Rejig security architecture now, Mr. President
To say that Nigeria’s security is on tenterhooks is to put it mildly as Nigerians live daily in fear of their fates in the hands extremists, kidnappers, ritualists, armed robbers and their likes. The dire security situation is not helped by the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has severally extended the tenure of the Service Chiefs contrary to expectations that they should have since been shown the exit.
It is even more telling that the Service Chiefs have constitutional guaranteed mandates which the federal government has serially failed to adhere to. It is even more of a disincentive to loyalty, hard work and professionalism for a regimented service like the military where officers aspire to climb to the perch of their careers.
It should however be stated that the president has not wholly abused the law as Section 218 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of and section 09.06 of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions for Service for officers (2012) Revised allows the president to extend the tenure of the service chiefs.
The section of the constitution states that, “(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”.
Going by the provisions of the law, President Buhari has the powers to extend the tenure of the service chiefs for six months, after which he can decide to renew at expiration.
The service chiefs were appointed on July 13, 2015 for a two year tenure, but they have had their tenures extended at least three times since 2017.
Recall that the Chief of Defence Staff and two of the Service Chiefs’ tenure had expired on July 13, 2017, but are still in office following a one-year extensions granted them in December 2017 by the president.
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 60 or attained the 35years maximum length of service.
Ideally, based on age or years of service, Olonisakin, Ibas and Abubukar were due for retirement since 2017 while Buratai was due for retirement in 2018, but President Buhari had consistently utilize his powers and extended their tenures.
In 2017, the president approved the extension of tenure of service of General Abayomi Olonisakin, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai Chief of Army Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-EteIkwe Ibas, the Chief of Naval staff and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, the Chief of Air staff.
The president had explained that the extensions were in recognition of the efforts of the Chief of Defence staff and the Service chiefs in the counter insurgency operations in the North East and on-going military operations across the nation.
However the counter terror war cited as excuse for this tenure elongation for the military chiefs cannot be said to have been justified, seeing that the terrorists have since increased the sophistication of their terror campaigns.
Also, the pace of kidnapping and banditry in parts of the north-west, as well as the incessant farmers/herders clashes in parts of the country negates the commendations the security chiefs were getting from the president.
States like Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina and Kaduna have recorded raising cases of kidnapping for ransom by bandits suspected to have infiltrated the country from neighbouring Chad and Niger republics. Military actions like ‘Operation Harbin Kunama’ and the latest ‘Operation Puff Adder,’ can be said to have recorded little successes seeing that the bandits’ still hold sway in the north-west region.
Despite the growing insecurity in most part of the country, President Buhari had tenaciously retained his security chiefs throughout his first tenure. The president pays deaf ears to the calls to sack security chiefs or at the least, rejig the security architecture to jolt service chiefs to action
Though the presidency has so far been silent on the expiration of their tenure, there are indications that the tenure of the service chiefs may yet again be extended by another six months.
This time the extension is rumoured to be a reward for jobs done in ensuring law and order during the 2019 general election.
With the worsening insecurity in the country, it is high time President Buhari overhauled Nigeria’s security architecture and shake-up the top hierarchy of the army since not many successes were recorded in most military operations since the current set of military chiefs came in to offices.
The unprecedented tenure elongation for offices of the service chiefs could set a dangerous antecedent in the military as it will inevitably create ethical issues of skewed reward system, and lead to the politicization of the constitutional offices of service chiefs. The service chiefs may begin to see their continuous stay in offices as special favours from the President.
Also, the backlog of officers forced into compulsorily retirement to make room for the continued stay of the service chiefs undermines institutional memory and wastage of huge resources spent in training them.
Furthermore, prolonged tenure extension for the service chiefs could contribute to stagnation in the careers of other military personnel thereby dampening their morale in professional duties.
Their continued stay in office amount to gross violation of the Constitution, we therefore call on Mr President to immediately retire the Chief of Defence Staff and the various service chiefs.
The country should be allowed to have the opportunity of trying other professional military Generals to obtain optimal performance in the counter insurgency war.