increased synergy among the armed forces in achieving these tasks.

“Recent incidents in the country have triggered quite divisive rhetoric in some quarters. It is counter-productive and dangerous to national security when we put ethnic spins to issues affecting us. In tackling security threats, we should criminalise crime, not ethnicity.

“As a nation, our strength remains in our diversity and we should continue to forge unity in that diversity. We urge peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding among Nigerians, irrespective of the part of the country we chose to live and work.”

PDP demands probe of Buratai, others

In its reaction, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, while welcoming the sack of the service chiefs and appointment of new ones, called for a probe of the outgone officers.

The party in a statement signed by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said: “If Mr. President had acted when our party and other well-meaning Nigerians, including the two chambers of the National Assembly, impressed upon him to do so, the security situation in the country would not have degenerated to this abysmal level.

“We hope President Buhari uses this as a turning point to learn to listen to wise counsel and not always set our nation on the path of destruction before acting.

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“Nevertheless, our party expresses hope that the new service chiefs will brace up to the challenges of our nation and note that their appointment at this time, more than at any other point in our national history, demands a huge sense of commitment, responsibility and determination to secure our nation and restore peace, order and national cohesiveness in our polity.

“Our party urges the new service chiefs to take urgent steps to restore professionalism, boost the morale of our troops and ensure not to fall into the indolence, corruption, recklessness, abuse of process and partisanship that characterized the tenure of the last service chiefs.

“The new commanders must note that Nigerians are looking up to them as professionals to remove  terrorists, bandits and other outlaws ravaging our nation from our landscape.

“Furthermore, the PDP demands an immediate inquest into the tenure of the last service chiefs to unravel the circumstances behind the security lapses and compromises as well as accusation of involvement in the alleged looting of funds meant for the equipping and welfare of our troops in the front.

“Our party insists that such must be the sure step towards sanitizing the security architecture as well as lifting the morale of those in the front lines risking their lives for the security of our nation.”

New Chiefs’ll bring speed to solution – Reps

Reacting to the appointments, the House of Representatives said with the appointment of the new service chiefs, fresh strategies, energy and new leadership style in the fight against insurgency are now expected.

Chairman, Commitee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, said: “The House feels glad that once again the Executive has considered the opinion, desire, ambition, hunger and yearning of the people in making this decision.

“As we all know, the definition of democracy has to do with the government of the people, by the people and for the people. The last part of this definition which is for the people element ought to be the guiding light in processing decisions made by those in leadership.

“The question now should be how much of this decision has people element in it? And I can assure you that this is what propelled the House of Representatives over these years of yearning, months of yearning through motions and resolutions on the need to shift a little bit our security architecture to reflect a more secured country, citizens and lives and properties. And this is why we have pushed for it.

“Though it appeared the Executive was not listening, I am sure that today, they have shown Nigerians that they are a listening leadership. They have accepted the resignation of the service chiefs whom we appreciate and thank so well for wearing our national colours and badges, for protecting and our lives and properties the way they knew best.

“Having said that, the question now becomes, what does this hold for the lives and the properties of Nigerians, the citizens of this country? What it holds should not be an over bloated expectation. What it holds is that a new energy is now called in. A new focus is now called in. It holds that new strategy, tact will now be employed.”

The change is late but better than never — CAN

In its reaction, Kaduna State chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in a statement by the chairman, Rev.John Joseph Hayab said:  ‘’At last, our President and his team have responded to the cry of Nigerians.

“Nigerians from many angles have   prayed and cried to the President for   this change to happen.  Now that it has happened, we hope it is   for good, not just   a change   to stop people from complaining.

“Nigerians have received these changes as something long overdue, that is why we will not celebrate much but pray more for them to make a difference.

“The new service chiefs from recent records that are available   show we need to pray more for them because we remembered that those they are succeeding were dropped for not bringing results in some of their previous posting. Now that they occupy leadership positions, we will pray, hope, expect and support them to succeed.”

Wike trusts new service chiefs to deliver

Similarly, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State expressed hope in Nigeria’s newly appointed service chief to deliver on the people’s expectations, thanking President Mohammadu Buhari for the development.

Wike in a statement in Port Harcourt,said though the appointments came late, the President deserved commendation for listening to the voice of the people.

He challenged the new service chiefs “not to politicise security by aligning with politicians. What the country needs now is competence and professionalism that will reduce insecurity to barest minimum.”

He called on all levels of government to give the service chiefs the needed support they would require to execute their assignments.

“This is an opportunity to serve the nation and I believe that the service chiefs will be focused and dedicated,” he added.

Probe ex-service chiefs – Fayose

In his reaction, former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, described the sack of service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari as a step in the right direction, describing the development as another victory for Nigerians.

He, however, called for probe of the former service chiefs.

In a series of tweets yesterday, moments after their removal was announced, Fayose said: “Though coming after persistent pressure from Nigerians, President Buhari’s removal of the service chiefs and their replacement is a right step in the right direction. It is yet another victory for the people of Nigeria.

“The sacked service chiefs only served themselves and their pockets and can at best be described as ‘Disservice Chiefs’ under whom Nigeria became completely insecure.

“It is my call to the ICC and other relevant authorities that tenure of the “sacked” Service Chiefs should be investigated, most importantly human rights abuses and extra judicial killings under their watch and commands.”

Let’s hope they’ll perform better than their predecessors – Yakasai

On his part, elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, described the appointment of the new service chiefs as a welcome development, saying he hoped they will perform better than their predecessors.

He said: “My advice to the new service chiefs is to study the concern of Nigerians over the deteriorating condition of security in the country and do their best to tackle the problem so that people of Nigeria will see the changes they have brought into the situation for the better.

“I congratulate them and pray that the country will soon see significant changes in the fight against insurgency, banditry and general insecurity in the country.

“Certainly, it is a welcome development. I have said it before that I am never against any individual among the retired service chiefs. The idea behind retirement limit for officers is to give opportunity to new ones to come in with new ideas and improve upon what the previous ones were not able to do or achieve. So let us hope that they will perform better than their predecessors.”

Buhari sensitive to Nigerians’ feelings – Danbazau

A retired brigadier-general, Idris Bello Danbazau said the appointment showed that President Buhari was sensitive to Nigerians’ feelings.

“It is a welcome development, particularly that people have been clamouring for it. This shows that the President is very sensitive to peoples’ feelings and he has at last done what people had always clamoured for.

“My hope is that these change will bring about the much desired success and change of tides in the ongoing war against banditry and insurgency.

“They should re-organize their various services, post people who are capable to strategic appointment that will assist to achieve the desired objective of defeating the bandits and insurgents as well as securing the nation. That should be their priorities,” Danbazau stated.

It’s long overdue – Junaid

Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Muhammad, said the appointment was long overdue, saying it was too little, too late.

He said: “Yes, he (Buhari) has now decided after he has put the country on fire. And after he has so polluted and overheated the polity, he has now decided to appoint new service chiefs. “But these appoints are more than three years overdue. And never in the history of the armed services of this country has any service chief been allowed to stay in his position and preside over the promotion of six sets of officers. It has never happened in the history of this country.

“The impression given by Buhari was that some of the officers were indispensable.  I’m relieved that at last, he has done the right thing. It is too little, too late. And a lot of damage has been done by Buhari in the exercise of his discretionary powers at the expense of the country.

“I concede that appointing a service chief is not only professional but also partly political.  I hope they will be able to maintain the services they are now inheriting and at the same time maintain the territorial integrity of the country because that is what we need from them.

Profiles of new service chiefs 

Major General Lucky EO Irabor was at several times Brigade Commander in Kaduna, Director, Nigerian Army Aviation, Force Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Force Commander, Multinational Joint Task Force, Ndjamena, Chief of Training and Operations, Defence Headquarters, and later, Commander, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Minna before President Buhari appointed him as the Chief of Defence Staff.

Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru was at several times Director of Public Relations at Army Headquarters, Brigade Commander in Calabar, GOC 82 division, Enugu, Force Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Chief of Logistics at Defence Headquarters before being redeployed to the Nigerian Army Resource Centre as a Directing Staff.

Rear Admiral AZ Gambo was at several times, the Military Assistant to a former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad, former Defence Adviser of Nigeria to South Africa before he was posted to Defence Space Administration as a Director.

Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, a fighter pilot was had been Director of Operations at NAF Headquarters, Air Component Commander and Deputy Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole. Later he was appointed Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air command, Makurdi. He became the Chief of Training and Operations at NAF headquarters. He was also Chief of Policy and Plans at NAF HQ.

From there he was appointed Commandant of the Armed Forced Resettlement Centre, Oshodi, Lagos before his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as Chief of Air Staff.

Vanguard News Nigeria