The Nigerian Army on Sunday denied allegations that those affected by the recent retirement exercise it embarked upon were deliberately pooled from a section of the country to further advance a ‘northern agenda’, describing the reports as “unfair and unethical.”
The Army had come under fierce criticism following claims that senior army officers were compelled to retire because they were from the south of Nigeria and loyal to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The allegations, which came overwhelmingly from commentators in the southern part of the country, said President Muhammadu Buhari approved the exercise in order to purge southerners from the top hierarchy of the military while replacing them with northerners.
But in a statement issued late Sunday by its acting director of public relations, Sani Usman, the Nigerian Army pushed back against the attacks, saying the exercise was carried out in strict compliance with the country’s extant laws.
“The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to speculations and rumours regarding the number and names of the senior Army officers affected in the recent retirement exercise.
“This is worrisome as some individuals and media houses went to the ridiculous extent of publishing outrageous figures and names of serving officers as being retired. This is unethical and unfair.
“We are quite aware that some mischievous elements are trying to whip up sentiments. This is quite unfortunate because all the affected officers were retired based on Service exigencies and in line with the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004,” the Army said.
The statement did not specify the section of that law the Army relied on to compulsorily retire the officers.
Mr. Sani, a colonel, also gave a breakdown of the affected officers by ranks.
“We wish to state that only 38 senior officers were affected by the retirement exercise.
“For the avoidance of doubt the following is the statistics of the officers retired compulsorily; 9 Major Generals, 10 Brigadier Generals, 7 Colonels, 11 Lieutenant Colonels and a Major.”
When asked to provide a state-by-state breakdown of the affected officers, Mr. Sani told PREMIUM TIMES it was not in the interest of the country to do so, saying the Nigerian Army does not thrive on unnecessary sentiments.
“The Army does not thrive on that. These people were retired strictly in accordance with the dictates of the Armed Forces Act and not based on ethnic or tribal consideration. The context of the law is what the people should look at,” Mr. Sani said.
The Army had on June 10 announced the retirement of some of the officers for being allegedly partisan during the 2015 General Elections.
“Similarly, the investigation by the Presidential Committee investigating Defence Contracts revealed a lot,” the statement said. “Some officers have already been arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). People should therefore not read this out of context.
“The military must remain apolitical and professional at all times.”