- Army makes clarification on the number, reasons for retirement of officers
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen. Muhammad Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd), has said the 38 officers compulsorily retired from service were partisan, financially and professionally corrupt.
Dan-Ali made this remarks yesterday while fielding questions from journalists shortly after delivering a lecture titled: ‘Defence Management: the Nigerian Experience’ at the National Defence College (NDC), Abuja.’
He said the purge is part of an ongoing reform in the Armed Forces of Nigeria rather than a witch-hunt, as he urged Nigerians not to be deceived by what he described as “the false information making the round about the retirement of the officers, stressing that: “No innocent officer was retired unjustly.”
The minister disclosed that the concerned officers were retired after due process, painstaking review and assessment of their conducts in the various tasks assigned to them at a particular time.
According to him, the affected officers were indicted for offences ranging from partisanship, professional misconduct to financial corruption.
The minister said: “What we did was to make sure that all those who were indicted in one way or the other for both professional corruption and monetary corruption had the opportunity to defend themselves.
“What I mean by professional corruption is the soldiers’ involvement in partisan politics, if you are partisan and professionally corrupt, you will be asked to go, that was exactly what happened.”
Speaking further, Dan-Ali said the retired officers were given fair hearing and opportunity to clear their names at the panel of inquiry.
“Of course they were given fair hearing, they were called by a board and they went and testified. Don’t forget that in the military, there is no half way of doing things, the moment you are found wanting, you have to succumb and you will go,’’ he said.
He disclosed that plans were underway to adopt and implement a reform policy that would reduce the country’s dependence on the military for duties that could be performed by the civil police.
The minister further disclosed that the Ministries of Defence and Interior were collaborating to ensure that the police and other paramilitary organisations were empowered to contain many of the country’s security challenges.
The minister said the planned defence reform would entrench professionalism and discipline in the armed forces.
During his lecture, Dan-Ali advocated for the integration of the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in order to deliver a more efficient management of the Nigeria defence.
He said the proposed integration should be implemented under the ongoing reform of the Nigeria’s defence sector, and blamed the previous challenges experienced in the sector on what he termed “the defective structure of the nation, defence sector.”
The minister said the present structure as constituted was not effective and fell short of the expectations of many Nigerians as far as the national defence was concerned.
The minister noted that an integrated Ministry of Defence would strengthen civil– military relations and civil-military cooperation, promote trust, partnership and good relations between civilians and the military counterparts.
He said the poor involvement of civil society actors in defence sector activities and programmes had also worsened the situation of Nigeria’s defence institutions.
Meanwhile, the army monday made clarifications in the compulsory retirement of some senior officers recently disengaged from service by the council.
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, made the clarifications in response to the growing speculations and rumours regarding the number and names of the senior army officers affected in the recent retirement exercise.
Usman said: “It’s worrisome as some individuals and media houses went to the ridiculous extent of publishing outrageous figures and names of serving officers as being retired.
“This is unethical and unfair. It is therefore necessary to inform the public to please disregard such inaccurate lists.”
The army director who still did not reveal the names of the affected officers, however, confirmed that only 38 senior officers were affected by the retirement exercise.
For the avoidance of doubt, he said the following is the statistics of the officers retired compulsorily-nine Major Generals, 10 Brigadier Generals, seven Colonels, 11 Lieutenant Colonels and a Major.
“We are quite aware that some mischievous elements are trying to whip up sentiments. This is quite unfortunate because all the affected officers were retired based on service exigencies and in line with the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004,” he added.
Usman noted that the Nigerian army is a professional institution that is based on highest standards of discipline and conduct.
Consequently, he said its personnel must remain professional, neutral and apolitical at all times.
The army spokesman had last Saturday announced that the Nigerian Army Council has approved the retirement of the senior officers “based on service exigencies,” and recalled that recently, some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 general elections.
He also stated that: “The investigation by the Presidential Committee investigating the defence contracts revealed a lot and that some officers have already been arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“People should therefore not read this out of context.
“The military must remain apolitical and professional at all times.”
However, further injuries into the retirement saga have revealed that some of the senior officers who were retired other than the stated cases of arms procurement and election matters pressed for further clarifications from the Nigerian army.
THISDAY was informed by some military sources that the names being circulated in the media have those senior officers that had attained the mandatory age of 60 or 35 years in service erroneously lumped together with the other 38 officers who were compulsorily retired because of their connection with the election cases and the ongoing arms procurement saga under the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
THISDAY also learnt that some of these affected officers who came under voluntary retirement, having attained the mandatory age or service years, notified the army authorities to ensure that the right procedures were followed to separate their reason for retirement from the group of 38 officers allegedly fingered in the elections and arms procurement matters.
One of the concerned officers said: “You know me well. I have never benefited a kobo from the Nigerian army apart from my salaries. A huge mix-up as was being circulated. I think they (army) have released the authentic list and my name is not there.
“We are not in the same situation with the 38 officers compulsorily retired because they may not be likely engaged by the federal government and certain class of companies in the future.”
Another officer in this category further explained that in line with the Nigerian army conditions and terms of services, a disengagement letter would be formally written to them by the army to proceed on retirement in the next two to three months.
The source stressed: “As you know, it is the practice within the military, especially the Nigerian Army to notify those approaching the mandatory age or years of service six months ahead and they would write to acknowledge receipt of the letter to leave the service voluntarily.
“When an officer attains the status of mandatory retirement either due to attaining age of 60 years or the 35 years in service, the officer is deemed to have retired meritoriously and could be employed by the federal government and the multinational companies in the future.”