President, National Assembly on collision course over service chiefs’ confirmation


Our Reporters

There were indications on Thursday that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the National Assembly were on a collision course over the confirmation of the appointment of the new service chiefs.

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja, said the President  must send names of the new service chiefs to the National Assembly for confirmation.

 Kalu said the new service chiefs would be on acting capacities until their confirmation by the National Assembly.

Recall that The PUNCH had on Thursday reported that the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Lucky Irabor; the Chief of Army Staff,  Major General Ibrahim Attahiru; the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, and the Chief of Air Staff,  Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao, violated a 2013 judgment of a  Federal High Court, Abuja.

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According to the report, the judgment, which was delivered by Justice Adamu Bello on July 2, 2013, made it mandatory for the President to obtain the confirmation of the National Assembly for the appointment of the service chiefs.

The report added that Buhari had no intention of sending the names of the service chiefs to the National Assembly for confirmation as a Presidency official, who confided in The PUNCH, said the President was not under any obligation to do so.

The official added that the immediate predecessors of the new service chiefs were not screened by the National Assembly in 2015, adding that the new appointees would not be sent to the parliament for confirmation.

The House spokesman, Kalu, in the interview with The PUNCH,  said it was necessary for the National Assembly to  confirm  the appointment of the service chiefs.

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He said, “It is trite law that when a judgment is neither appealed nor upturned, it remains our law on the issue addressed by the decision of court. This is in line with the doctrine of ‘stare decisis’ –  a legal principle hinged on precedents.

“The Festus Keyamo, SAN’s 2013 case referred to in your question still stands until reversed by an appellate court.”

Constitution empowers Senate to screen, confirm service chiefs – Spokesperson

Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, who spoke in his personal capacity,  urged the legal advisers of the President to perfect necessary arrangements that would ensure the screening and confirmation of the newly appointed service chiefs.

Basiru,  in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, said the Senate as an institution would pass a resolution on the issue when it resumed from its current recess.

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Ajibola explained that both the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Armed Forces Act, empower the National Assembly to screen and confirm all appointments made by the President.

He said all appointees would remain in acting capacities until they were confirmed by the National Assembly.

He said, “ The Senate is not in session at the moment. I can only state my personal opinion on the issue. I cannot give the position of the Senate until we meet and pass a resolution on the matter.

“However,  in view of the combined effects of Section 218 (4) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act,  the appointment of service chiefs will require the confirmation of the Senate.

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“I believe that the President will be well advised by  relevant legal advisory unit of the government to forward the names of the service chiefs to the Senate for necessary legislative action.”

Efforts to get the reactions of  the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami,  (SAN) and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, failed as they did not respond to phone calls and text messages sent to them.

I escaped being retired by Obasanjo as Major – Buratai

Meanwhile, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt.  Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.), on Thursday  said he was nearly retired by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, 21 years ago at the rank of Major.

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He did not disclose the circumstances of his encounter with the ex-president but described his attainment of the rank of Lieutenant General and Chief of Army Staff as historic.

Buratai, who disclosed this during his official handover to his successor,  Major General Ibrahim Attahiru at the Army Headquarters on Thursday, noted that “the Army will never remain the same due to my transformational leadership and landmark achievements.”

“Former President Olusegun Obasanjo almost retired me 21 years ago when I was a Major. My retirement after 40 years of service is historic, hence, calls for gratitude,” he noted.

The new COAS solicited the support of soldiers and officers to reposition the Nigerian Army.

He thanked the President, Maj. Gen. Muhamamadu Buhari (retd.), for finding him worthy, adding that he counted himself lucky to have been chosen for the army top job.

Shettima says choice of new service chief was well informed

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Also on Thursday, a former Governor of Borno State, Senator  Kashim Shettima, said  Buhari’s choice of new service chiefs was well informed.

Shettima, who called for the removal of the former service chiefs, said his agitation was never personal.

Responding to journalists’ questions in Maiduguri,  Shettima who is now a senator representing Borno Central,  said it was clear that the President was apparently taking his time to identify competent military commanders who were well grounded with knowledge of the Boko Haram problems after serving in Borno State at different times, before the change.

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He said: “The President made a well informed decision. I have interacted with some of them and I can attest to the character and professionalism. General LEO Irabor (the chief of defence staff), is one of the finest officers the Nigerian army has produced in recent times. Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo who is the Chief of Naval Stafff had served here in Borno and so has General Ibrahim Attahiru (the new chief of army staff) who was also in Borno for a brief period.  We all know that depending on the situation General Attahiru might have met on ground as theatre commander back then, there is always a difference between when someone is working under another and when he is in charge.”

By Sunday Aborisade, Adelani Adepegba,  Leke Baiyewu, Friday Olokor and Kayode Idowu

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