4 January 2013

Nigeria: Again, Army Dismisses Reports On Retired Officers

The army authorities have frowned on some media reports in the country that the recent retirement of some military officers were to pave way for the purported anointed candidate of President Goodluck Jonathan for the post of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

The reports which appeared on some national dailies and orchestrated by some people with unabashed northern bias has been described by the military authorities as "bunkum and unprofessional reportage."

The report had alleged that Major General Kenneth Minimah, is on his way to becoming COAS following mass retirements affecting his seniors and mates.

The report also had it that Minimah, from the South and now the General Officer Commanding (GOC), the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army in Lagos has his positioned strengthened after the recent retirements of 51 Army officers, lamented "first step" in a plan to appoint him as Army chief.

It also alleged that more officers who could be potential contenders, especially from the North for the Army chief's position will be weeded out this year so as to clear the coast for a so called anointed candidate.

According to their rumours, that was the reason why the former Commandant of the Infantry Corps Jaji, Maj Gen. Mohammed Isa, was replaced and subsequently retired along with other 50 senior officers.

However, the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brig-Gen. Mobolaji Koleoso has laughed off such as a concoction of imagination, describing it as "a total bunkum."

Kolesoso, who initially refused to comment or react on what he described as an unsubstantiated story wondered why such should be given attention.

He noted that such story negates the standard practice of journalism as he was never contacted to explain the position of the Nigerian Army neither could the writer confirm his sources.

"My reaction is strictly 'no comment'," he said before he responded? "that the retiring officers are to pave way for one General Minima and you want my reaction? I wonder where our journalism in this country is going to and I fear for the future of the profession in this country, especially the type that can carry such stories," he said.

He continued: "There is freedom of information now but why can't they come out and tell us where they are getting these information from. In as much as we are encouraging investigative journalism; you cannot come out with an unsubstantiated write-up and you make it a front-page story.

"I am getting concerned because people are repeating stupid and unprofessional stories. That is a big concern because I am convinced journalists went to school...where did you get the story from and who is feeding you with these nonsense. I am here (as the Army Spokesman), you have access to me and yet you neither came nor called to confirm the story...in fact they should hide their faces in shame.

"It is a total bunkum, when you have people you could have consulted to give you accurate information or at least interview one or two people to feel the pulse of the organisation. I am here, I did not travel throughout the holidays and you did not get in touch with me...even ordinary call, the reporter could not get across to me," he lamented.

Some Northern elements including the umbrella Muslim organisation in the North, the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) have been in the habit of attacking some of the decisions of the military with ethno-religious interpretations.

The most prominent and recent ones were when it accused the Army of deliberately replacing the two Muslim commanding officers at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) with Christian commanders.

Despite the warning of the military against undue interference in its policy matters, especially from the prism of ethnic and religious connotations, the attack continued with recent retirement of about 51 senior officers.

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