Nigerians react as Buhari appoints new service chiefs

Nigerians yesterday expressed conflicting views as President Muhammadu Buhari finally replaced the nation’s defence chiefs. While some applauded the action, others faulted the President and his action.

The retired military top brass was 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.

They were replaced with 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.

The development was announced in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the immediate resignation of the service chiefs and their retirement from service.

“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 call for the sack of Nigeria’s top military leaders reached its peak as it resonated in the National Assembly at frequent intervals.

In a motion sponsored by Senator Ali Ndume at the Senate plenary on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, the Senate passed a resolution calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to fire the service chiefs.

Both chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives, had in previous resolutions called on President Buhari to fire the chiefs. The latest call was triggered by the killing of rice farmers in Kantakari.

The Nigerian military has engaged in a running battle with Boko Haram insurgents and terrorists, with no evidence in sight of progress being made to quell the insurgency in the North East. Instead, there has also been a significant rise in insecurity across the states on Nigeria’s northern borders – Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, among others.

Nigeria’s military has come under severe criticism for its failings. It was also severely criticised by election observers in the recently conducted 2019 general elections for interfering with the elections. In an unprecedented move, it deployed never before seen number of soldiers, ostensibly to provide election security.

What has been however puzzling to most Nigerians and observers is why President Buhari has refused to act on the calls for the sack of the defence bosses. They were overdue for retirement and had stayed beyond legally permitted time limits. It is unclear why the President persisted in retaining them apart from speculations that he feels more “secure” in their hands.

Buhari appointed Buratai and others on July 13, 2015, while the Senate under the leadership of Bukola Saraki confirmed the appointment on August 4, 2015, after hours of screening.

YORUBA Council of Elders (YCE) and a security scholar at the University of Ibadan, Professor Oyesoji Aremu, lauded the firing of the service chiefs.

Speaking with The Guardian, the YCE, through its Secretary-General, Dr Kunle Olajide, described it as a welcome development, stressing that it portrayed the President as one that listens.

“The new appointees will bring new ideas into the Nigerian security sector,” the council stated.

Prof. Aremu said the sack was long overdue given the numerous calls for it.

He said: “It also, shows that Mr President listens to Nigerians in spite of perceived contrary opinions.”

He, however, urged Nigerians not to rejoice yet until the new appointees, who have a lot to do in ensuring security, meet the expectations of the people.

“They would have to reappraise the entire internal security architecture with a view to rejigging operational tactics and reconnaissance. While doing this, a lot is also, expected from them to work on the morale of officers with a view to expecting them to give their best to the fatherland,” he said.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF) also applauded the change.

Governor Wike in a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Paulinus Nsirim, said though the appointments came late, the President should be commended for listening to the voice of the people.

He urged the new chiefs to re-engineer the nation’s security architecture which, he said, had suffered setback in the last five years.“ The new Service Chiefs should not politicise security by aligning with politicians.“What the country needs now is competence and professionalism that will reduce insecurity to the barest minimum,” he stated.Similarly, PANDEF, through its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, lamented the worsening state of insecurity and urged the new chiefs to “discharge their duties and responsibilities professionally, without biases and tendencies, in the best interest of the country.”

Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, preferred not to speak on the development.

President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. George Obiozor, told The Guardian the group would make its position known on a later date”. But the immediate past President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, berated Buhari for not meeting the expectations of Ndigbo.

Nwodo said: “He (Buhari) is not even pretending about his feelings for Ndigbo. I have not seen this kind of thing before. Gen Buhari, thanks for making us in Igboland feel, once more, that we are not fit to head any of the security services.”

Nwodo’s views were similarly expressed by the Chairman of Board of Trustees (BOT), World Igbo Peoples Assembly (WIPA), Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, who stated that by the appointments, the President had continued to prove himself a sectional leader.

He stated that it was disappointing that more than five years after he (Buhari) took over power, he had continued “to show that he is not a national leader and has continued to tell a part of the country that they don’t belong.”

To stockbrokers, it was a good development, though belated.

A stockbroker, sola Oni, said insecurity, which worsened in recent times, has continued to remain a major setback to achieving the nation’s growth targets.

“News reports in Nigeria are replete with dastardly killings by Boko Harams, herdsmen among others. If the new service chiefs are able to tackle insecurity headlong, it will boost investors’ confidence in the stock market and attract Foreign Direct Investments Investment,” he said.

The Vice President of Highcap Securities, David Adonrio, said the nation’s security challenges have been the dominant factor fuelling inflation and price instability in the country.

According to him, the rising inflation rates has continued to impact negatively on the operations of listed firms and ultimately depress their bottom-line.

CORRUPTION allegations against the former service chiefs should be investigated, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayose have said.

PDP called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately begin a comprehensive investigation of allegations of corruption against the immediate past service chiefs.

Specifically, the party asked the EFCC to beam its searchlights on alleged diversion of funds meant for the procurement of arms to fight terrorism and insurgency.

The PDP in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, demanded: “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.”

According to the party, “such must be the sure step towards sanitizing the security architecture as well as lifting the morale of those in the frontlines risking their lives for the security of our nation.”

Supporting the call for a probe, Fayose, who accused the former service chiefs of serving themselves and their pockets, described their sack as a “step in the right direction.”

He tweeted: 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 extrajudicial killings under their watch and commands.”

MEANWHILE, a former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Alani Akinrinade and former Minister of Defence, Dr. Olu Agunloye have asked Nigerians not to expect much from the new service chiefs.

Akinrinade said: “I have said it before that changing the service chiefs is not our biggest challenge. What is facing the country in terms of insecurity is the Boko Haram insurgents, Fulani armed herdsmen and farmers crisis and issue of banditry. Unfortunately,

Mr President up till now has refused to take a decisive position on the Fulani herdsmen menace, which people misconstrued that he is supporting members of his ethnic groups to perpetrate crime. What exactly will any old or new service chiefs do about this?”

He said the new appointees could only achieve any goal in accordance with the mindset of the President.

In the same vein, Agunloye said the replacement of security chiefs would ultimately bring about some changes but whether it would be positive or negative change would depend on what the President wants.

“I am speaking based on my experience in government and one time Minister of Defence. There is nothing the new security chiefs can do outside what their boss, who is the president wants.”

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