Abdul Muhammed, a renowned legal practitioner, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to wade into the “unjust” retirement of 38 senior officers of the Nigerian Army.
Muhammed said this at the HURIWA Forum in Abuja on Monday.
In his speech made available to Nigerian Eye, the lawyer recalled that at the beginning of the current administration, two panels were instituted by the Nigerian Army and/or Office of National Security Adviser respectively, to inquire into (1) allegations of electoral malpractices by Nigerian Army personnel and (2) allegations of corruption associated with arms procurement under the office of National Security Adviser.
He said on Thursday June 9. 2016, the Nigeria Army Council under the leadership of the Minister of Defense, Mansur Dan Ali, Chief of Defense Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai presided over an abrupt sitting of the Army Council and they saw to the punishment by compulsory retirement of 38 senior officers of the Nigerian Army.
Continuing, he said, “In the list of 38 Senior Army Officers are Nine (09) Major Generals, ten (10) Brigadier Generals, seven (07) Colonels, eleven (11) Lieutenant Colonels and one (01) Major.
“None of the thirty-eight (38) senior officers that were compulsorily retired was ever charged, tried, tried by a court martial or found guilty of any offence in line with Armed Forces extant rules and regulations, before they all heard of their retirement in the media. They were never investigated for any infraction, they were never indicted, they were never tried and they were never convicted of any disciplinary or criminal breaches whatsoever.
“Eighteen (18) out of the 38 Senior Army officers that were punished did not appear before any one of the two panels that were set up or any other inquiry or investigation for that matter. That is to say, they never appeared before (1) the panel that examined allegations of electoral malpractices by Nigerian Army personnel or (2) the panel that investigated allegations of corruption associated with arms procurement under the office of National Security Adviser.
“Eight (08) of the 38 Senior Army officers were called as witnesses before the panel that examined allegations of electoral malpractices by Nigerian Army personnel. Eleven (11) Senior Army officers were called as witnesses before the second the panel that investigated allegations of corruption associated with arms procurement under the office of National Security Adviser. It is important to note that these officers went before the panels as witness and not as persons of interest with respect to these investigations.
“Seven (07) out of the Senior Army officers are from Rivers State; two (02) each are from Delta and Akwa Ibom States; three (03) are from Edo State and ten (10) others are from the South Eastern states (and of Igbo descent). In order words, twenty-four (24) of the 38 Senior Army Officers in the list are from the South South and South East zones (63%).
“The record of the Nigeria Army shows that there were no factual basis for punishing these officers and that there has been a complete failure of fair hearing and due process. Many of these officers have no relationship whatsoever with election duties or procurement office as falsely alleged by Army leadership. They have never served in procurement capacity throughout their careers in the Army or participated in any form of election duties during the 2015 General Elections.
“None of the 38 Senior Army Officers was allowed to enjoy the benefits of their rights and privileges which are clarly protected to them under and by virtue of the provisions of Chapter IV f the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990 (as amended).
“I have the duty to point out that in the case of the 38 Senior Army Officers, the present Army leadership acted maliciously and by surreptitiously substituting the names of culpable officers with innocent ones in a gross act of corruption and went ahead to deliberately mislead the President and Commander in Chief as well as the entire nation on the matter.
“The action of the troika in the matter of the 38 officers was based on pure vendetta and pursuit of opaque objectives such as attempt to coerce officers to commit crimes in future election as motivated by the desire to further personal ambitions and interests without any consideration whatsoever for overall national interest and the security of Nigeria.
“I must point out that Army record shows that in the respective case of all the officers, there was either no factual basis for the punishment and/or there was complete lack of established process leading to their dismissals.
“I have the duty to point out to the world that the report with respect to Arms Procurement was completed and published in December 2016, which was six months after these 38 Senior Officers had been punished by the Army Council based on involvement in Arms Procurement saga. The panel on Arms Procurement never indicted any of these 38 officers and some of those serving officers that were recommended for further investigation are still serving in the Army and have continued to enjoy their promotion and privileges
“This Army leadership re-instated a Major General on the ground that due process was not followed in punishing the said Major General, and yet this same Army leadership has now seen to the punishment of 38 Senior Army officers in breach of due process. Very curious indeed that the Army leadership was able to do the right thing by insisting on due process in January 2016 for Major General A. Mohammed, and yet the Army leadership is unable and unwilling to follow due process in June 2016 in respect of the 38 Senior Army officers.
“It is a sad commentary on how this country treats her men and women in uniform that justice and fairness has been withheld from these wrongfully and shabbily treated 38 Senior Army Officers in a period of more than 12 months after their unlawful dismissals and voices that should speak out on this matter of grave national security have remained silent.
“In the circumstances the President is urged to authorize the immediate re-instatement of the 38 retired Senior Army Officers into the Nigerian Army pending an urgent and impartial investigation into all the allegations in this petition. We submit that careful review of the facts and circumstances of this petition speak to the necessity of the institution of disciplinary procedures against those high officials that were involved in the illegal and or sham retirement exercise.”