“The unprecedented third term extension of the tenure of offices of the current serving chiefs will inevitably create ethical issues of skewed reward system; will create increasing levels of lack of professionalism and would ultimately lead to personalization and politicization of the constitutional offices of service Chiefs. Importantly, under the relevant sections of the constitution as adduced by the Presidency for this opaque decision of third term elongation of tenure, there is no such provisions for tenure extension”.
With the above summation a leading pro-democracy and civil rights group – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has criticized the reported extension for a third term of the tenures of the military service chiefs who were long overdue for retirement since last December with the possible exception of the Chief of Army Chief who is not yet ripe for exit from the Army.
In a statement to the media authorized jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the media Affairs National Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said it was absolutely irregular for the president to keep selected military officers in offices when they statutorily ought to have retired to allow for progression by their juniors in the different arms of the military.
The Rights group said the boko haram counter terror war cited as another excuse for this obscene tenure elongation for service military chiefs does not justify the apparent illegality because the armed terrorists have increased the sophistication of their targeted suicide bombing campaign since the current set of military chiefs are ib offices. The Nation is better off trying other professional military Generals to obtain optimal performance in the counter insurgency war.
“We think the current third term extension for the military service chiefs by President Buhari is aimed at obtaining undue political leverage and partisan advantage towards the 2019 presidential polls since the service chiefs would now view their continuous extra-legal stay in offices as special favours from the holder of the political office of President. These favours will inevitably put them in the unprofessional quagmire of serving the partisan interest of the incumbent President who is being railroaded to run for a second term even when his ongoing chequered first tenure has seen over 100 million Nigerians becoming poverty stricken and the costs of living skyrocketing to an abysmal level with pump prices of petroleum products reaching an all time high beyond the affordability of millions of Nigerians. This undue favouritism will undermine professionalism in the military and will dissuade officers who are supposed to rise to their peak to lose that chance and this will lead to lack of motivation”.
HURIWA also faulted the tenure extension on the ground that the constitution which is the highest laws of the land does not contain any specific clause allowing tenure extensions.
“Section 218(1) and (2) of the 1999 constitution does not contain any such words like tenure extension or any such aberrations that will encourage progressive degradation of professionalism in the ranks and file of the military. For the avoidance of doubt, section 1(3) of the constitution states that “If any law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, the constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void”.
HURIWA argues that the aforementioned provision of the constitution (section 1 subsection 3) nullifies the Harmonised Conditions of service which is extralegal.
HURIWA also affirmed thus: “The by law which confers some levels of authority to the President to extend tenure of serving service chiefs did not comply substantially with the relevant constitutional provisions cited by the President in awarding an unprecedented third term extension to service chiefs.
The section 218(1) and (2) of the constitution states as follows: “(1) The powers of the President as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation; “(2)The powers conferred on the President by subsection (1) of this section shall include power to appoint the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff and heads of any other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly”.
“Also this changes would also have top officers among whom are over 150 officers in the rank of Major General in the Army retired compulsorily thereby undermining institutional memory and wastage of humongous resources spent in training them”.
“Also, over 70 officers in the Nigerian Navy, particularly officers in the rank of Rear Admiral are equally penciled down for retirement just as 50 officers in the rank of Air Vice Marshal in the Nigerian Air Force face retirement”.
“Following the expected changes, officers recently elevated to the various ranks in the three arms of the military have reportedly not been given new postings even as their current status put them above the positions they are still being made to man”.
HURIWA recalled that the Chief of Defence Staff and two of the Service Chiefs’ tenure had expired on July 13, 2017,and was appointed on July 13,2015 but are still in office following a one-year extensions granted them last December by the president.
HURIWA recalled that General Olonisakin, by virtue of his age or length of service in the Nigerian Army was due for retirement last December, but had his tenure extended by Buhari. Based on the Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service, appointments as service chiefs are tenured for two years.
“However, at the pleasure of the president, the tenure could be extended if they have not reached the retirement age of 56 and/or attained the maximum length of service. Going by this statute there has to be no further extentions”.
The service chiefs comprise the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar.
Media reports said the tenure extension, the second in a row for Olonisakin, Abubakar and Ibas, was seen as rare in the military establishment.
“Buhari had in December 2016 and June this year extended the tenure of the three officers, raising hopes among senior personnel in the Armed Forces that they would finally be retired this month and other officers promoted to replace them.
Based on age or years of service, Olonisakin, Ibas and Abubukar were due for retirement exactly a year ago while Buratai is not due for retirement till 2018.”
However, a statement Monday from Col. Tukur Gusau, spokesman to the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said: “The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, having carefully reviewed the on-going military operations across the nation and the efforts of the Chief of Defence Staff and the service chiefs in the counter insurgency operations in the North-east, coupled with the security situation of the Niger Delta region, has graciously approved the extension of tenure of service of General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, the Chief of Naval Staff, and Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, the Chief of Air Staff.