By Muhammad Bello and Senator Iroegbu
Three new service chiefs emerged Thursday with the retirement of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin, who is being succeeded by Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim. Ibrahim, until his appointment, was the Chief of Naval Staff.
In the new appointments approved by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika, retained his position, while Air Vice Marshal Alex Sabunduh Badeh, from Adamawa State, replaces Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar, as the Chief of Air Staff.
Rear Admiral D.J. Ezeoba, an indigene of Delta State, was named to take over from Ibrahim as the Chief of Naval Staff.
The appointments confirmed THISDAY’s exclusive report of October 1 that Jonathan would replace the service chiefs in the wake of Petinrin’s impending retirement.
Although, Ibrahim, 57, is the eldest amongst the three service chiefs, his appointment was against the expectation of many pundits that Ihejirika would succeed Petinrin.
The appointment of Ibrahim as the CDS makes him the second naval chief to hold the position after Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi.
The two immediate past CDS, Petinrin and Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, emerged from the Air Force, which military experts said worked against Umar for the top post in the first place so as not to cause disaffection in other arms of the military.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, thanked the outgoing service chiefs for their meritorious and commendable service to the nation and wished them well in their future endeavours.
Ibrahim, a graduate of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, and the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, is an accomplished officer who has held many command positions in the navy. He was a directing staff and a chief instructor respectively at the Department of Maritime Warfare, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji.
In 2001, he was made the secretary to the Chief of the Naval Staff before being appointed to command the naval operations base, Nigerian naval ship Beecroft in the same year.
Two years later, he was appointed commander, Naval Task Group, Operation Harmony, in the Eastern Naval Command, Calabar, before he was redeployed to the National Defence College (NDC) Nigeria as a directing staff in 2003.
He left the NDC for the Naval headquarters as navy secretary in August 2005.
In February 2009, he was appointed Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, the appointment he held until his appointment as the Chief of the Naval Staff on September 8, 2010.
Ibrahim also studied at the Royal College of Defence Studies, United Kingdom, and obtained a Master’s degree from the University of London.
On his part, Ezeoba was until his appointment Chief of Administration at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja. Prior to holding that position, he was Deputy Commandant, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji.
Badeh was born in Vimtim, Mubi North Local Government Area, Adamawa State, on January 10, 1957. A member of the 21 Regular Course at the Nigerian Defence Academy, he was commissioned as a pilot officer on July 3, 1979 and promoted Air Vice Marshal on January 3, 2008.
Meanwhile, Jonathan, Thursday, vowed to make the continuous strengthening of the Nigerian Armed Forces a top priority of his administration, saying that the strength of any nation lies with its military.
The president, at the inauguration of the first phase of the newly created 176 Guards Battalion, Kuje Barracks, in Abuja, said the welfare of the military was of utmost importance to him and assured the military that the Federal Government would work closely with all the security services to strengthen the armed forces.
The 176 Battalion, unveiled on October 1, officially made the Brigade of Guards complete according to standard military formation and at the same time has effectively brought all sections of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under the brigade’s effective control.
Military sources said the Brigade of Guards, which consists of special forces of the Nigerian Army specifically tasked with the security detail around the presidency, has been operating as an incomplete brigade since inception.
They noted that unlike other brigades with three battalions, the Brigade of Guards had only two battalions: 7 Guards Battalion, Lungi Barracks, and 177 Guards Battalion, Keffi.
“The plan for a third battalion has been in the offing since the seat of power was transferred to Abuja but subsequent presidents and heads of states have been reluctant to approve its funding because it requires a lot to set up such a battalion,” a source said.
“Although they will perform the regular duties expected and within the Guards Brigade, they will also function as a kind of ‘crack team’ of special forces consisting of amphibious and airborne forces,” the source explained.