The Nigerian Army on Wednesday gave a surprising reason for its compulsory retirement of some officers in 2016.
About 37 officers, including generals, were summarily dismissed via a letter on June 9 that year.
According to the statement announcing their retirement, the officers were sacked by the Army Council for alleged electoral and contract-related fraud.
The development was controversial, as most of the officers did not face any panel or probe before their retirement.
This triggered widespread condemnation and was followed by suits filed by the retired officers at the National Industrial Court, Abuja.
Speaking during Wednesday’s hearing of a suit filed by a colonel, D. R Hassan, one the affected officers, a lawyer working with the Nigerian Army’s legal department said the soldiers were dismissed “for failing to renew their appointments after 18 years.”
The lawyer who introduced herself as Captain N Okorie, said according to the oath of allegiance sworn by the military officers during their first appointment, their contract was due for renewal after 18 years.
She said that failure of the officers to write their superiors for the renewal of their appointment amounted to a ‘serious offence.’
“He took an oath of allegiance to be employed for 18 years, after which he would renew his employment. He failed to comply with the provisions. That is a serious offence,” Ms. Okorie said while answering questions from Mr Hassan’s lawyer, Samuel Zibiri
Ms Okorie added that from her knowledge, the necessary disciplinary measure for such an action was for the Army to “issue the sacked officers with the summary dismissal letter.”
“The disciplinary measure is to write the letter which is what the Army has done,” Ms Okorie said.
After making her submissions, the defence lawyer asked Ms Okorie to read through section 123 of the Army Act, Cap 20, Laws of Nigeria.
The section explains that before a disciplinary measure will be taken against an army officer, the allegation shall first be reported in a charge sheet to the commanding officer of the accused who will act based on the charge.
After reading through the Army Act, Ms Okorie objected to its requirement in the issue. She said although the Act stipulates the given procedure for the punishment of erring officers, the matter in question did not require referral to the Act.
Shortly after Mr Hassan’s was adjourned, the court began a similar matter involving another retired colonel, Mohammed Suleiman.
Mr Suleiman was called into the dock as a witness and also asked why he did not write a letter renewing his appointment after 18 years in the Army.
Mr Suleiman however explained that as a regular staff, he knew there was no need for him to have written any such letter.
“A regular officer is supposed to serve for 35 years,” Mr Suleiman explained.
The case was adjourned till October 8 for continuation of hearing.