Over 3500 Nigerians who participated in a PREMIUM TIMES poll have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the service chiefs.
This comes about a week after federal lawmakers made the same call asking the president to appoint new service chiefs.
It was one of the many resolutions made by members of both the upper and lower chamber of the national assembly after a lengthy deliberation on insecurity last week. This is even as a senator asked the president to resign.
Many believe the service chiefs are bereft of ideas and strategies to tackle insecurity across the country.
A total of 4,380 voters participated in the poll which was conducted on the PREMIUM TIMES’ website and on its official Twitter account.
The poll lasted for about seven days and was conducted in a way that made it impossible for a respondent to vote more than once from the same computer or mobile device.
Participants were asked a single question: “Should service chiefs be removed?” with options of “yes”, “no” and “indifferent.”
A total of 3,771 respondents (86.1 per cent) supported the sack while 317 participants (7.2 per cent) kicked against the idea.
Another 292 respondents (6.7 per cent) said they were indifferent about the call.
In the storm’s eye
The service chiefs include the Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, and Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar.
They were all appointed on July 13, 2015, by the President.
Mr Buhari had said he considered merit and track records in tapping them for their new assignments. Their records gave them the job, he said.
Save for the Chief of Army Staff, whom he said he briefly met at his Command at the Multi-National Joint Task Force, in Chad, the president said “he did not know any of them”.
The tenures of the defence and service chiefs, according to the Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service, expired on July 13, 2017 but the president has kept them in office despite public outcry.
What the law says
Section 8 of the public service rules stipulates that the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.
“No officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier,” it says.
Also, section 4 of the harmonised terms and conditions of service officers (2017) states that military service of an officer is a period of unbroken service in the armed forces of Nigeria from the date of commission to the date of retirement from service.
This covers date of enlistment into service as soldiers or ratings or airmen for regular commission, short service commission, direct short service commission, direct regular commission, executive commission officers, including other commissions.
Each of the service chiefs has, however, spent above the stipulated service years.
Mr Olonisakin, 57, has spent 38 years in service. Messrs Buratai and Ibas, both 59, have been in service for 36 years. Air Chief Abubakar, 59, has spent 40 years in service.
Insecurity across the nation has spiked at an alarming rate in recent years.
Apart from the resurgent Boko Haram attacks in the North-east, there have been increased cases of killings and kidnappings across the country. Security operatives, many of whom have also been victims, appear unable to stem the tide.
Most of the attacks across Nigerian are also borne from religious, ethnic as well as political rivalries.
At least, one in three motions discussed in the National Assembly in recent weeks, borders on insecurity.
In one of the latest incidents, 13 people were killed in a Plateau community.
Also there was the kidnap and killing a seminarian, Michael Nnadi and the wife of a Kaduna-based doctor, Philip Ataga, in Kaduna State.
Besides the killings and kidnapping, there have also been rising cases of armed robbery, rape, car-snatching, among others, in different parts of the country and the Federal Capital Territory.
Amidst the insecurity, the presidency has said Nigerians “have reasons to be grateful as the security situation is better than it was before Mr Buhari assumed office.”
“We know what the situation was as at 2015 and we know what it is today. Despite the reversals in security, it is still not as bad as it used to be in this country,” Femi Adesina, President Buhari’s spokesperson, said recently.
Will Buhari heed the call?
The president has overtime, failed to adhere to the call of Nigerians with regards to replacing the service chiefs.
Shortly after the lawmakers adopted the resolution to call for the sack of the service chiefs, both the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, met with the president to relay their decisions to him.
However, the outcome of the meeting did not in anyway, show that the president is considering the matter.
Affirming that issues of insecurity were discussed, the only major take-away, perhaps, from the meeting was that the “president is as worried” as other Nigerians, according to the officials.
Both lawmakers also hammered on the need for increased funding for the security agencies.
The officials, who are of the same political party as the president, also appeared to have taken a slightly different position that the one they had before the meeting with Mr Buhari.
Mr Gbajabiamila said there was the concern of a “knee-jerk” decision regarding the service chiefs, and also whether the prevalent security problems fall under their job description.
“…So the question then arises that if he changes the service chiefs, does that address the issues of kidnapping and banditry? The army, navy and air force are outfits set up to tackle external aggression. It is the police that is set up for internal security, such as we are all witnessing,” he said.
When asked if the issue of security chiefs came up in the meting, Mr Lawan simply emphasised the need “to provide those necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces and the police” and when asked about Mr Buhari’s reaction, he said the president is “more worried than anybody else.”
There are no indications that the president will name new service chiefs soon.
Besides the over 3500 who voted for the service chiefs to be removed, others have taken to the social media to air their views.
Below are some reactions:
The service chiefs should be removed, all religious fanatics shouldn’t be allowed close to government or given any appointment, the main point is that. @MBuhari should resign and leave office!!! Incompetence shouldn’t be tolerated. Enough have died!
— Onubogu (@Onubogu5) February 6, 2020
The service chief is not the issue. it's like changing the head and leaving a bad body.
— raimoorefoot (@raimoorefoot) February 3, 2020
To me they have over stayed their welcome, though we must give kudos to them for time frame they contributed to the national service..it is sacrosanct for fresh people with new strategies and ideas to come on board..
— Mgbilimgba Na Amawbia JP (@Mgbilimgba1) February 3, 2020
But how can you remove what is not there?
— Emma Albert (@emmalbert1) February 3, 2020
What happened to all the service chiefs GEJ changed and replaced? He appointed the most useless and corrupt Service Chiefs ever.
— John Christian Alex (@jchristianalex) February 3, 2020
Service Chiefs would depart honourably. Since 2015, They have helped Nigeria surmount internal orchestrated & spontaneous conflicts that threatened our unity. Nigeria owes them gratitude & an honourable Exit. Their sacrifice shall Not be rewarded by a dis-honourable Exit…
— Isuph JT (@IsuphJt) January 29, 2020
I am in support of this motion! The service chiefs should be sacked and new ones appointed, not because they're incapacitated but because they've exhausted all their ideas and nothing positive is showing up.
— Naziru Imam (@naziruimam) January 29, 2020
Bunch of hypocrites. They see the service chiefs as cause of the problem while they're allocating 32 billion Naira for revonation of their offices when soldiers are complaining of guns and welfare. Do u know what that amount wil do if channeled to buy sophisticated weapons?
— Gamji (@adamuillo11) January 29, 2020