Top Nigerian soldiers, controversially retired, seek redress

Nigerian Army on duty
Nigerian Army on duty

Some of the 38 officers compulsorily retired by the Nigerian Army have sought redress, after they complained authorities breached Nigerian laws in laying them off.

Apart from relying on the Paragraph 09.02(e) of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers to petition President Muhammadu Buhari, affected officers, who feel arbitrarily forced out of service, have also approached the National Industrial Court to seek reinstatement.

Multiple sources – including the affected officers, spokespersons of the Army and the Defence Minister – confirmed this to PREMIUM TIMES.

According to documents seen by this newspaper, one of the affected officers, Abdulfatai Mohammed, petitioned the President on June 20, within the 30 days prescribed by the law.

“I want to respectfully state that I was not in any way involved in any of the 2 issues stated as reasons for compulsory retirement of 38 officers of which I was among,” Mr. Mohammed, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, wrote in his petition.” I was never investigated at any time and have not committed any serious offence.”

He asked Mr. Buhari to “accept my appeal and set aside the letter of compulsory retirement with File Reference AHQ MS/GI/300/226 dated June 9 2016 that was issued to me and reinstate me into the Army to ensure course of justice, good conscience and equity is served.”

“A thorough investigation of the surreptitious inclusion of my name in the list of officers that have enquiries and indicted would expose possible manipulation of processes and victimisation in my case,” he added.

But close to two months after the petition was submitted, Mr. Mohammed, like others, said his petition had not been transferred to the president for consideration.

The affected officers accused the Defence Minister, Mansur Ali, of blocking their appeal from being transferred to the President.

The Minister, Mr. Mohammed said in his Statement of Facts filed before the industrial court on August 12, “has wilfully inserted himself into the process by having the appeal sent to him and upon receipt of this appeal on July 13, 2016, he has ensured the appeal did not get to the President.”

The allegation was directly conveyed to the minister through a July 25 letter by Mr. Mohammed’s counsel.

According to one of the affected officers who spoke to this newspaper, Mr. Ali is allegedly frustrating the appeal of the officers “because he was part of the decision (to retire the officers) and does not want the President to know he took part in illegality.”

However, the minister denied the allegation of frustrating the officers’ appeal.

His spokesperson, Colonel Gusau, said the minister was not involved in the process of transferring the appeal to the President.

“The minister is just information addressee,” Mr. Gusau said. “He was only copied for the purpose of information or his knowledge. The is through the Chief of Defense Staff who is the action addressee to the President, C-in-C. The minister is not sitting on anybody’s appeal.”

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The Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, also denied the minister was stalling the appeals.

“It’s not possible,” Mr. Usman, a Colonel, said; adding that all appeals are “being treated.”

The Director of Information, Defence Headquarters, Rabe Abubakar, a Brigadier General, could not be immediately reached for comment on whether the Chief of Defense Staff transferred the appeal letter to the President directly or forwarded them to the Minister for onward transfer

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the Army breached its own rule by retiring most of the 38 compulsorily retired officers without query or indictment by any panel, thereby raising question of arbitrariness.

In the June 9 letters, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, to the affected officers, their compulsory retirement was hinged on “provisions of Paragraph 09.02c (4) of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers (HTACOS) 2012 (Revised)”.

The referenced section – 09.02c (4) – of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers 2012 (Revised), shows the officers were laid off “on disciplinary grounds i.e. serious offence(s)”.

Emphasizing “service exigencies” and that the “military must remain apolitical and professional at all times”, the Army spokesperson on June 10 released a statement disclosing what could have constituted the “serious offences” which warranted the 38 officers to be compulsorily retired.

“It should be recalled that not too long ago some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 general elections,” the statement said.

“Similarly, the investigation by the Presidential Committee investigating Defence Contracts revealed a lot. Some officers have already been arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),” Mr. Usman said.

However, contrary to the claim by the Army, our investigations showed that only a few of the affected officers were queried, tried and indicted.

Others had their careers cut short for reasons that smacks of arbitrariness by authorities of the Army.

While officers cleared by either arms procurement panel or election panel were retired, others who were not questioned at all were also sent away.

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