President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday appointed Lucky Irabor, an army major-general, as the new Chief of Defence Staff, following the resignation of the former service chiefs.
The position of Defence Chief is usually occupied by a four-star general.
President Buhari made the surprise announcement after years of defending his refusal to change the service chiefs he appointed in 2015 and who had long passed the public service retirement age.
Nigerians had blamed the reverses suffered by the security forces in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east on Mr Buhari’s refusal to rejig the military command and bring in new hands.
The former service chiefs had earlier promised to end the Boko Haram war this year.
In January 2017, Mr Irabor, as the Theatre Commander in the military campaign against the insurgency, distinguished himself as an honest officer when he called a press conference to admit the bombing in error of an IDP camp in Rann village of Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State.
He said the military had mistaken the camp for a terrorists’ hideout. The incident led to the death of many displaced persons.
“We got a coordinate and I directed that the air force should go to address the problem.
“Unfortunately the strike was conducted but it turned out that the locals somewhere in Rann were affected,” he said at the press conference.
His proactive move to make the incident public even before journalists got wind of it and honest disclosure had helped the government in managing the crisis.
He also won the respect of many Nigerians for taking responsibility for the actions of his troops.
A statement signed by President Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, on Tuesday announced the “resignations” of the four service chiefs and Mr Irabor’s appointment. He is taking office alongside new service chiefs for the army, navy and air force.
Mr Irabor was in 2017 appointed the Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force after serving as Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole in Northeast Nigeria.
After his stint at MNJTF, Mr Irabor became the Chief of Training and Operations at the Defence headquarters.
He was later deployed as Commander at Training and Doctrine (TRADOC) Minna, where his predecessor as chief of defence staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, had incidentally served before he was appointed as CDS.
Mr Irabor, from Delta State, is a Regular Course 34 officer and was promoted major general in 2014.
He is an alumnus of the Ghana Armed Forces Staff College Ghana, the National Defence College Bangladesh and Harvard Kennedy School of Government Executive Programme, USA.
Mr Irabor has a first degree in engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Ghana, Accra, and Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka.
He is a recipient of several military, ECOMOG and United Nations awards and medals.
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