Purge of 38 Army of­fi­cers

Daily Trust - - OPINIONE-MAIL -

Last month the Army Coun­cil an­nounced the re­tire­ment from ser­vice of thirty eight se­nior army of­fi­cers. This was the sin­gle big­gest sweep­ing out of mil­i­tary of­fi­cers since 1999 when, on as­sump­tion of of­fice, Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo re­tired dozens of what he called “po­lit­i­cally ex­posed” of­fi­cers, those who held po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ments un­der the mil­i­tary regimes. The re­cently re­tired Army of­fi­cers in­clude nine Ma­jor Gen­er­als, ten Brigadier-Gen­er­als, seven Colonels, eleven Lieu­tenant Colonels and one Ma­jor. Among them were two Gen­eral Of­fi­cers Com­mand­ing (GOCs) and sev­eral De­fence At­taches who were posted abroad at the twi­light of Lt. Gen­eral Ken­neth Min­imah’s ten­ure as Chief Army Staff. They were ex­pected to stay in their coun­tries of as­sign­ment for a min­i­mum of two and a max­i­mum of three years.

This gale of re­tire­ment has al­ready gen­er­ated mixed feel­ings. Act­ing Direc­tor of Army Pub­lic Re­la­tions Colonel Sani Kukasheka Us­man de­fended it say­ing, “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, EFCC. Peo­ple should there­fore not read this out of con­text. The mil­i­tary must re­main apo­lit­i­cal and pro­fes­sional at all times. We must ap­plaud and sup­port this laud­able and bold ini­tia­tive by the gov­ern­ment.”

How­ever, some of the af­fected of­fi­cers al­leged witch-hunt, say­ing the Army Coun­cil did not give them a fair hear­ing. One of them said, “There was noth­ing like fair hear­ing be­fore we were sacked. I was driv­ing when an in­sider broke the shock­ing story to me. It was two days af­ter I heard of the sack­ing that I got my let­ter, which did not pre­cisely state the ac­tual crime I com­mit­ted.” Still oth­ers al­leged that they were re­tired be­cause they were close to and loyal to for­mer ser­vice chiefs.

A doc­u­ment ob­tained by Daily Trust showed that the of­fi­cers were com­pul­so­rily re­tired based on pro­vi­sions of Chap­ter 9, Sec­tion 09.02 (a) of the Con­di­tions of Ser­vice of the Army, which states that, “An of­fi­cer may, at any time, be re­moved from the ser­vice, be called upon to re­tire or re­sign his com­mis­sion on dis­ci­plinary grounds.” We be­lieve there is noth­ing wrong in en­sur­ing that pro­fes­sion­al­ism is deeply en­trenched in the Nige­ria Army and other mil­i­tary ser­vices. Thou­sands of peo­ple lost their lives to Boko Haram in­sur­gents in the North-East and other parts of Nige­ria, partly due to acts of com­mis­sion and omis­sion by both the mil­i­tary and civil­ian au­thor­i­ties, es­pe­cially when monies meant for pro­cure­ment of arms were un­con­scionably di­verted to pri­vate pock­ets.

There­fore, those found want­ing must be made to face the mu­sic to so as to serve as a de­ter­rent to oth­ers. How­ever, the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion for fair hear­ing is ab­so­lute. No mat­ter the grav­ity of the of­fence one is sus­pected to have com­mit­ted, he or she must be given the op­por­tu­nity to de­fend him­self or her­self. Even though both Army Chief Lt Gen­eral Tukur Bu­ratai and De­fence Min­is­ter Brig-Gen Mansur Dan-Ali said at dif­fer­ent fora that the re­tired of­fi­cers had the op­por­tu­nity to de­fend them­selves, many of them deny this. We urge the af­fected of­fi­cers to ex­plore the pro­vi­sion of Sec­tion 09.02 (e) which states that, “An of­fi­cer called upon to re­tire, re­sign or re­lin­quish his com­mis­sion shall, if he so de­sires, ap­peal to Mr Pres­i­dent, the Com­man­der-in-Chief, through the Chief of De­fence Staff within 30 days to have his case con­sid­ered” to seek re­dress if they feel their re­tire­ment was not in order.

Nige­ri­ans can­not be happy with the abrupt re­tire­ment of se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers when­ever there is a change of gov­ern­ment. The coun­try ex­pended a for­tune to train them both at home and abroad. Their ex­per­tise should not be sac­ri­ficed on the al­tar of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency. The op­po­site of pro­fes­sion­al­ism will be achieved if sol­diers are thrown out for opaque po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

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