Buhari: How I chose new Service Chiefs

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday explained how he settled for his choice of service chiefs, few hours after he appointed new heads for the nation’s armed forces.

Mr. Buhari had on Monday afternoon appointed new Service Chiefs and a National Security Adviser, after sacking their predecessors.

The president appointed Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T.Y. Buratai as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff.

He also appointed Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan as Chief of Defence Intelligence; and Retired Major-General Babagana Monguno as National Security Adviser.

Addressing the new military chiefs shortly after their appointments, Mr. Buhari said he considered merit and track records in tapping them for their new assignments.

“All of you, including the National Security Adviser, were chosen on merit,” the President said.

“Your records gave you the job.

“Save for the new Chief of Army Staff whom I briefly met at his Command at the Multi-National Joint Task Force, in Chad, I don’t know any of you.

“Your records recommended you.”

The president therefore charged the new military chiefs to help him rebuild the reputation of the Armed Forces and the nation.

The President also called on them to show utmost commitment to their new duties.

Mr. Buhari assured them that their nominations would be sent to the National Assembly for confirmation.

“Legally, you are in acting capacity until the National Assembly accepts you,” the President said.

“It is only then that you will take the oath of office. Thereafter, we will sit down and talk in more detail.”

President Buhari appointed Major-General Munguno National Security Adviser against speculations that former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau, would most likely get the job.

Presidency insiders however did not express surprise with the decision, saying President Buhari had long indicated preference to appointing a retired military officer with intelligence background, against Mr Dambazau, who was a military police.

Aside Mr. Dambazau’s perceived lack of experience in secret service, sources said the former army chief may have lost the plum position owing to a barrage of petitions against him.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that President Buhari was alerted to Mr. Dambazau’s alleged involvement in the scandal concerning the renovation/upgrading of 44 Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, when he was chief of army staff.

The petitioners reportedly claimed that the project, meant to upgrade the hospital to a world class reference centre for the military, allegedly gulped billions of naira under Mr. Dambazau without commensurate result.

Mr. Dambazzau could not be reached for comment Monday night. His known telephone number was switched off the several times PREMIUM TIMES called.

A presidency official however said the former army chief might be compensated with another appointment.

Mr. Buhari’s appointment of the new service chiefs came 48 hours after PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported that the President’s slow approach to governance was affecting the prosecution of the war against the extremist Boko Haram sect in the north east of Nigeria.

Officials in the administration and some retired security and military experts had told PREMIUM TIMES that the decision by the president to allow uncertainty surround the tenures of the service chiefs and the National Security Adviser he inherited from the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was greatly affecting the war.

“Service Chiefs are currently sitting at the edge of their seats; there is a regime of uncertainty because it was clear to them and everyone that they would not be part of the new administration, as such, they presently do not go the extra mile,” one official said.

Officials at the Defence Headquarters had also told this paper that there was no long term commitment on the part of the now sacked Service Chiefs and other top commanders, owing largely to the uncertainty regarding their tenure.

“All the Service Chiefs have cleared their desks including the NSA, and each day, they expect to receive the news of their sack, in that case, how do you expect someone to be in the right frame to prosecute a war as complex as the one against Boko Haram who use civilian targets as shield,” one official had said.

He added that the Service Chiefs were hardly taking any long term decision on the war and security matters.

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