Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika
Says blackmailers on postings and retirement plan to distabilise the nation
Ike Abonyi and Senator Iroegbu in Abujaâ€¨
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, has disclosed that the immediate Corps Commander, Infantry, Jaji, Major-Gen. Muhammad Isa, who was redeployed and subsequently retired as a result of the twin bombs that rocked the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Kaduna State, last year is still under investigation to ascertain his culpability.
Ihejirika stated this yesterday at the First Quarter COAS Conference in Abuja, where he also clarified some grey areas in the recent allegations by some aggrieved retired military officers who accused him of nepotism in the postings and retirements of army officers.
He noted that the whole attack started when Isa was redeployed from Jaji with preliminary investigation into the events which led to the bomb attacks revealing that he had questions to answer.
The Army Chief, who said the retired General exhibited careless attitude to his duties, which was not expected of an officer of such calibre commanding such a sensitive position, however, revealed that investigation was still ongoing to ascertain the real motive behind his action.
Ihejirika said: “All these campaigns, which he spearheaded started with his redeployment. Initially, we constituted a board of enquiry and based on the report of the panel of enquiry, we asked the military police to investigate further and I can tell you that the report available to me shows that he did not take an action expected of an officer in his position.
“The report that got to him about the attack was also brought to the Commandant GOC 1 Division of the day of the attack. The GOC 1 Division has to cancel his planned travel to Asaba Delta State, for our annual conference but Isa simply travelled to Asaba and did not give instructions to his subordinates.
“I asked him, ‘what are you doing here when your house is on fire?’ Investigation is still on whether his attitude is borne out of carelessness or there were much more reasons. It is important for you to know this because there were questions as to those involved...We have an idea of those involved as one of them went to the National Assembly to make a complaint and when he was told to put his statements down, he never came back.”
Ihejirika came under increasing attack by some groups with northern sentiments since the replacement of Isa and Air Vice Marshal Abdullahi Kure, as the infantry Corps Commanders and Commandant AFCSC, respectively.
Following the action by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to sanction the withdrawal and replacement of the two officers, the umbrella Muslim organisation in the North, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), accused Ihejirika of being influenced by ethno-religious considerations.
“If any officer or soldier complains to a civilian that he was not promoted, such a person is not supposed to be in service because it is all about sacrifice.
“How many soldiers have lost their lives in the last five years of counter-terrorism. If I ask you members of the press to tell me the General that lost his life in Jaji as a result of the bombings, I am sure many of you will not know but many of you will readily remember that I redeployed one Maj-Gen Isa (rtd),” he said.
Ihejirika, while reacting to the criticisms, which increased subsequent retirement of about 51 Generals including Isa, denied any form of ethnic bias, urging members of the public to avoid politicising the military.
He noted that while the current reforms in the army encouraged postings and promotions based on merit, he on his own part ensured geographic spread, which did not in anyway indicate tribal bias of the army as alleged by those he described as “faceless groups.”.He said the intention of such “faceless group” was to destabilise the country as there was no iota of truth in their allegations, adding that out of the 25 officers promoted from the rank of Major Generals in 2011, three came from Kano alone.
“I can tell you that Maj-Gen Oshinowo, who was mentioned by these groups was denied promotion before my arrival as COAS and that he was promoted and made the Commander 82 Division under my watch.
“You were aware that 82 Division is covering the whole Eastern flank including my village and he has very important five Brigades in Port Harcourt with Brig-Gen Abdull-Fatai as the Commander, Owerri under Brig-Gen Alkali, Ohafia close to my village is under Brig-Gen Abubakar and Calabar was now under Maj-Gen Yusuf.
“So, in effect, in this whole division, the GOC who is a Christian from the South-west is Oshinowo, while all the Brigade Commanders are Muslims from the North. This is to tell you the type of army I run.”
Continuing, he said: “Military posting is like choosing your best 11 just as you saw on the team that won the cup (Super Eagles). I cannot choose an officer who is disloyal or has shown that he lacks the comportment of a General just to satisfy a spread.
“Fortunately, in today’s service for the first time in our postings, we are able to have GOCs that represents each zones. I am talking of spread now and it will surprise you that it was after that we came under various attacks.
“This is also very important because these various groups which talked about the appointment of Igbo officers did not care to look broadly into all the appointments.
“I believe that while the officers are being introduced-the crème-de-la-creme of the Nigerian army, you were taking notes of the number of Igbo officers. Some of my officers have even said on a lighter note that they are going to adopt Igbo names so as to ensure that the Army is indeed ‘Igbonised’ as being alleged by the faceless groups.”
Earlier, the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brig-Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, while addressing the same issue, noted that Nigerian Army does not promote or retire any officer without express approval of the Army Council, which comprises of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces represented by the Minister of Defence, CDS, and COAS.
Attahiru said the Army as a professional force has laid down procedures for recruitment, promotion and retirement.
“Amongst the important factors that are always considered in carrying out these annual exercises, include the promotion regulations, federal character, harmonised armed forces terms and condition of service, promotion board and Army Council,” he reminded.