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OAU-trained engineer, transport management expert, Boko Haram’s nemesis … meet the new service chiefs

  The Nigerian armed forces, arguably, has not been this overwhelmed since the fight against Boko Haram insurgents began a decade ago. And, ...


The Nigerian armed forces, arguably, has not been this overwhelmed since the fight against Boko Haram insurgents began a decade ago. And, from Lucky Irabor, Ibrahim Attahiru, to Isiaka Amao, one common thing about these officers is how they’ve led operations against the insurgents in the north-east.


After the wait, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday finally replaced Gabriel Olonisakin, Tukur Buratai, Ibok Ekwe Ibas, Sadique Abubakar, chief of defence, army, navy and air force respectively.


While Irabor now takes over as the defence chief, Attahiru is in charge of the army while Amao is air force chief, and Awwal Gambo has taken over the navy.


Here, we take a look at the records of the new service chiefs.



Irabor, the battle ready general

Irabor is that commander who leaves the comfort of his office at the theatre command, and then advances with troops to flush out Boko Haram insurgents. A very fine officer. That is how soldiers and officers who have worked with Irabor describe him.


Prior to his deployment as operation Lafiya Dole commander, a couple of towns and villages were under the control of the insurgents. But, Irabor, changing the tactics at the theatre, immediately swung into action and the operation began to record success. 

“Almost all of the locations held by the Boko Haram terrorists have been reclaimed. We are talking only of a few villages and towns,” the major-general had said in an interview.


Indeed, it was under his command that Sambisa was captured and the insurgents’ flag hoisted in the area was taken down and presented to the president. He also led the rescue of 103 of the abducted Chibok girls.


Irabor has, notably, served as chief of training and operations at the defence headquarters where he oversaw training and operations in the armed forces. Commander, training and doctrine command (TRADOC) of the Nigerian army. He was also field commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force operating in the Lake Chad region.


Irabor, a member of the 34 regular combatant course of the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA), also trained at the Ghana Armed Forces Staff College Ghana, the National Defence College Bangladesh and Harvard Kennedy School of Government Executive Programme, US.


The Delta-born general also trained as an engineer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), and he holds two master’s degrees from the University of Ghana, Accra, and Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka.



Attahiru: He succeeded Irabor on the battle front

Attahiru, a major-general, who hails from Kaduna is from the NDA’s 35 regular combatant course.


He took over the theatre command from Irabor in 2017.  He was, however, redeployed from the war zone by Buratai following reports that there was increase in Boko Haram attacks under his command. Attahiru served as army deputy chief of policy and plans, and also director of army public relations.

Now replacing Buratai, Attahiru was, until his appointment, general officer commanding (GOC) of the army’s 82 division in Enugu.





Nemesis for Boko Haram

In January 2016, Amao became the air component commander of operation Lafiya Dole, and also doubled as acting deputy theatre commander for the operation. The air component of the operation provides intelligence and air support to ground troops.


The Osun-born air vice marshal enlisted into the Nigerian air force in 1984 as a member of the 35 NDA regular course.  He was commissioned as pilot officer in 1986.

He began his Primary Flying Training at 301 Flying Training School (FTS) Kaduna from 1987 to 1989, and he did the basic flying training at 303 FTS Kano from 1990 to 92 and tactical fighter training at 99 Air Combat Training Group (99 ACTG) Kainji from 1993 to 99.  He later went for instructor pilot course at 301 FTS Kaduna from 2004 to 2005.


He holds a master’s degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from University of Madras, India, and master of Military Science and Strategy (MMSc) and advanced diploma in Defence and Strategic Studies from NDU China. He also has post graduate diploma in International Relations and Diplomacy from Kaduna Polytechnic.


Until his appointment as air chief, Amao was air officer commanding, tactical air command (TAC).




Awwal Gambo, a rear admiral  from Kano, enlisted in the Nigerian Navy in 1984 as a member of 36 regular course of the NDA and was commissioned sub-lieutenant in 1988.


With specialisation in intelligence, Gambo is an underwater warfare specialist.  He has attended several sub-technical courses and officers courses, including junior division 48/99 and senior course 26 both at armed forces command staff college in Jaji.


He also took the National Defence Course at the South African National Defence College.  With a post-graduate diploma in Transport Management and a master’s degree in transport management, both from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Gambo is a member of of the Nigerian Institute of Management, fellow of the Certified Institute of Shipping, fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria and fellow, National Defence College , South Africa.


He served as director of search and rescue at the defence headquarters and chief of naval training command.


Until his appointment as the chief of naval staff, he was the director of procurement at the Defence Space Administration.

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