Nigeria’s defence chief Olonisakin risks imprisonment over illegal dismissal of officers

Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin
Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin

The National Industry Court on Thursday issued an order permitting one of the senior officers illegally dismissed by the Nigerian Army, Abdulfatai Mohammed, to initiate committal proceedings against the Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, following the general’s refusal to show evidence that he transmitted the affected officers’ appeals to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The army had in June 2016 forced 38 officers to retire from service. But most of them were illegally removed from service, PREMIUM TIMES investigation showed and the industrial court has repeatedly held.

Paragraph 09.02(e) of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers, 2012 (revised) – provides that any officer compulsorily retired or dismissed can appeal to the president through the Chief of Defence Staff within 30 days.

Following the army’s illegal action, 22 of the affected officers exploited this window and petitioned the president through the defence chief, Mr Olonisakin, via a July 2016 letter referenced CDS/6/1/A.

However, they are concerned Mr Olonisakin has refused to transmit their petition to the president as required by the law. PREMIUM TIMES investigations, that involved a review of relevant laws and interviews with officials, showed Mr Olonisakin and army chief, Tukur Buratai, originally carried out the illegal dismissal for reasons that smirked of high-level arbitrariness, pettiness, witch-hunting and partisanship by authorities of the army.

Most of the officers were never queried, or indicted by any panel as prescribed by law.

The order on Thursday, granted by Sanusi Kado, a judge at the headquarters of the industrial court in Abuja, now means Mr Olonisakin is “legally obligated and duty bound to transmit” Mr Abdufatai’s appeal to the president for administrative review with proof of doing so.

Background

The case started two years ago when Mr Abdulfatai approached the court for an order of mandamus to compel the Chief of Defence Staff to forward his letter of redress to the Commander-in-Chief, Mr Buhari and show proof of doing so to the court.

“This was after we never got any reply to our letter of redress to Mr President,” Mr Abdulfatai told PREMIUM TIMES by phone on Friday. “We have still not gotten any reply till date.”

Then, a ruling was given by Edith Agbakoba, industrial court judge, that the defence chief should send the appeal for administrative review to the President. and accordingly show proof to the court that he had made the transmission.

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“The CDS in their characteristic disregard for court orders and impunity failed to comply with the court order,” Mr Mohammed’s lawyer, Abdul Mohammed told PREMIUM TIMES.

“This forced us to again approach the industrial court for an order to bring committal summons against Gen Olonisakin as the person occupying that office of CDS. This new case was assigned to Justice Sanusi Kado.”

“The honourable justice has now granted our prayer as requested which is to bring committal proceeding against Olowonisakin being the occupier of the position of CDS that flouted the court orders.

“This judgment allows us to serve a personal summons on Gen Olowonisakin so he can come to court to explain why a committal order should not be made against him committing him to prison for not obeying the earlier order of Justice Agbakoba.

“Thus, Agbakoba’s order is the basis of this new order of Justice Lado,” the lawyer explained.

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The military has consistently maintained silence over its several judicial losses after it illegally dismissed its officers.

“This development is particularly unfortunate considering that this officer (Mr Mohammed) was a Commanding Officer in the North East theatre of operation risking his life for his country but his Commander in Chief and nation failed him by never responding to his cry whether for good or bad,” Mr Mohammed, the lawyer, lamented.



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