â€¢ Northern Nigeria gets first female one-star general
Paul Obi in Abuja
Following the uptick in bombings and attacks in the North-east by Boko Haram terrorists and the uncertainty in the Niger Delta, President Muhammadu Buhari, in an unprecedented move, extended the tenure of the four service chiefs for the second time Monday, effectively giving them a third-term stint in office.
The service chiefs comprise the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar.
But the tenure extension, the second in a row for Olonisakin, Abubakar and Ibas, was seen as rare in the military establishment.
Buhari had in December 2016 and June this year extended the tenure of the three officers, raising hopes among senior personnel in the Armed Forces that they would finally be retired this month and other officers promoted to replace them.
Based on age or years of service, Olonisakin, Ibas and Abubukar were due for retirement exactly a year ago while Buratai is not due for retirement till 2018.
However, a statement Monday from Col. Tukur Gusau, spokesman to the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said: â€œThe President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, having carefully reviewed the on-going military operations across the nation and the efforts of the Chief of Defence Staff and the service chiefs in the counter insurgency operations in the North-east, coupled with the security situation of the Niger Delta region, has graciously approved the extension of tenure of service of General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, the Chief of Naval Staff, and Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, the Chief of Air Staff.
â€œThis extension is pursuant of the powers conferred on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by Section 218(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 09.06 of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions for Service for Officers (2012) Revised.
â€œThe Minister of Defence Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali, therefore, congratulates the Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs for earning the confidence of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Force of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the people of Nigeria leading to their extension of service.â€
But as news of the second tenure extension spread through the military establishment, military observers said this was unprecedented in the history of the Armed Forces, as tenure extensions were rare and had never exceeded an extra term.
Although no senior officer was willing to go on the record on the issue, some hinted that the decision to extend the tenure of the service chiefs might not be unconnected to the approval granted to the president by the state governors to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to upgrade the militaryâ€™s intelligence capabilities and procure more weapons for the fight against the insurgents in the North-east.
One general, who preferred not to be named, said the plan was to retain the service chiefs who are already conversant with governmentâ€™s plan to up the tempo in the fight against Boko Haram, a situation which may be more difficult to execute should new service chiefs be appointed midstream.
Despite the presidentâ€™s seeming confidence in the service chiefs, THISDAY gathered that there might be some grumbling among senior officers due for promotion.
North Gets First Female Commodore
Irrespective of the grumbling among some senior officers in the military, there was a reason to smile Monday when northern Nigeria got its first female one-star general in the Nigerian Navy, 58 years after its establishment.
The milestone was reached following the promotion of Navy Captain Jamila Sadiq Malafa to the rank of Navy Commodore.
Announcing her promotion, the Chief of Naval Staff, represented by the Naval Chief of Policy and Planning, Rear Admiral Henry Babalola, commended the efforts of Malafa and urged her to work harder.
Babalola explained that her promotion to the rank of Navy Commodore was as a result of hard work, adding: â€œThe promotion is a call for more hand work.â€
Responding, Malafa said her experience had been wonderful and expressed joy over her promotion to a one-star general.
Malafa said: â€œWe previously had two female admirals, one from the South-west and one from the South-south, we have never had one from the North. This is the first time we are having a one-star general in the Navy from the North.â€
Also speaking on the challenges confronting northern Nigerian women in enrolling in the military, she stressed that there were a lot of challenges, but they should not relent as hard work and dedication would eventually pay off.
â€œYou must be up and doing, you must be on your feet and you must be ready to compete with men favourably.
â€œThere is no gender discrimination when it comes to training and when it comes to promotion,â€ Malafa submitted.
Malafa was born in Gombi Local Government Area of Adamawa State and was educated at St. Theresaâ€™s Primary School, Luggere, and Government Secondary School, Hong, both in Adamawa State.
She first earned a certificate in nursing, before proceeding to study Law at the University of Lagos.
She also holds a Masterâ€™s degree in Constitution and Criminal Law from the University of Lagos and another Masterâ€™s in Law from Malta Maritime Law Institute. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree.