•HTACOS authorises president to delay retirements, irrespective of age
•Buhari can’t sack military top brass now, says SGF
Kingsley Nwezeh and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Contrary to claims by critics that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks power under the law to extend the tenure of service chiefs, the president is at liberty to delay the retirement of any military chief whose services are still needed.
The Revised Armed Forces of Nigeria’s Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service 2017 (HTACOS), a copy of which THISDAY obtained yesterday, empowers the president to extend the tenure of the security chiefs, irrespective of age or length of service.
In the wake of the rising wave of insecurity in the country, the president has come under pressure from many quarters, including the National Assembly, to replace the service chiefs.
The service-chiefs-must-go groups canvassed the arguments that replacing them would facilitate the formulation of fresh strategies to tackle insecurity and unleash domino effects that could see the promotion of senior military officers as well as boost troops’ morale in the fight against insurgents.
However, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, has condemned the calls for the sack of the service chiefs, saying that the president is not amenable to the idea for now.
The service chiefs who were first appointed in 2015, are due for retirement, either on account of age or having clocked the mandatory 35 years in service.
While the House of Representatives, and the socio-cultural organisations, notably Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have called for the removal of the service chiefs for their alleged poor performance in the war against insurgency, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, had argued that Buhari broke the law by retaining the security chiefs.
Falana said he would file court process this week to seek the removal of the service chiefs based on the expiration of their tenure.
He said it was illegal for Buhari to extend the tenure of the service chiefs, adding that under the Public Service Rules and the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service of Military Officers and under Section 26 of the Armed Forces Act, there is no provision for the extension of tenure beyond the period stipulated by law.
He added that it was wrong even though it had been done in the past, stressing that “You cannot extend the tenure of certain officers while you ask others to go upon putting in 35 years in office.”
But the “Revised Harmonised Armed Forces of Nigeria’s Terms and Conditions of Service 2017 (HTACOS) officers” sighted by THISDAY, states that service chiefs may hold appointments for two years while the president may extend the tenure to another two years from the date of the expiration of the initial two years.
The HTACOS states that the service chiefs should not be pressurised to leave their position and where such is the case, they may seek redress to “the highest possible level.”
Part 1, Section 11.08 of HTACOS states: “An officer appointed the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff shall be a four-star general and may hold the appointment for a continuous period of two years.
“The C-in-C may extend such an appointment for another period of two years from the date of expiration of the initial two-year period.”
Section 11.09 of the document states that “the foregoing notwithstanding, the President/C-in-C reserves the prerogative to extend the tenure of a CDS/Service Chief irrespective of his age or length of service.”
The HTACOS states on page 38 that “notwithstanding, the provisions of paragraphs 11.01 and 11.02 above, no commissioned officer shall be called upon to retire, relinquish or resign his commission or transfer to the reserve, nor shall pressure be exerted on him to do so except by the authority of the appropriate Service Council/Board.”
Section 11.07 of HTACOS states: “Where an officer has objection on being called upon to retire or resign, he may seek redress up to the highest possible level.”
Paragraph 11.09 affirms that “the foregoing notwithstanding, the President, C-in-C reserves the prerogative to extend the tenure of a CDS/Service Chief irrespective of his age or length of service. Paragraph 11.10 states that “a career in the Armed Forces of Nigeria is a primary one since the Services require only able-bodied persons. It follows then that quite a number of officers are bound to retire when they can still be usefully engaged in other professions outside the military.”
The military service chiefs, namely: Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar were appointed in 2015.
Their tenure was renewed in 2018. There were also speculations that the tenure of the service chiefs was extended in 2019.
Buhari had during an interview last year, expressed reservations about the removal of the service chiefs in the middle of an insurgency war.
Buhari Can’t Sack Service Chiefs Now, Says SGF
However, amid the clamour for the sacking of the service chiefs, the SGF yesterday ruled out the possibility of the president bowing to public pressure to retire them.
Addressing journalists in Abuja after a book presentation entitled: “CAN, Religion, politics and power in Nigeria,” by former General Secretary of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Mr. Samuel Salifu, the SGF said there were processes that must be followed before the service chiefs could be fired.
“We are in a very difficult time now. We need everybody to be on board. We need synergy within the intelligent community; within the military formations that will help fight this war.
“We are in a very difficult situation and when we begin to create cracks and divisions, who will be the beneficiaries?
“The adversaries are the ones that are going to exploit those deficiencies and further the cause of destabilising the nation.
“At this moment, what we need is for everybody to be on the same page; fight the battle of securing the nation for protecting lives and property and ensuring that every Nigerian has the opportunity to live a prosperous life. I think that should be our main focus,” he stated.
According to him, people cannot be sacked so perfunctorily because there are processes to be followed.
He explained that at the right time, the processes will be followed, adding: “You don’t just wake up and say sack people, it doesn’t happen like that.”