After years of clamour amidst overwhelming security challenges, President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday announced a new crop of Service Chiefs.
They are 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 Isiaka O. Amao as the Chief of Air Staff.
Their appointments followed the resignation of their predecessors; General Abayomi Olonisakin; Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar as defence chief, COAS, Navy and CAS respectively.
They held the top military positions since 2015.
President tasks appointees
Unveiling the new appointees in a statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, President Buhari thanked the outgoing Service Chiefs for their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country,” and wished them well in their future endeavours.
Buhari had, in a New Year broadcast, hinted on possible change in the nation’s security architecture in the face of rising security challenges.
The statement said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs, and their retirement from service.
“Those involved are 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.
“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’, wishing them well in their future endeavours.
“The new Service Chiefs are: Major-General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General Ibrahim. 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 President congratulates the new Service Chiefs, and urges them to be loyal and dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities.”
Nigerians from all walks of life have reacted to the appointments with some describing them as a step in the right direction, while others said it’s a development long overdue.
Nigerians set agenda
In their reactions Tuesday, Nigerians have asked for a paradigm shift in the fight against terrorists in the country.
They posited that the issue of insecurity, among others should be their top priority.
In her reaction, a business woman, Nike Adejuwon, said it was obvious that the outgoing Service Chiefs were overwhelmed.
She said: “As a new set of officers mount the saddle, we are anxious to see a paradigm shift, a sincere and firm commitment to rout terrorists and bandits. Let them walk the talks to take the battle to the hideouts of the criminals.”
Similarly, an Abuja-based journalist, Mr. Adamu Abuja, the new Service Chiefs “must hit the ground running in view of the enormity of the tasks ahead of them. Nigerians can’t afford further wait to see negative things happening in the security space.”
CUPP says great relief
Also, in a statement by its national secretary, Peter Ameh, the Coalition for United Political Parties (CUPP) said “the sack of the Service Chiefs is a great relief to the officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Nigerian people as a whole.”
Ameh said: “This will aid the needed re-engineering of our weakened security architecture due to the over-stay of the now sacked service chiefs in office.”
“Their over-stay in office affected the morale of the men of the armed forces and also affected the growth of capable hands, it was uncalled for, officers who have attained the required and stipulated retirement status both on the grounds of age and years of service to continue to lead the ever energetic and active members of the armed forces while their juniors are sent on retirement and promotion for those due are withheld because of the refusal of the President to act as and when due in line with a our constitution.
“Yes, the President has the sole authority to appoint and fire the Service Chiefs, a sole prerogative of the President as donated to him through the constitution but he must use that power in fairness to other relevant section(s) of the Constitution.
“Nigeria is never in short supply of men of intellect, capacity and of those with high merit approval ratings to do the job, no we are never in short supply of them but to see the President keep the now sacked service chiefs in office despite the worsening security situation for so long was a sign of great misjudgement which led to our current predicament, where government and individuals now pay ransom to bandits to secure the freedom of our fellow citizens…that is the most unfortunate situation and sad experience that has left a sour taste in our mouth as citizens.
“The new service chiefs must now go to work to make sure that Nigeria is secured for our people to travel across state lines to do business and prosper the nation without the fear of being kidnapped.
“I have no doubt in my mind that those appointed to lead the new and successful onslaught against those who have boldly taken over our ungoverned spaces have been tested and trusted to do the job.”
Senators Opeyemi, Abaribe
In its view, the Senate Minority Caucus welcomed the change of guard.
Leader of the caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), in a personally signed statement in Abuja said, though the removal of the service chiefs was overdue but “better late than never.”
“We had been calling for this for a long time now. Let’s hope this team would stem the tide of insecurity.”
Also reacting to the development in a chat with journalists, Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), described the decision by the service chiefs to resign as patriotic.
“This is just one out of a number of steps needed to be taken to tackle insecurity. The insecurity is making the lives of Nigerians difficult, we should work on the morale of serving military officers so that they can pursue the war against banditry and Boko-Haram very well.
“It is a step in right direction, he (President Buhari) is working consistent with democratic principle and norm. The President has done well in this area of security and he should do same in every other sector where such actions are needed.”
And setting agenda for the new security helmsmen, Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Auwal Musa Rafsanjani admitted the change of guard was long overdue.
He said things had deteriorated to a level where kidnapping was no longer limited to the South but the entire country.
He said: “Cross-border bandits are out killing in their dozens, food insecurity looms because farmers are either being killed or those displaced are afraid of returning to continue with their cherished vocation. Yet, there is no let-up in armed robbery.
“This should be a point of entry for the new chiefs. Good enough, their credentials suggest that they are well experienced in tactical and strategy which is the immediate fresh breath that is required to engage going forward.
“They should be professionals and not politicians in uniform. The situation where on every issue the army issues statement to condemn human rights groups and media for calling on the security agencies to respect human rights should not continue under this dispensation.
“They have to review the current strategy on terrorism and counter insurgency, the de-radicalization without community victims healing is not productive.
“Secondly, they need to provide proper facilities and equipment to enable soldiers to effectively deal with the insurgents. Besides, Nigeria needs to take care of the welfare of her troops.
Also, Director Praxis Centre; Convener Take Back Nigeria Movement; Co-convener Say No Campaign, Jaye Gaskia said agenda setting should be quite simple.
“So, the agenda should be pretty clear and unambiguous- rein in the various rampaging armed groups, secure the territorial integrity of the country, rebuild trust and confidence with communities by involving them in their own security, strengthen internal security mechanisms, institutions and operations, and strengthen coordination and synergy between and among all the security and law enforcement agencies.
“And there must be a timeline. The nation must see some immediate improvements, and must begin to see some significant progress within six months.
“Now is the time to ask the armed forces to submit a national defence action plan; ask the law enforcement and internal security agencies to submit a national internal security and crime control and prevention plan; while also ordering that both action plans must be clear on threat assessment, on response mechanism and actions to be taken, on measurable timelines, as well as on coordination within and between the defence and security sectors over the short, medium and long term.
“This plans of action submitted to the National Security Council, and must then be subjected to approval by the FEC, and by NASS, and to the NGF for their consideration and input, this way we can begin to have a ‘all of government approach’ to tackling these challenges,” he said.
On his part, Executive Director Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre \ Convener Say No Campaign Nigeria Ezenwa Nwagwu said: “It is important not to miss the point that the new service chiefs are not imported from mass. At best we will have some theatrics that will capture imagination and give impression of shifts and movement.
“We are saddled with a rank and file that are motivated by other things than soldiering. The top brass of the services replace themselves with their ‘aje butter” children, relatives and cronies. While there is insecurity indeed, insurgency is an industry, if you wish money making venture.
“We must reorganize the services by taking out cronyism and patronage, motivating the men through unbiased promotion and equitable training opportunities
“Recruitment into the services must be made to be on equal opportunity. In the immediate, they should tame insurgency, tackle head-on kidnapping, banditry and violent crimes, restore confidence of people that they’re safe and secure.”
However, respondents from Maiduguri, Borno state capital and headquarter of the theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, the trio of Buratai, Irabor and Attahiru gave their all in the fight against insurgency.
One of them, Malam Haruna Shema Gomari said: “As residents of Maiduguri, we know and see what General Buratai did and we also know what General Ibrahim Attahiru did and even General Lucky Irabor.
“All of them have worked and served at the Operation Lafiya Dole Theater Command. We pray and are hopeful that the new hands will work like them and even better to restore peace permanently here in the state and even north east and Nigeria at large.”
For Alhaji Gambo Hausari, “General Buratai has worked and tried. He did his best. He was loyal to the President and a committed and dedicated officer. He showed that he liked his job.
“We also hope that the new officer taking over from Buratai will emulate him, work like him, fight the Boko Haram insurgents to a finish. May God help and guide them to success,” Hausari said.
In yet another reaction, a Muslim cleric, Imam Muhammad Jere, “Ours as religious leaders is prayers and we wish them the best and pray that God will guide them accordingly to work for the people and country .”
APC urges support
And from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) came a call to Nigerians to support the new service chiefs in the tasks ahead.
The position was made known Tuesday by the National Secretary of the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Sen. John J. AkpanUdoedehe.
“Recent incidents in the country have triggered quite divisive rhetoric in some quarters. It is counterproductive 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,” the party said.
PDP seeks probe
Taking a different position, however, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the appointment of new service chiefs as rather late in the day, saying the harm had already been done to national security.
In a statement Tuesday by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said: “The belated replacement of the outgoing wearied service chiefs, after much damage to our nation, shows President Buhari as a leader who has always refused to heed to wise counsel by well-meaning Nigerians but continually leads our country to a dire strait.
“Such unpatriotic, self-conceited and narrow-minded approach to leadership is responsible for the escalated insecurity and avoidable loss of lives; economic recession with excruciating hardship as well as widened divisions in our land under Buhari’s watch,” the opposition party added.
It further said: “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.”No tags for this post.