As worries in Air Force, Navy rise
Facts have emerged that last Friday’s mass sack of Nigerian Army officers may not be unconnected with the present administration’s ploy to eliminate other ethnic groups and religious beliefs from the Nigerian Army.
Nigerian Pilot investigation has revealed that the same action will soon be extended to the Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Navy.
Information available to Nigerian Pilot indicates that the officers were fired via text messages over their alleged loyalty to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
These officers were said to have been carefully selected for backing Jonathan during the 2015 general elections.
The affected officials include Jonathan’s Aide de Camp, Col. Ojogbane Adegbe; a former principal secretary to a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Col. Nicholas Achinze; a former ADC to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Brig. Gen. A. H. Sa’ad, and 57 other officers.
The list showed that they were mainly from the South-East, South-South and a small percentage of them from the North Central region of the country, a development which is already causing some ripples in the military.
A top retired Army General who spoke to our Defence correspondent on the condition of anonymity expressed sadness over the development, saying, “This is not the way to go. You are killing the military, which is the backbone and protector of your territorial integrity.
“Now, if you sack such a huge number of fine officers who are due for promotion by October this year, then it is suspicious. I think somebody is doing ethnic and religious cleansing here. This is not right,” the Army General declared.
He continued: “This is exactly what happened during the appointment of service chiefs. This man had to send a lot of fine officers on compulsory retirement just to favour particular officers, at the time when the country is facing security challenges mostly with external forces. For me this is purely madness. And then somebody will say if you are aggrieved go to court; which court?, he queried.
According to a statement by Col. Usman, those affected by the disciplinary action include army top brass in the ranks of Major Generals, Brigadier Generals, Colonels, Lieutenant-Colonels and a Major, and that some of the retired officials are currently facing legal prosecution following the recommendation of the presidential advisory committee on corruption.
The statement read: “The Nigerian Army wishes to inform the general public that quite a number of senior officers of the Nigerian Army were retired from service yesterday. Those retired were mainly some Major Generals, Brigadier Generals, Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and a Major. Their retirement was based on service exigencies. It should be recalled that not too long ago some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 general elections.
“Similarly, the investigation by the presidential committee investigating defence contracts revealed a lot. Some officers have already been arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”
But following the reaction that trailed the mass sack, Col. Usman had to again clear the air when he said in another statement that, “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to speculations and rumours regarding the number and names of the senior army officers affected in the recent retirement exercise.
“This is worrisome as some individuals and media houses went to the ridiculous extent of publishing outrageous figures and names of serving officers as being retired. This is unethical and unfair. It is therefore necessary to inform the public to please disregard such inaccurate lists.
“We wish to state that only 38 senior officers were affected by the retirement exercise. For the avoidance of doubt, the following is the statistics of the officers retired compulsorily; nine Major Generals, 10 Brigadier Generals, seven Colonels, 11 Lieutenant Colonels and a Major.
“We are quite aware that some mischievous elements are trying to whip up sentiments. This is quite unfortunate because all the affected officers were retired based on service exigencies and in line with the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“It is pertinent to remind all that the Nigerian Army is a professional institution that is based on highest standards of discipline and conduct. Consequently its personnel must remain professional, neutral and apolitical at all times.”
Another source claimed that the mass sack was as an act of ethnic card to checkmate those officers who were seen as posing danger to the federal government, “and it was resolved in the presidency that they should be weeded out.”
But the concern, as some observers also said, was the implication of the sack on the psyche of the military institution and the public which was felt capable of truncating the nation’s democracy as the “systematic sacking” of over 200 top military officers mainly from the southern part of the country was a decision difficult to defend by the federal government.
“The affected officers were sent text messages relieving them of their jobs and they were directed to pick their sack letters at specific locations without any reason given for terminating their appointments,” said a source in the presidency which pleaded anonymity.
According to the source, the move allegedly masterminded by “some hawks“ in the presidency was aimed at weeding out all officers who were perceived to be loyal to the last regime and deemed to have played one role or the other favourable to former President Jonathan in the last presidential election.
“The game plan is to remove all vestiges of the old regime, particularly those officers considered to be too intelligent and smart to challenge the status quo. Buhari is weary of being toppled a second time, given his ugly past experience. But unknown to him, this latest move of indiscriminate sacking of senior and middle level officers has divided the military and created rumblings in some quarters,” the source stated.
Other category of army officers who have been fired are those accused of diverting funds budgeted for the counter insurgency war to their private pockets, as well as those who colluded with crude oil thieves in the illegal oil theft trade.
In January last year, Nic Robertson of CNN interviewed several Nigerian soldiers who claimed that Nigeria’s chances of defeating Boko Haram were being hampered by corruption inside the Nigerian Army.