BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
It was amidst my local celebration of the change of guard that happened in my football club in England- Chelsea FC of London, that the news hit the air waves of the resignation of Nigeria’s four top military Chiefs who were appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on May or June 2015 at inception.
The President’s media Advisor Mr. Femi Adesina had on January 26th 2021, barely 48 hours after Frank Lampard, a legend of football was kicked out as the Chief Coach of Chelsea FC to make way for the Germany born tactician Thomas Tuchel, announced that all the service Chiefs have voluntarily accepted to resign to make way for new service Chiefs.
The media aide to Mr. President 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 I. 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”.
Let me say it straight away that as far as empirical evidences are concerned, in matters of the war on terror, the just retired Army Chief of staff, the Borno state –born lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, will be adjudged as a hard fighter who did his best. History will definitely be kind to him that he did his best to confront the terrorists.
To call a spade by its name, the Army Chief came in when the terrorists gained a lot of grounds and had retaken some towns in the North East. But General Buratai and his men/women including the new Chief of Army Staff General Ibrahim Attahiru, made phenomenal and strategic sacrifices to battle these deadly terrorists and successfully retook virtually all of Nigeria’s territory. So on that ground given all the challenges with paucity of funds, it is a solid fact that the immediate past Chief of Army Staff did a great job. The Air force Chief indeed partnered with the Army Chief to frontally confront the dare devil terrorists who are heavily funded by sponsors from all around the World including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which although were crushed by the United States, but the remnants of ISIS are still a strong force to contend with.
The just retired service Chiefs did not find their assignment easy going by the rate of verbal attacks from a lot of quarters who were angered that President Buhari had renewed the extension of tenures he graciously granted them.
These attackers say the President needed to remove the service Chiefs to make way for new heads.
But again, the question that we should ask is, will these new service Chiefs drop from another outer planet? Not at all.
These new service Chiefs are amongst the Inner members of the commanding heights of the Nigerian military Institution that have waged the war on terror since the last one decade. We must state emphatically that the Boko haram terrorism started over five years before the immediate past military Chiefs were appointed and also their successors were instrumental to some modest achievements made by the immediate past service Chiefs.
It will therefore amount to a fallacy to say the Army Chief and other service Chiefs who just left did not perform well because then we need to find our way of the fallacy of hasty conclusion since the new service Chiefs did not drop from another planet but were actually some of those persons who were instrumental to the effort and tremendous achievements achieved by the immediate past service Chiefs.
This fallacy is dramatized by the fact that few weeks after the Senate asked the President to relieve the then service Chiefs of their positions, the Chairman of the National Assembly and the Senate President gave the same service Chiefs a vote of confidence just few hours before these men of honour voluntarily resigned their positions to make way for others to try their own kind of strategies.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan on Tuesday last week lauded the efforts of the Armed Forces in restoring security to parts of Nigeria.
He said the spate of insecurity across states was gradually being reversed.
He continued: “We have set our eyes on our target of making Nigeria better and making Nigerians safer. What matters to us is what we are able to achieve at the end of the day.
“History will judge us very fairly, and without sounding immodest, I will like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Ninth National Assembly.
“The Ninth National Assembly has achieved so much between 2019 till date for the benefit of this country, despite the pandemic. And the secret is unity and harmony.
“We have achieved unity amongst ourselves in the National Assembly environment between the Senate and the House and, of course, we have achieved harmony in the work between the National Assembly and the Executive. That’s the essence of governance, anyway.
“When we need to disagree, we will do so. But if we have no reason to disagree, we will not do that because we want to please anybody,” he said.
Speaking on the security and economic challenges Nigeria has been facing in the past few years, Lawan said recent developments showed an improvement in efforts made by the Armed Forces towards addressing the spate of insecurity in parts of the country
“Those of us in positions of leadership today are probably more challenged than any set of (previous) leaders. We need to pray, but we also need to act, work hard and apply ourselves fully and work committedly to ensure that we serve Nigerians.
“Nothing is impossible. This situation of insecurity is gradually being reversed. I am particularly happy with recent developments by our Armed Forces. They are doing better than they were doing before.
“I’m sure that the economy will also start to improve, and we will get out of recession that we entered last month.”
Like we say in my place, ‘Onu kwuru ujo ga ekwu Mma’ meaning the same mouth that condemned is applauding, the Senate had last two weeks called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the “over-stayed” service chiefs and replace them with new ones with new ideas and solutions.
The upper chamber also urged the president to provide enough state-of-the-art weapons and equipment to effectively combat the insurgents.
The senators also urged the president to immediately initiate probe into widespread allegations of corruption and leakages within the security and put in place measures to foster transparency and ensure all resources meant and deployed for security are actually spent on the needs on ground.
The Senate made the resolutions after a debate on a motion titled “Beheading of 67 farmers in Borno by Boko Haram Insurgents: Need for urgent decisive action” moved by Kashim Ibrahim (APC – Borno Central) at the plenary on Tuesday.
The federal lawmakers impressed on the government to seek collaboration with neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon towards reviving and strengthening the Multinational Joint Task Force and finding a lasting solution to the scourge of insurgency in the Lake Chad region.
They urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, recruit at least 10,000 Civilian JTF conversant with the local terrain in Borno as Agro-Rangers under the aegis of the NCDSC to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces. So it is inevitable that the newly appointed heads of the armed forces are new in their new positions as heads of the arms of the military, but they will have to face and confront the old challenges, or rather the old demons that they previously confronted when they were still subject to superior orders of their service Chiefs.
So if the same senate that approbate and reprobate on the same matter, it goes to show that contrary to the insinuations in some disgruntled quarters, the immediate past service chiefs actually fought the war on terror like brave warriors. So the new Service chiefs are here to confront old demons that they are already used to fighting for years. There are milestones that their predecessors achieved that they need to consolidate. For instance, the new Chief of Army staff must consolidate on the capacity building training and professionalization of his men and officers and to mainstream further the respect of the fundamental human rights of the citizens in all internal military operations. The Army chief that just left, did left enduring human rights legacies and challenges that need to be attended to. There is the need to expand the services of the department for civil and military relations and the human rights desks which the immediate past Army chief invested a lot of manpower resources and fund to train and upgrade. I humbly also commend the immediate past Army chief for publishing a GREEN BOOK ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN INTERNAL MILITARY OPERATIONS. General Attahiru Ibrahim needs to scale up on these sorts of human rights training so the Nigerian Army can effectively check complaints of human rights violations committed against civilians. I had recommended the book ‘MILITARY LAW IN NIGERIA UNDER DEMOCRATIC RULE’ authored by Brigadier General T.E.C Chiefe, Ph.D to the immediate past COAS, I’m humbly recommending same book to the new Chief of Army staff.
The fine gentlemen wrote in the book as follows: “The Nigerian Armed Forces when deployed for either internal or external operations, are bound by the laws of war and international law in the conduct of the operations. The laws regulate and limit the conduct of Operations by acting as checks against arbitrary use of force they are intended to minimize unnecessary suffering by Combatants and non-combatants during war. Therefore sources of military law in Nigeria include the following: a. The four Geneva Conventions of 1949. b. The two Additional protocols of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, c. Multilateral and bilateral agreements to which Nigeria is a signatory and have bearing on military service or operations. d. The decisions of: (1) The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. (2) Ad hoc war crimes tribunals set up by or with the backing of the UN Security Council. (3) The International Criminal Court (1CC) at the Hague.”
General Chiefe wrote also that: “The four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 for the protection of war victims are as follows; a) Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. b) Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the wounded Sick and Shipwrecked members of the Armed Forces at Sea. c) Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of war. d) Geneva Convention Relative to the protection of Civilian persons in Time of War.
“The two Additional Protocols of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are to supplement the 1949 Geneva Conventions and modernize the laws of War.
Protocol I deals with the 1aws of war in international armed conflicts while Protocol 2 addresses the laws of War applicable in internal armed conflicts”.
It 1s noteworthy that the four Geneva Conventions and the two additional Proto cols of 1977 have been formally given effect in Nigeria by the enactment of the Geneva Conventions Act Cap G3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. In sum, the Conventions and Protocols which are now an Act of the National Assembly, elaborately spell out the laws of armed conflicts on the use of force and the legal implication of disregarding rules regulating the mean and methods of warfare, among other things, 31 Specifically, section 3 of the Act provides for trial and punishment for the breach of the Geneva Conventions as follows: a. In case of grave breach involving wilful killing of a person protected by the Convention, sentence of death. b. In any other such grave breach imprisonment for 14 years.
On the doctrine of Compact the learned lawyer wrote thus: “The soldier is part of the society and also a citizen.
Being a soldier does not remove him from the society but puts on him a specially conjured status called compact.’ He enjoys all the rights of a citizen except those he surrenders by virtue of his being a soldier”.
“Upon acquisition of military status both civil and military law govern him. In support of this position, Takai submits that “the soldier by becoming a soldier does not relinquish his identity or status as citizen with the rights and obligations contained in the constitution. He remains subject both to the civil and military laws a situation described by some jurists as a compact.” This duality of status was aptly described in Grant v. Gould, where it was stated that a soldier does agree and consent that he shall be subject to the military discipline, and he cannot appeal to the civil courts to rescue him from his own Compact.
“The doctrine of compact was further explained by Justice Willes in Dawkins v. Lord Rokeby when he said “But with respect to persons who enter into the military state, who take His Majesty’s pay, and who Consent to act under his commission, although they do not cease to be citizens in respect of responsibility, yet they do by a compact which is intelligible and which requires only the statement of it to the consideration of any one of common sense, become subject to military rule and discipline”.
(Military Law in Nigeria, Under Democratic Rule by Brigadier General T.E.C. Chiefe (Rtd) Ph.D).
With Achebe I say as follows: “In spite of the tendency of people in power to speak about this great nation of ours there is no doubt that Nigerians are among the world’s most unpatriotic people. But this is not because Nigerians are particularly evil or wicked; in fact they are not. It is rather because patriotism, being part of an unwritten social contract between a citizen and the state, cannot exist where the state reneges on the agreement. The state undertakes to organize society in such a way that the Citizen can enjoy peace and justice, and the citizen in return agrees to perform his patriotic duties”.
(The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe).
In the light of the above facts, Nigerians expect excellent leadership and patriotism from the new service chiefs as they settle down to confront these old demons of insecurity, terrorism and human rights infractions that do occur during internal military operations. General Buratai is known for being firm, resolute and decisive in dishing out lawful sanctions to check professional misconduct, the new chiefs must instil discipline and professionalism so cases of extrajudicial killings of civilians are punished severely since nobody is above the law as stated out clearly in the book by no other person but a military General who had a doctorate degree in Law aforementioned. Buratai and other retired service were not perfect but given available resources, I think they discharged their duties creditably.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www. theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.