Insecurity: Service Chiefs Should Go- Retired Military Gen William, Others

One time head, Nigeria Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Major General Ishola Williams (rtd), has joined the league of those asking President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve the Service Chiefs of their appointments in the face of the seeming difficulty in dealing with insurgency which has been on the rise since the beginning of the year.

This has made the House of Representatives to pass a resolution demanding that the military chiefs be replaced with new ones in order to bring more vigour into the fight against terror.

But so far, the presidency stuck with the Service Chiefs who with the exception of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, were appointed in July 2015. However, their tenures have been elongated and there has been rising calls from a cross section of Nigerians for the president to change them.

Major General Williams (rtd) said there is no need keeping the Service Chiefs who are supposed to have retired on account of their ages and length of time spent in service.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Telegraph, Williams said he was not aware of any part in the Constitution which allows the Commander in Chief to retain the Service Chiefs if they are not performing well.

He said: “I do not know if the Constitution, which is vague on such, leaves it to the Commander-in-Chief to decide to allow them to remain in their positions after three years.

“However, there is institutional integrity to be sustained and for me, it is unbelievable for the C-in-C not to be able to find officers who can replace the present ones after four years.

“There is also the issue of personal integrity that kicks in when an officer at that level steps out for fresh brains to step up.

“The Army Chief’s excuse that the military has defeated the insurgents is not correct. We have insurgency in Borno and many lawmakers tell us that there are still no go areas in Borno State. The Borno State governor (Prof. Babagana Zulum) from his pronouncements and action, does not share the same view with the Army chief

“The Army chief says the C-in-C knows what the issues are, it is not what they tell him directly just like what he is telling us.

“The Civil-Military Relations in Borno presently is not conducive for defeating the insurgents.

“If I were the Chiefs, I will set historical precedence by going to the C-in-C, salute and resign with recommendations for their replacements.”

Commodore Olabode George (rtd)

Also commenting, Chief Olabode George, a former Navy Commodore and one time Military Governor of Ondo State (1988–1990) said: “As a general, the law that I know says that first the Service Chief keeps his job at the pleasure of the Commander-in-Chief, but there is caveat, if you hit 60 years old or 35 years in service, whichever comes first, you must go. I do not know how old these people are, may be they have not put in 35 years in service.

“For every kobo they draw after the cut-off date, they would pay back, irrespective of the number of days or years they spend after the cut-off date.

“It is not a private company. If they do not go another government will come ando exercise that power.

“Are you saying there are no other officers who can do the job? A hood does not make the monk. It is a collective responsibility for military operations. As the Chief of Naval Staff, take for example, will have the Chief of Operations, the Chief of Fleet, Chief of this, Chief of that. They will sit down and conceptualise and plan any operation. When you stay too long in the toilet, you will see all kinds of flies in my local parlance. They themselves, having stayed that long, will be tired.

“The morale of others, who are inching to reach the zenith of their profession, will become low.

“It degrades morale. There is no perpetuity in anything. To have gotten to that height and be considered as Chief, means you have done so many trainings and exposed to a lot things. Freshen up the ideas and let others come in. I left the service many years ago, I do not know why he is still keeping them.”

Ikponmwen: No justification for retention

To former Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army, Brig. Gen. Idada Ikponmwen, the retention of the present crop of military service chiefs cannot be justified in any way, given the deteriorating security challenges in the country and their seeming inability to proffer enduring solutions to stem the tide.

Ikponmwen, who also served as Director, Legal Services of the Nigeria Army, blamed the current controversy on the rightful exit date for the Service Chiefs on the complexities and conflicting provisions in the laws guiding the appointment, promotion, discipline and removal of these military top brass.

He said that with our security system generally acknowledged as haven failed under their stewardship, the best way out was for these Service Chiefs is to retire honourably to pave way for the appointment of another set of younger military professionals to continue the task of protecting the territorial integrity of the country.

The military veteran argued that the present administration, which sought and received the approval of the National Assembly in the appointment of the present Service Chiefs in 2015, was legally and morally bound to heed the overwhelming position of the same institution (National Assembly) that there should be a change of batons.

“Democracy thrives on the prevalence of power of the people. If the opinion poll recently carried out revealed that over 70% of Nigerians were in support of the removal of the Service Chiefs, it follows that the view of the Nigerian people should be respected.

“Sequel to that, the level of lack of proficiency, indiscipline, despair and corruption in the military system is clear indictment of the present leadership of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Therefore, the need for re-energising and revamping the system with new heads (leadership) so as to improve efficiency, effectiveness and the morale of troops has become imperative,” he said.

However, Ikponmwen said, the perceived failure of the security system cannot be blamed only on the Service Chiefs, as the matter goes beyond their apparent overstay in the service and the consequent diminishing returns in terms of strategies.

According to him, there is a systemic failure in nearly every sector of governance in Nigeria and that has been largely responsible for the current high level of insecurity in the country.

Ikponmwen disclosed that the seeming confusion on the tenure of the Service Chiefs was because of the conflicting provisions on the subject in the Constitution, the Armed Forces Act and the Terms and Conditions of Service for military officers.

He said that as long as the provisions in all these laws were not in harmony, there is the danger that the President would continue to exercise absolute discretionary powers over the fate of the Service Chiefs.

“The Constitution gives the President and Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) wide discretion in appointing Service Chiefs and same is practically silent on tenure. However, same constitution gives power to National Assembly to regulate the powers of the C-in-C in respect of his operational use of the Armed Forces. Thus in this regard, the National Assembly not only has power to make rules for regulating the powers of the C-in-C with regard to the appointment of the Service Chiefs, but also the power to make laws for appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“Several intriguing questions arise from the present legal provisions on this subject matter of appointment of Service Chiefs in Nigeria, to wit (a) whether the existing AFA, haven predated the 1999 constitution and haven been reproduced practically as replica of the military Decree without any review can be taken as falling outside the scope of existing law requiring to be brought in conformity with the 1999 constitution; and if not being so, whether this AFA, parading as CAP 20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) has been validly enacted; (b) whether the RTCS (2012), not haven been made, as required by the constitution by the National Assembly but by a former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), can be regarded as a valid terms and conditions of service for the Armed Forces of Nigeria and (c) If the AFA and the terms and conditions of service are invalid, whether the absolute power vested in the C-in-C for the appointment of Service Chiefs would serve the best interest of Nigeria, a system characterised by checks and balances,” he said.

On whether it is legal for service chiefs to remain in office after they had attained their mandatory 35 years of service in the military, the lawyer and military strategist said legality could only be determined by the extant laws and regulations.

He said that going by the extant provisions and without prejudices for the questionable status of the Armed Forces Act (AFA) and the Revised Terms and Conditions of Service (RTCS,), it must be asserted that there is too much leaning towards absolute discretion in the appointment and tenure of Service Chiefs in the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“I lean in favour of the control by the National Assembly over the powers exercisable by the C-in-C in the operational use of the military because of the obvious danger inherent in absolute power of any president in a system where checks and balances are hallmark in order to avoid abuses,” he said.

Ikponmwen argued that given the wide and absolute discretionary powers vested in the C-in-C, every measure ought to be taken to prevent misuse of the military. He said that as the constitution, law and regulations stand today, only a vocal populace, an effective political system and a duty-conscious National Assembly can save Nigeria from misuse of the Armed Forces.

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