Abuja and Kaduna — The removal of two top military commanders in Jaji on Saturday is drawing sharp reactions from several quarters, including the JNI and senior security officials who allege the decision was tinged with religious bias.
Commandant of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Air Vice Marshal Abdullahi Kure and the Corps Commander, Infantry, Major General Muhammad D. Isa, were removed over the twin blasts that killed 15 people at a church in the Jaji Military Cantonment a week earlier.
The Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) pointed out in a statement in Kaduna yesterday that the speed with which the commanders were removed was never noticed in previous bombings of military formations.
On Saturday, Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim named Air Vice Marshal E. E. Osim to replace AVM Kure at AFCSC and directed Major General K. C. Osuji to act as Corps Commander, Infantry.
JNI Secretary-General Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu said yesterday the fact that the two officers who were swiftly removed are Muslims, and were replaced by two officers who are non-Muslims, makes any discerning observer to be suspicious of the motives behind the exercise.
"While reiterating our condemnation of the blasts and emphasising the need for the immediate thorough investigations into the matter, we want to state that the immediate removal of the two officers does not speak well of the military who are hitherto known to be careful and objective in dealing with sensitive issues of national interest," he said.
"We cannot comprehend why the use of two different approaches to addressing the same issue. Nigerians may not understand why would the two Jaji officers be removed in connection to the blasts even before any proper investigation?"
He added: "It is our sincere concern to which we make bold to state, that any attempt at politicising the issue of security in Nigeria will not only worsen our security situation but will also continue to polarise the military family and the entire security system along religious and ethnic divides, something that would not augur well for the future of our dear nation.
Also yesterday, a senior security official gave an insight into the way the Jaji matter was treated and said it gives room for suspicion of religious bias.
He said before the explosions at Jaji, the cantonment had one Commander and four Commandants and that all the five were in charge of independent formations.
These are AFCSC headed by Kure, Infantry Corps Centre under Isah, Nigerian Army School of Infantry (NASI) headed by Major General Osuji as Commandant, Nigerian Army Peace Keeping Centre with Major General Zaruwa as Commandant and Warrant Officers Academy with Brigadier General Ukagu as Commandant.
After the explosions, Kure was removed and replaced with Osim from the South South, while Isah was removed and replaced with the Commandant of NASI, Osuji.
Two boards of inquiry are currently investigating the incident and none has concluded its assignment, the security source said.
He said in military tradition, blame is never apportioned before the outcome of investigations.
He added that where there is more than one leader in a military location, the responsibilities and limits of liabilities of each leader is clearly defined.
In Jaji cantonment, Commander of the ICC is the Cantonment Commander and is responsible for overall security, he said, adding if he was to be removed over the incident this should not have come before investigations are concluded.
The security official cited the case of the Major General Nasamu who is still Army Headquarters Garrison Commander two years after the Christmas Eve explosion at the Mammy Market of the Mogadishu Cantonment in Abuja.
He said removing Major General Isah before the end of investigations "is suspect" and could be a vendetta by superior officers, adding that Kure's removal could be a red herring.
The source said Kure's removal just two weeks after he assumed duty as AFCSC chief and leaving the other three commandants cannot be explained since Kure too cannot be blamed for the explosions.
He said the removal of Kure along with Isah could be interpreted as religiously biased since both are Muslims and are replaced by non-Muslims, placing all the five Jaji formations under non-Muslims.
The source also raised some questions on why General Isah and General Shoboki of 1 Mechanised Division were removed after explosions in their formations when the General Nasamu is still in his position two years after the blast at the Mogadishu Cantonment.
Attempts by Daily Trust to get comments from the Army Headquarters and the Defence Headquarters in Abuja on the issues raised over the Jaji officers were not successful yesterday.
Director of Army Public Relations Brigadier General Mobolaji Koleoso and the Director of Defence Information Colonel Mohammed Yerima could not be reached by telephone.