20 generals may go as Buhari replaces Buratai, service chiefs

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Our Reporters

No fewer than 20 members of courses 34 and 35 may proceed on retirement as the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.),  on Tuesday removed service chiefs and appointed a new set of officers to replace them.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina,  in a statement titled, ‘President Buhari appoints new service chiefs,’ named officers who would head the nation’s armed forces.

According to him, they include Chief of Defence Staff, Major-General Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff,  Major-General I. Attahiru; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, and the Chief of Air Staff,  Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao.

Shortly after the appointment of the service chiefs, sources in the Nigerian Army told The PUNCH that the appointment of the new service chiefs might force no fewer than 20 generals in regiment courses  34 and 35 to retire. While Attahiru is a member of Course 35, Irabor is a member of Course 34.

Earlier in his statement, the Presidential spokesman,  Adesina,  stated, “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 Lucky 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.”

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20 generals may go

The PUNCH gathered that chief among those expected to retire is Lt. Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, the Chief of Training and Operations, Army headquarters.

He was promoted in 2019 to the same rank as Buratai by the President.

The PUNCH gathered that although many of the senior officers might retire, the service years of some of them might be extended by the new chief of army staff who would need their experience in the ongoing counterinsurgency campaign in the North-East.

It was also learnt that some of them might be posted to the defence headquarters, where they would not be reporting to the chief of army staff.

A retired general said, “We have the dearth of officers with experience in Liberia and Sierra Leone wars because it takes gut to fight these boys (insurgents). They use the same tactics we fought against in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is not automatic that members of Course 34 and 35 would retire.

“Course 33 has gone, we have 34 and 35. Irabor is Course 34.  Attahiru is course 35.  About 20 generals in course  34 and 35 may go, but the COAS  may retain some of them.  He would use his discretion. He would want his course mates to be around him. Some may be posted to the defence headquarters.”

A retired officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recalled that there was a frosty relationship between  Buratai and Attahiru.

Buratai had in 2017 removed Attahiru as Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole following a spate of attacks by the insurgents, including the killing of at least 50 people in a mosque.

Buratai also gave him a deadline to deliver Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau dead or alive within 40 days.

Attahiru had taken over the command in May 2017, from Irabor who is now the CDS, but suicide bombings and attacks on military formations increased drastically under him.

In June, barely a month after he took over, Boko Haram insurgents attacked Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

A month after, a group of geologists and technologists from the University of Maiduguri were ambushed by Boko Haram insurgents at Magumeri area of Borno state. About 12 soldiers who escorted the academics were reportedly killed.

Some staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on the team were also killed in the brutal ambush.

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Boko Haram, using four female suicide bombers, also attacked Muna Gari, a suburb of Maiduguri, killing about 14 persons.

Attahiru was subsequently removed and posted out of the combat zone.

In his valedictory speech at the operation, Attahiru had described his posting as routine.

He stated that his team killed five Boko Haram commanders and neutralised 70 terrorists while he was at the helm.

Attahiru had said, “Suffice to note that during the operations, 5 high profile BHT commanders and many foot soldiers were killed, while many other members of the group surrendered owing to the effectiveness of the operations,” Attahiru said in December 2017.

“None kinetic operations were also conducted through coordinated media and information operations that led to the surrender of 72 BHT, who were immediately inducted into Operation SAFE CORRIDOR.

“Furthermore, operational support was also provided to troops of Multinational Joint Task Force  during Operation RAWAN KADA in June 2017, which led to the killing of over 70 BHT and the capture of assorted automatic weapons.”

Following the increasing attacks by Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and banditry in the North-West as well as activities of killer herdsmen in other parts of the country, the National Assembly, the northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum;  its counterpart in the South-West and Ohanaeze Ndigbo,  called for the removal of the service chiefs, who were appointed in 2015.

But the Presidency has repeatedly dismissed such calls, saying it was the President’s prerogative to appoint and remove heads of the country’s armed forces.

Reacting to the removal of the service chiefs and appointment of new ones, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Niger State Mr Jonathan Vatsa, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the President’s action came late as the military had been bastardised already.

On his part, Kaduna State Christian Association of Nigeria Chairman and Vice Chairman (19 Northern States and Abuja), John Hayab, said the removal of the service chiefs was long overdue.

He stated, “Nigerians have received these changes as something long overdue that is why we will not celebrate much but pray more for them to make a difference.”

Buhari still loaded with nepotism, says Afenifere, faults S’East exclusion

The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere,  Yinka Odumakin, told The PUNCH that the changes were belated.  He also wondered why an officer from the South-East was not appointed.

He said, “We are not excited about the belated action of Mr. President. So much has been done to damage the security architecture under nepotism.

“We can only be impressed with the new team when we no longer hear that soldiers are accompanying herders to beat people like it happened in Ogun days back.

“We will want to see inclusive security arrangement to be convinced that normalcy is about to return. We also will like to know why no person was found worthy from the South-East in the new team.”

Hit the ground running, senators tell service chiefs

Also, some Senators asked the newly appointed service chiefs to hit the ground running by tackling the worsening insecurity across the country.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) said, “The appointment of new service chiefs is better late than never. We have been calling for this for a long time now.

“Let us hope that this team would stem the tide of insecurity”.

On his part, Opeyemi Bamidele said, “This is just one out of a number of steps needed to be taken, to tackle insecurity which is making life difficult for Nigerians.

“We should work on the morale of the serving military officers so that they can pursue the war against banditry and insurgency very well”

Basiru congratulates Amao

Senator S Ajibola Basiru representing Osun Central constituency congratulated Amao on his appointment as the Chief of Air Staff.

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Amao hails from Osogbo in the Osogbo Local Government of Osun State.

Felicitating with his kinsman and constituent,  Basiru noted that his appointment was coming at a period when the country was facing serious security challenges adding that much is therefore expected from the new appointee and his colleagues.

Basiru who believes in the competence of Amao by virtue of his military trainings all over the world, however prayed to God to see him and other newly appointed service chiefs through in the onerous task of restoring the nation’s security.”

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Wike, PANDEF laud Buhari over sack of service chiefs

The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and the Pan Niger Delta Forum lauded the President for the removal of the service chiefs and the appointment of new ones.

Wike in a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said although the appointment was belated, it showed the President was listening to calls for their sack.

He challenged the new appointees to see their appointments as an opportunity to re-engineer the

nation’s security architecture which has suffered tremendous setback in the last five years.

Similarly, spokesman for PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in a statement welcomed the appointment of new Service Chiefs and the sack of their predecessors, saying the sack was long overdue.

He stated, “Though the sack of the erstwhile service chiefs was long overdue, we commend President for finally responding to calls by well-meaning Nigerians. We congratulate the new service chiefs while hoping that they would discharge their duties and responsibilities professionally, without biases and tendencies in the best interest of the country.”

Don’t follow the footsteps of your predecessors, Middle Belt warns new service chiefs

The Middle Belt Forum expressed delight over the retirement of the service chiefs.

The National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Dr Isuwa Dogo  in an interview with one of  our correspondents in Jos on Tuesday, however, warned the newly appointed service chiefs not to follow the footsteps of the sacked  service chiefs  whom he accused of allowing insecurity to fester in the country

Dogo said, “The retirement of the service chiefs is overdue. While I commend the President for the action because they have done their best, we hope that the situation they left behind in terms of insecurity will not continue.

“Nigerians want to see a change in the kind of monumental insecurity that characterized their tenure.

“They should tame the killer herdsmen such that within the next six months, the new service chiefs should be able to return the country to safety paths such that the citizens can travel on the roads again without fear of being killed or kidnapped by gunmen”

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The House of Representatives also hailed the President, but said the new service chiefs were not magicians.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, in a statement on Tuesday, said the executive arm of the Federal Government had finally listened to the demand of Nigerians.

The House’ spokesman, however, noted that the new service chiefs would spend “a new energy”, with a different focus, strategy and tactic.

Kalu added, “As Nigerians, we should not expect them to be magicians and the messiahs. What we should expect from these ones is the need to put the people first as they process their own decisions.”

Also, the Chairman of the  House Committee on Army, Abdulrazak Namdas,  urged the new service chiefs to immediately draw a new and comprehensive strategy that could address the growing security crises in the country.

We pray new service chiefs will serve Nigeria better – ACF

The ACF also welcomed the removal of the service chiefs. The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF,

Emmanuel Yawe, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “We only hope that the new chiefs will justify the confidence the President has reposed in them.

“When Buhari came into office as President, we at that ACF had expected him to sort out the security problems of Nigeria speedily.

“Of late, we have complained endlessly about his security failures. We only pray his new security chiefs will serve him and  Nigeria better.”

The Coalition of Northern Groups spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman,  said  Buhari had finally acceded to the huge demands made by Nigerians for the replacement of the service chiefs.

He stated, “The CNG advises President Buhari as a military general to reassert himself by taking direct control of the fight to secure the nation and to finally reclaim the nation’s to forests, highways and sea that have been lost to insurgents, other armed criminals and assortment of militants in various guises.”

Fayose seeks probe of ex-service chiefs

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Former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, in tweets on his verified Twitter account on Tuesday,  called for the probe of the service chiefs who were removed from office by the President.

Profile of new service chiefs

Irabor

Irabor hails from Agbor in Delta State and is a member 34 Regular combatant of the Nigerian Army.

He is an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Ghana, Accra, and Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka.

Before his appointment as the CDS, Irabor was Chief of Training and Operations, Defence headquarters.

The General was formerly the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole as well as Force Commander, Multinational Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin Area. He is a distinguished awardee of several militaries, ECOMOG and United Nations Awards and Medals.

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Attahiru

He hails from Kaduna North Local Government of Kaduna State and he was born in 1966.

Before his appointment, he was in charge of the 82 Division, Nigerian Army.

Attahiru replaced Irabor as Theatre Commander of Operation Lafia Dole in the North-East in 2017.

Amao

Chief Air Staff,  Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao was born on September 14, 1965 at Enugu. He hails from Oshogbo Local Government Area of Osun State.

He enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force on January 19, 1984 as a member of 35th Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course and was commissioned as Pilot Officer on  December 20, 1986. He has the following academic qualifications: Master’s of Science in Defence and Strategic Studies from University of Madras India, Master of Military Science and Strategy and Advance Diploma in Defence and Strategy Studies from National Defence University  China, Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations and Diplomacy from Kaduna Polytechnic Nigeria, National Diploma in Freshwater and Fisheries Technology from Federal College of Freshwater and Fisheries Technology, New Bussa Nigeria and Nigerian Defence Academy Certificate of Education.

 Air Vice Marshal Amao has attended the following courses:

  • Primary Flying Training, at 301 Flying Training School Kaduna Nigeria.
  • Basic Flying Training at 303 Flying Training School Kano Nigeria.
  • Tactical Fighter Training at 99 Air Combat Training Group Kainji Nigeria.
  • Instructor Pilot Course at 301 Flying Training School Kaduna Nigeria.
  • Aircraft Accident Investigation in Civil Airline at Nigeria Civil Aviation Training School Zaria Nigeria.

Appointments held include,

  • Deputy Defence Adviser (Air) at Nigerian High Commission London.
  • Air Component Commander Operations ZAMALAFIYA and LAFIYA DOLE. (North East Nigeria Operation).
  • Deputy Theatre Commander (Air) Operation LAFIYA DOLE.
  • Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command Makurdi.
  • Chief of Training and Operations Nigerian Air Force.
  • Chief of Policy and Plans Nigerian Air Force.
  • He is currently the Commandant Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Lagos.

Gambo

The Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo was born on April 22, 1966 and hails from Nasarawa LGA in Kano State.

He enlisted into the Nigeria Navy on September 24, 1984 as a member of Regular Course 36 and was commissioned Sub-Lieutenant on  Sept 24, 1988.

He is an Underwater Warfare specialist with a subspecialisation in InteIIigence. The senior officer has attended several military courses which include; Sub-Technical course and Officers Long course both at NNS QUORRA.

He also attended Junior Division 48/99 and Senior Course 26 both at AFCSC Jaji. Other courses attended include the National Defence Course at the South African National Defence College. Until his appointment as the CNS, he was the Director of Procurement at the Defence Space Administration. The senior officer holds a PGD in Transport Management and a Master‘s degree in Transport Management (Logistics option) both from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. He is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Fellow of the Certified Institute of Shipping. Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria as well as a fellow of the National Defence College, South Africa.

By Olalekan Adetayo, Sunday Aborisade, Friday Olokor, Adelani Adepegba, Leke Baiyewu, Adebayo Adeyinka, Godwin Isenyo, James Abraham Abiodun Nejo and Dennis Naku

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Contact: theeditor@punchng.com

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