President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday relieved all the service chiefs of their appointments in a manner that suggests a total overhaul of the nation’s security architecture.
But one of the erstwhile service chiefs –Air Marshal Alex Badeh, was lucky as he was elevated to the position of the Chief of Defence Staff.
Badeh replaces Admiral Ola Ibrahim, who was relieved of his appointment with immediate effect.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, the President named Maj.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah as the new Chief of Army Staff. Minimah replaces Lt.-Gen. Azubike Ihejirika.
Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin takes over from Vice -Admiral Dele Ezeoba as the Chief of Naval Staff,while Air Vice-Marshal Adesola Amosu replaces Badeh.
Abati, who added that “all the changes are with immediate effect,” said Jonathan made the changes “in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by the 1999 Constitution.”
For the first time however, the President said he had already briefed the leadership of the National Assembly on the appointment of the new service chiefs and would, in keeping with the provisions of the law, request the lawmakers to formally confirm the appointments when they resume from Christmas break.
Although no reason was given for the changes, our correspondents gathered that the renewed attacks in Maiduguri, Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents and the threat by an activist lawyer, Festus Keyamo, to sue the President if he failed to sack the service chiefs might have informed Jonathan’s action.
Keyamo had gone to the Federal High Court, Abuja to seek the removal of the service chiefs on the grounds that their appointments did not follow constitutional provisions. On July 1, 2013, the court nullified their appointments, a development that prompted the lawyer to write the President to comply with the court order or face legal action.
Badeh, who was born on January 10, 1957, joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 21 Regular Course while Minimah was born on July 27, 1959. He joined the Army as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 25 Regular Course.
Until his new appointment, Minimah was the Commander of the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps, Jaji.
Jibrin was born on September 16, 1959. He joined the Navy as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 24 Regular Course. Until his appointment as Chief of Naval Staff, he was the Director of Training at Defence Headquarters.
Amosu, who was born on August 1, 1958, joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 25 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, he was the Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air Command, Makurdi, Benue State.
Keyamo welcomed the sacking of the service chiefs, saying, “I have been vindicated.”
He however advised Jonathan to extend “such strict compliance with the rule of law to all other actions of government.”
In a terse statement entitled: “The sacking of Service Chiefs: I feel vindicated,” Keyamo said, “Today’s (Thursday) announcement of the removal of the service chiefs by President Jonathan in compliance with the judgment of the Federal High Court in the case of Festus Keyamo Vs. President and 4 others (which declared the previous appointments null and void) is a welcome development.
“Therefore, the appointments of the new service chiefs that have just been made subject to the confirmation of the National Assembly (in compliance with the judgment) is also commendable.
“The rule of law is the cornerstone upon which we must build our constitutional democracy and it is only such strict compliance with the judgments of courts that will guarantee the stability of our democracy.
“While commending President Jonathan for taking this step to obey the rule of law, we encourage him to extend such strict compliance with the rule of law to all other actions of government.”
The sacking of the service chiefs has however caused anxiety among senior military senior officers.
A source said that with the appointment of Badeh, nearly all the most senior officers in the Armed Forces might proceed on automatic retirement in line with military tradition which does not permit a senior to take orders from a subordinate.
Investigations revealed that with the appointment of Minimah, all Army officers from Courses 21 to 24 would be made to proceed on compulsory retirement.
However, the situation is slightly different in the Navy as only a Rear Admiral in a strategic position at the Defence Headquarters is senior to the new Navy Chief.
It was learnt that the new CDS has some senior AVMs, who have been affected by the issue of seniority and its implication on continuity in service.
The PUNCH learnt that about 10 officers of the Air Force are senior to the new Chief of Air Staff some of whom might be asked to go on compulsory retirement.
It was also gathered that some senior generals might be redeployed to tri-services institutions such as the Defence Headquarters, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Armed Forces Resettlement centre, Oshodi, Lagos, the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna and others.