New service chiefs: 100 military generals may be retired
21st June 2023
Solomon Odeniyi, Stephen Angbulu, Abiodun Sanusi and Godwin Isenyo
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About 100 top officers, including generals, brigadiers-general, air vice marshals, and admirals in the Nigerian Army, Air Force, and Nigerian Navy may proceed on compulsory retirement following the appointment of new service chiefs on Monday by President Bola Tinubu, The PUNCH reports.
Aside from the imminent gale of retirement, many officers would be promoted to their next rank to fill the vacancies that would be created by the retiring generals as part of the reorganisation of the services by the new service chiefs.
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This is happening six months after 24 major generals and 38 brigadier generals retired last December after serving the nation for 35 years.
Tinubu announced the immediate retirement of General Lucky Irabor who was the Chief of Defence Staff; the Chief of Army Staff, Lieut Gen Farouk Yahaya; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, and Air Marshal Oludayo Amao, the Chief of Air Staff and replaced them with new military chiefs.
The new service chiefs are Maj Gen Christopher Musa who is the Chief of Defence Staff; the Chief of Army Staff, Maj Gen Taoreed Lagbaja; the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla while Air Vice Marshal Hassan Abubakar was appointed the Chief of Air Staff.
DIG Kayode Egbetokun was appointed as the acting Inspector-General of Police and Maj. Gen. E Undiandeye, Chief of Defence Intelligence.
Also, a former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, who was appointed last week as the Security Adviser to the President, was elevated to the National Security Adviser.
In line with precedence, Maj Gen Musa will adorn a full four-star General rank while Lagbaja will be decorated with the three-star rank of Lieutenant General and Ogalla with the same rank equivalent of Vice Admiral and Abubakar with the Air Marshal rank.
But the decoration with the new ranks by the President would come after Senate confirmation.
The planned retirement of the senior officers across the three services was in line with the long-standing military tradition that officers who were senior to the service chiefs would be retired.
It is a tradition in the military that when a junior is appointed as a service chief, senior officers, who are ahead of him or her, would proceed on retirement.
The understanding is that senior military officers are unlikely to take orders from their juniors.
While the new CDS is a member of 38 Regular Course, the COAS, the CNS, and the CAS are members of 39 Regular Course.
Multiple sources said it meant that the security chiefs were junior to some generals who are members of Course 37 and Course 38.
An impeccable source explained that about 100 top officers spread across the Army, Air Force and Navy could leave the service in the coming weeks because, in the military, it is improper for a senior officer to serve under his juniors.
Speaking to one of our correspondents in Abuja on Tuesday, a retired general explained that many top brass, particularly, members of Course 37 and Course 38 would likely leave the service.
Though the former military officer was not sure of the number of senior officers that may retire in the army, air force and navy, he explained that the figure could be as high as 100.
He stated, ‘’Top officers that would leave the service may be up to 100 because it cuts across the three services. The retirement exercise would not affect RC 39 officers; they would simply go to the Defence Headquarters because the Chief of Defence Staff is RC 38.
Certainly, RC 37 and 38 officers will leave the service. Though, some of them may be retained because the last time, COAS Yahaya, who was a member of RC 37 retained some of his mates. So, he is leaving with his coursemates now.’’
Asked about the number of officers that make up a regular course, the source said there was no fixed number, adding “Along the line, some of them would have been weeded out through retirement, deaths, accidents, sickness and other factors. So, the course members that get to the top level are usually about 20 or 30 per cent of the officers that enrolled together.’’
Senior military officers
Corroborating the retired general, a serving military officer noted, ‘’All officers who are senior to the new service chiefs are supposed to go home; mostly senior officers who are members of Course 37, 38 and some of 39.
“I said some Course 39 members because they are coursemates of the new service chiefs. Some service chiefs may choose to work with some of their course mates and others may decide not to work with them, but 37 and 38 will certainly go.
“Course 39 officers are to go too but some may be allowed to head the tri-services like the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Nigeria Defence College, and Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre “
Another source said the coursemates of the former CDS cannot be retained because they are seniors to the three service chiefs.
Beyond appointing new Service Chiefs
He stated, “Yes, the CDS is a member of Course 38, but by military tradition, he is not expected to make any appointment from among his coursemates because the COAS, CNS, and CAS are members of Course 39.
‘’If he does, they would be senior to them. Even those in Course 39 will go. Those that would escape being retired are those who are on senior courses at foreign missions. Looking across the three services, that number may be more than 100.”
It was further learnt that all officers under Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 39 who could not be accommodated at Defence Headquarters are to proceed on voluntary retirement.
Former CDS General Irabor is a member of the NDA Regular Course 34. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant on June 28 1986 into the Signals Corps of the Nigerian Army.
The former COAS, Lt Gen Yahaya is a member of the 37 Regular Course of the NDA. He commenced officer cadet training on September 27, 1985 and was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Corp of Infantry as a Second Lieutenant on December 27, 1990.
Vice Admiral Gambo, the ex-CNS, is a member of 36 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy, and Air Marshal Amao, the 21st CAS, joined the Armed Forces of Nigeria as a Cadet of the Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 35 in January 1984.
On the other hand, the new CDS Maj Gen Musa is a member of the 38th Regular Course of NDA and he was commissioned into the Infantry Corps on September 21, 1991.
The 23rd COAS, Maj Gen Lagbaja is a member of NDA RC 39 and was commissioned on September 19, 1992 while Vice Admiral Ogalla, the new CNS is a member of NDA 39 Regular Course.
The new CAS, Air Vice Marshal Abubakar enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force as a member of NDA RC 39 and was commissioned as a pilot on September 19, 1992.
Those who may retire alongside the former service chiefs include the Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Maj Gen Ibrahim Yusuf and the Commandant of the National Defence College, Rear Admiral Murtala Bashir.
Others are the Chief Of Policy and Plans, HQ NAF, AVM IG Lubo; the Commandant, Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, Air Vice Marshal Oluwarotimi Tuwase.
The Director of Defence Information, Brig Gen Tukur Gusau could not be reached for comments as of the time of filing this report. He did not respond to calls and he had yet to reply to a text message as of press time.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kashim Shettima, on Tuesday, decorated Mr Kayode Egbetokun as the Acting Inspector-General of Police, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The VP performed the decoration alongside the wife of the new police helmsman, Mrs Elizabeth Egbetokun, barely 24 hours after a major shake-up in the country’s security leadership.
Speaking to journalists after the ceremony, Egbetokun expressed eagerness to resume duties on Wednesday, saying he felt like a tiger ready to chase away all the internal enemies of the country.
Asked how he felt about the weight of his new responsibility, Egbetokun said, “Now, I have just been decorated and I’m looking forward to taking over tomorrow morning by 11:00 am.
“I really can’t describe how I feel currently, but if I have to tell you anything, I will tell you that right now, I feel like a tiger inside of me, ready to chase away all the criminals in Nigeria.
“And some other times, I feel like a lion in me, ready to devour all the internal enemies of Nigeria. That’s how I feel right now.”
On his part, the former IG, Usman Baba, described his successor as an old, experienced hand who would build on what he is leaving behind.
“It’s a stage; you come, you work and you go. I’m happy I’m handing over to somebody I know that will carry the mantle of leadership from where I have stopped.
“We grew up on the job. I was his boss at a time, not even when I was IG. He worked under me twice; we’ve been working together and I know how he will go ahead to champion the course of the police from where I have stopped,” Baba said.
Egbetokun would hold the office in an acting capacity until confirmed by the 10th Senate as the 22nd substantive IGP.
The ceremony was witnessed by the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu; the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodinma; the President’s Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume and others.
In a related development, the immediate-past Speaker of Kaduna State House of Assembly, Yusuf Zailani has applauded the President over the appointment of retired AIG Nuhu Ribadu as the National Security Adviser and the service chiefs.
Zailani, who is also the Chairman of ‘The APC Speakers Forum’, in a statement on Tuesday by his Press Secretary, Ibrahim Danfulani, said he was specifically delighted with the appointment of the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, noting that Ribadu’s professionalism, hard work and dedication to service, track record, earned him the job.
He also described the appointment of CDS Maj Gen Musa, who hails from Zangon Kataf Local Government of Kaduna State as deserving and a reward for sacrifice to the service of the nation