Army and Lesson from Police Council
The major highlight of last week’s decisions by the Police Service Commission (PSC) was not the recommendation on the promotion of certain officers as prominently reported in the media but rather the decision to seek justice for some aggrieved officers. It is a lesson that will serve the military authority that has consistently ignored court judgements on how it subverted own rules to unjustly terminate the career of 38 military officers. Aside lifting the suspension placed on one police officer, the PSC also approved the reinstatement of 21 others and directed the promotion of some of these police officers to the next rank before the payment of their salary arrears and other entitlements.
Meanwhile, in the army, 38 officers comprising nine Major Generals, 10 Brigadier Generals, seven Colonels, 11 Lieutenant Colonels and a Major were compulsorily retired in 2016 in a controversial exercise that divided the country and led to sectional charge against the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai. The premature retirement was premised on services rules which prescribe such on “discipline grounds i.e. serious offences”. But the procedures for establishing what constitutes a serious offence within the armed forces begin with reporting, arraigning the officer(s) concerned, and upon conviction (if found guilty), sending the report to the Army Council. In the case of the 38 officers, none of these procedures was followed before their retirement was announced in a most cynical manner that tarnished their reputation and the army they served. Some of these officers were never queried or confronted with any allegations of misconduct while one of them was abroad, on a national assignment, when he learnt about his retirement from the media.
With the confirmation of Major General Farouk Yahaya as Chief of Army Staff by the Senate, I hope he will seek justice for the 38 officers in the manner the Police have done. I am not canvassing that those who have been out of uniform for almost five years (even though not of their making) should be brought back to the army. But they deserve honourable discharge at appropriate ranks with all their entitlements fully paid. Until justice is availed the 38 officers, the abuse of power and process that led to their premature retirement will continue to be a serious indictment on the Nigerian army.