by Hassan Adebayo, PremiumTimes
Majority of the 38 officers compulsorily retired by the Nigerian Army two months ago were sent away without recourse to the rules of disengagement in the Nigerian military,” PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
The army had in June announced the compulsory retirement of 38 officers on different ranks on the grounds of alleged professional misconduct during the 2015 general elections, as well as involvement in the $2.1 billion arms procurement scandal.
The affected officers include Major-Generals F. O. Alli, E.J. Atewe, I. N. Ijoma, L. C. Ilo, TC Ude, Letam Wiwa, SD Aliyu, M.Y Ibrahim, LC Ilo and O. Ejemai.
Others were Brigadier-Generals D. M. Onoyeiveta, A. S. O. Mormoni Bashir, A.S.H Sa’ad, A. I. Onibasa, D. Abdusalam, L.M. Bello, KA Essien, B. A. Fiboinumama and I. M. Lawson.
Also affected were Cols. I. O. Ahhachi, P. E. Ekpenyong, T. T. Minimah, O. U. Nwonkwo, and F. D. Kayode, Lt-Cols C. O. Amadi, K. O. Adimogha, T. E. Arigbe, O. A. Baba Ochankpa, D. B. Dazang, O. C. Egemole, Enemchukwu, A. Mohammed, A. S. Mohammed, G. C. Nyekwu, T. O. Oladintoye, C. K. Ukoha and Major A. T. Williams.
In the June 9 letters, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, to the affected officers, their compulsory retirement was hinged on “provisions of Paragraph 09.02c (4) of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers 2012 (Revised)”.
The referenced section – 09.02c (4) – of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers 2012 (Revised), shows the officers were laid off “on disciplinary grounds i.e. serious offence(s)”.
Emphasizing “service exigencies” and that the “military must remain apolitical and professional at all times”, Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, a colonel,on June 10, released a statement, disclosing what could have constituted the “serious offences” which warranted the 38 officers to be compulsorily retired.
“It should be recalled that not too long ago some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 general elections,” the statement said.
“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),” Colonel Usman said.
Although, some of the officers, who were shocked by their sudden retirement, had alleged ethnic cleansing, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, said the army embarked upon the exercise to remove those “who in one way or the other jeopardized the fight against insurgency and other issues bordering on national security.”
He also said that there was no better time to send the officers away than the time they were retired.
But PREMIUM TIMES investigations revealed that the Army breached its own rule by retiring most of the officers without query or indictment by any panel, thereby raising question of arbitrariness.
However, contrary to the claim by the Army, our investigations showed that only a few of the affected officers were queried, tried and indicted.
Others had their careers abruptly cut short for reasons that smacks of high-level arbitrariness, pettiness, witch-hunting and partisanship by authorities of the Army.
While officers cleared by either arms procurement panel or election panel were retired, others who were not questioned at all were also sent away.
Our findings revealed that nine officers, holding the rank of Major General, 11 Brigadier Generals, seven Colonels and 11 Lieutenant Colonels, amounting to 38 officers in sum, were laid off.
Highly placed sources in the Army told PREMIUM TIMES that out of the Major Generals, only one – E.D. Atewe (N/7674) faced a panel and was indicted. Mr. Atewe was indicted by the presidential arms probe panel, and he is currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Although S.D. Aliyu (N/7711); M.Y. Aliyu (N/8114) GOC 7 Division; Fatai Alli, (N/7914) a former Director of Operations in the Army, also faced presidential arms panel but they were cleared. Yet they were laid off for “serious offence”, our investigations revealed.
Other five Major Generals – L. Wiwa (N/7665), who is late Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother; I.N. Ijeoma (N/8304); T.C Ude (N/7866); L.C. Ilo (N/8320); O. Ejemau (N/8340) were neither queried nor indicted by any panel.
On June 9, they received letters via emails, directing them to proceed on compulsory retirement.
Brigadier Generals had to go because of their loyalties
The cases of the affected Brigadier Generals are not different; only one of them – A.I Onibasa (N/9072) was indicted by the presidential panel on arms procurement.
Sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the remaining 10 officers were simply retirement because they were suspected to be have failed to help this regime to power.
For instance, two officers were laid off because of their ties to the embattled former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, our sources said.
The two officers – A.S.H. Sa’ad (N/8392), who was at the Directorate of Military Intelligence; and Mormoni Bashir (N/8396), former principal staff officer to Mr. Dasuki – were retired without indictment. Although, Mr. Sa’ad faced a panel, he was not found to have engaged in any wrongdoing.
For his alleged close ties to a former Army Chief, Kenneth Minimah, D. Abdulsalam (N/9169) was sent away.
Koko Essien (N/8794), a former Brigade Commander, 2 Brigade, Port Harcourt, faced the election panel but was cleared. Mr. Essien was laid off nonetheless, like Bright Fibioinumana (N/8399); L.N. Bello (N/8799), former Brigade Commander, 34 Brigade Owerri; and M.G. Alli Moundhey, former Director, Campaign Planning in the North East Operations, who were even not queried in the first place.
Although, the Nigerian Army said the affected officers were retired for either involvement in the 2015 general elections or arms procurement fraud, our investigations showed that officers who were not in Nigeria at the time of the elections were also sacked.
That was the case of I.B. Lawson (N/8812) and G.O. Agachi (N/9363) who were Defence Attaches at Nigeria’s missions in China and Benin Republic respectively.
According to a document seen by this newspaper, they retired for allegedly committing “serious offence”.
But they were never informed of their offences nor were they invited to face any panel of inquiry, army insiders say.
“They aided PDP to get votes”
Many Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels who were laid off on June 9 were merely suspected of failing to cooperate with the All Progressives Congress to garner votes in the 2015 elections, sources told PREMIUM TIMES.
In one instance, T.A Williams (N/11469) a Major; and A. Mohammed (N/10659), a Lieutenant Colonel, both attached to the 195 Battalion, Agenebode, Edo State, with the latter as Commanding Officer, were said to have been flushed out because of complaint of not cooperating with the APC, brought against them. But Mr. Mohammed was said to be away in the North-East at the time and played no role during the election. Yet he was retired.
Similarly, in Rivers State, Army insiders said, APC officials accused four officers attached to the 332 Air Defence Regiment (B. Odiankpa – N/10417) and ; 5 Battalion, Elele (A.S. Mohammed -N10662); 2 Brigade Garrison, Port Harcourt (A.Adimoha – N/10421); 29 Battalion Port Harcourt (T.O. Oladuntoye (N/10338) of aiding the PDP in the state.
Our findings revealed that these officers, accused of partisanship, were not queried or investigated before they were asked to forced to leave the army.
In one curious case, documents seen by this newspaper revealed that Lt. Col A. Mohammed was in the North East, not Agenebode, but somehow his name was among those listed for alleged partisanship.
The former Commanding Officer, 93 Battalion, Takum, O.C. Egemole (N/10423), who was also compulsorily retired, was also accused of “not doing enough” to avert APC loss in Taraba State. He was also neither queried nor investigated.
Seven colonels on the list of the compulsory retirees had no formal charge issued to them nor did they face panel before they were laid off.
For instance O.U. Nwankwo (N/9678) was studying at the University of Ibadan while M.A. Suleiman (N/10030) was in Chad as Defence Attaché before they were suddenly retired.
Then, C.K. Ukoha (N/10319) was in Abuja during the elections, insiders told us, but was accused of taking part in electoral fraud in Benin and was retired.
Also, without probe or indictment for any offence, T. Minimah (N/10185), brother to former Army Chief, Kenneth Minimah, was also removed from his post in Benin and retired.
Did the retirements follow due process?
PREMIUM TIMES checks indicated the army violated its own rules in the ways the officers were disengaged.
The Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers whose paragraph 09.02c (4) was relied upon to remove the officers, originates from the Armed Forces Act.
The section cited by the Army provides that an officer may be compulsorily retired “on disciplinary grounds i.e. serious offence(s)” without defining what constitutes “serious offences”.
But the principal law – the Armed Forces Act – establishes all actions that constitute offences in the Military.
The Act prescribes steps to be taken in punishing offences, and a review shows no section empowers the Army Council to arbitrarily punish or compulsorily retire officers for any offence.
In fact, the Army Council, in Section 11(a-f) of the Act, has no power to retire any officer on disciplinary ground without compliance with the steps prescribed by law.
“Army did no wrong; affected officers can seek redress”
The spokesperson for the Army, Sani Usman, a Colonel, however insisted the officers were properly retired.
“Those that were compulsorily retired had one problem or the other that warranted their compulsory retirement from the Army,” Mr. Usman told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Basically that’s it. And whoever is not satisfied with that should please seek redress. They are quite familiar with the terms and conditions of service.
“None of them was arbitrarily retired and they know. Army can’t just retire you without any offence or because the Chief of Army Staff does not like your face.
“It is not for them to go to newspaper. They were advised to write the Commander-in-Chief through the Chief of Defence Staff to seek redress. Their records are there and they will be given cogent reason why they were asked to retire compulsorily.”
Mr. Usman was evasive when asked whether all the affected officers were queried or formally indicted before they were forced out of service.