The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, has given reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari cannot afford to change or appoint new service chiefs for now.
Ndume in an interview said Buhari could not afford to change the military leadership because Nigeria was in a complete state of war. The Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, are long due for retirement having spent more than 35 years in military service. But the president has extended their tenure indefinitely. It was gathered that within the military circle, officers are quietly complaining that their commander-in-chief are “suffocating” growth in the armed forces as officers who are junior to the service chiefs are being forced into retirement ahead of their seniors. Section 8 of the public service rules stipulates that the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier. “No officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier,” the law reads. Also, Section 4 of the harmonised terms and conditions of service officers (2017) states that military service of an officer is a period of unbroken service in the armed forces of Nigeria from the date of commission to the date of retirement from service. This period of unbroken service covers date of enlistment into service as soldiers/ratings/airmen for regular commission, short service commission, direct short service commission, direct regular commission, and executive commission officers, including other commissions.
But Ndume maintained that the president could not but retain the service chiefs because Nigeria is in a state of war, not only in the North-east, but all over the country with serious military deployments to quell crisis and maintain peace He said: “We are in war. Definitely, we are in war. We are fighting the insurgents in the North-east and in the North-west. The military is so much involved and are being deployed in so many zones of the federation. The security situation is such that that the military is involved almost in all parts of the country. So, we are in war. “The military is so involved in so many security challenges. In fact, in almost the 36 states, in fact, this is a pointer that we are at war. “Coincidentally, the president is a retired army general and he knows this war situation better than most Nigerians; and he knows when to change his army commanders and when not to do that. As a commander-in-chief, he understands this war situation better than we the civilians. “I’m sure he is doing the right thing as the commander-in -chief and when he finds it necessary, he will effect changes.” He stated that he didn’t think that changing the service chiefs would solve the insecurity in the country. “I don’t think that changing the service chiefs will be the solution to the insecurity in the country. I don’t think that this war is not won because the service chiefs are still there and have not been changed.”