Buhari Seeks Senate Confirmation of New Service Chiefs

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Deji Elumoye in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has put to rest the controversy surrounding his appointment of new service chiefs as he has written formally to the Senate for the confirmation of the appointment of the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and service chiefs.

This is just as the Pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere and its Niger Delta counterpart, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) faulted the procedure saying naming of the service chiefs ought to have waited till after confirmation by the Senate.

On its part, the Senate Minority Caucus welcomes the adherence to the constitution by the submission of the list of service chiefs for confirmation while the Senate described as unnecessary the controversy associated with the issue.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in a confirmation letter dated Wednesday, January 27, 2021 and addressed to the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, requested for Senate confirmation of the appointment of Major General Lucky Irabor, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff respectively.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare, who made this disclosure yesterday in a release titled “Buhari seeks National Assembly’s confirmation of Service Chiefs “, said the President was seeking the upper chamber’s approval of the service Chiefs in line with provisions of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap. A.20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
According to Omoworare, the President’s confirmation request may have to wait till February 9 when the Senate will resume from vacation before it can be considered.

He also said that this would not be the first time the Buhari administration would be seeking approval of the Senate for appointment of service chiefs saying similar request were made in 2015 for the outgone service chiefs which was graciously granted by the upper chamber.

Omoworare’s press statement reads:

“President Muhammadu Buhari has communicated the appointment of the Service Chiefs to the National Assembly and has sought for the confirmation of the said appointment by the Senate through his letter to the Senate President dated 27th January 2021. This was done in furtherance of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap. A.20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

“Contrary to fears expressed in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari has “bypassed” the National Assembly in the process of appointment of the Service Chiefs and that he has no intention of seeking consideration and confirmation of their appointment, Mr. President upon nomination for appointment sought confirmation of the Senate for the appointment of Major General Lucky Irabor, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff respectively, vide his aforementioned letter.

“It is on record that this same procedure was adopted when the immediate past Service Chiefs were appointed. Upon announcement of the appointment of the then Service Chiefs – Major General Abayomi Olonisakin (Chief of Defence Staff), Major General Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff), Rear Admiral Ibok-Efe Ibas (Chief of Naval Staff) and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar (Chief of Air Staff), Mr. President had written the 8th Senate on 14th July 2015 for confirmation. Whilst the correspondence was read on the floor of the Senate on 28th July 2015, consideration and confirmation of the appointments was carried out at the Committee of the Whole on 4th August 2015

“It will be recalled that the National Assembly will only resume plenary sessions on 9th February 2021 when hopefully Mr. President’s communication for consideration and confirmation of the nomination for appointment of the Service Chiefs would be undertaken.

“Before this administration, confirmation of Service Chiefs were not sought and obtained from the National Assembly in consonance with the provisions of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap. A.20 LFN. We are aware that in Keyamo Vs. President & Ors, the Federal High Court set aside the Armed Forces Modification Order 2008 (purportedly made under Section 315 [2) of the Constitution) on 1st July 2013 and ruled that the confirmation of the National Assembly must be sought for the appointment of the Service Chiefs. We are in compliance with the spirit and letters of both the statute and case law”.

In its reaction, PANDEF while saying the move was in order however stressed that the procedure may be at variance with constitutional provisions and Armed Forces Act.

PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Hon Ken Robinson told THISDAY that “our reaction to this development is that it’s just a formality, and it’s in order, though the procedure may not be in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Armed Forces Act”.

Also reacting, Afenifere emphasised that the Presidency was wrong to have put the cat before the horse instead of the other way round.

Its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin told THISDAY that “a competent Presidency would have made this arrangement before the announcement, we have accepted we are in autopilot season through”.

Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who spoke on behalf of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senators told THISDAY “minority caucus welcomes the adherence to the constitution and law by government”.

The Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru, however expressed reservation over the controversy generated by the appointment of the service chiefs by the Presidency saying the latest move was in tandem with constitutional provisions and the Armed Forces Act.

Basiru told THISDAY: “What has been done by the President is in line with the combined effect of section 218 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and section 18 of the Armed Forces Act as interpreted in an extant judicial decision. Therefore, there was no basis for the unnecessary controversy as to legality of the announcement of the appointment the service chiefs”.

The President had on Tuesday, January 26,

approved the appointment of a new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as well as service chiefs.

This was sequel to the resignation of the former CDS and the service chiefs and their retirement from service.

A statement issued by the President’s media adviser, Femi Adesina, said the President congratulated the new Service Chiefs, and urged them to be loyal and dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities.

Buhari also accepted the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs, and their retirement from service.

The President thanked the outgoing Service Chiefs for what he called their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country,” wishing them well in their future endeavours.