President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday dropped all the service chiefs but one, Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, the immediate past chief of air staff who is now the new chief of defence staff, in order to bring new ideas and restore sanity to the security committee of his administration.
Breaking the news via the social media, presidential spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, said that the president by his action "has in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria approved the following changes in the nation's Military High Command."
Abati further stated, "Air Marshal Alex Badeh takes over from Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah takes over from Lt. General Azubike O. Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin takes over from Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu takes over from Air Marshal Badeh as Chief of Air Staff. All the changes are with immediate effect."
But this is against the directive of a competent court, which, in its ruling, had asked the president to seek the approval of the National Assembly before appointing the service chiefs.
Checks conducted by LEADERSHIP Friday revealed that the action of the president became necessary because of the cold war going on among the service chiefs, which has affected the counter-insurgency war in the Northeast against the Boko Haram sect.
As exclusively reported in LEADERSHIP Sunday recently, things had gone sour between the then chief of defence staff, Admiral Ibrahim and some of the service chiefs. This had led to the then chief of army staff, Lt. Gen. Ihejirika's (who had been after his job) scheming against him and in the process, hijacking the prosecution of the war against terrorism.
According to an informed source, when President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the CDS was mandated to preside over the prosecution. "But since it is the army that constituted most of the Joint Task Force operation team, the Army Council wanted to be in charge and this was allowed by the Presidency. The JTF was sacked; the army chief took over the war and set up the 7 Division of the army in Maiduguri. Although Ihejirika claimed setting up the 7 Division would bring the war to an end, it has not," he said.
A security source who craved anonymity said, "It was later that there came a crisis of confidence among the forces that are involved, including other security agencies, and the resurrection of the insurgents in the area was traced to the cold war among the service chiefs.
Whenever there was a victory over the insurgents, the army, through the 7 Division claimed the victory and this did not go down well with other security agencies. The Nigerian Air Force is deeply involved in the operations, but there was never a time any credit was given to it, all to make sure President Jonathan would not consider Air Marshal Badeh for the CDS when the need to remove Admiral Ibrahim arises. You may be surprised that (Vice Admiral Dele) Ezeoba too has some powerful people lobbying the Presidency for the same office."
Another security source also disclosed that Ezeoba, though relatively new on the seat, was removed as a result of the seemingly endless oil theft in the Niger Delta where he hails from.
"The president removed Ezeoba because of the oil theft, which he was primarily assigned to stop. Although he claimed the war was yielding its dividends, up until the time he was sacked, the oil stealing continued and not only that, none of the big thieves have been caught. The economy is not doing well as a result and some are alleging that the war against oil theft might not succeed as long as the one leading it hails from the zone. This is the reason why the new chief of naval staff is not from that zone and if the new man fails to end the oil theft, he too would go."
But to some security watchers, the sack of Ihejirika could be due to any of a number of reasons. For one, he was due for retirement, having fulfilled the required years of service, coupled with the resolve of Jonathan to appoint Minimah as his successor. And since Admiral Ibrahim did not endorse him as his successor, the officer who was regarded as 'General Transformation', because of the innovations he brought to the army had to go.
The appointment of General Minimah as army chief comes as no surprise, as in the last two years, it had been widely speculated that President Jonathan might have made up his mind to appoint him the chief of army staff, because he is from Bayelsa, his home state.
On the implication of the appointment of a Course 24 member as army chief, a security watcher said, "The implication of this is that all those who are his seniors must go and this is a big loss to the nation which trained them to become who they are. And coupled with the fact that having your kinsman as COAS is akin to self protection by the president and this is not good for the country."
A serving general said, "And once again, the president has ignored the clarion call of the Southwest to include the zone in his administration. Since the loss of the speaker of the House, the Yorubas too have been accusing him of marginalising them, although Amosu is a Yoruba man. Like Admiral Ibrahim, he is from Kwara State."
The new chief of defence staff and former chief of air staff, Air Marshal Badeh, was born on January 10, 1957 and joined the air force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 21 Regular Course. The new chief of army staff, Major-General Minimah, was born on July 27, 1959 and joined the army as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 25 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, Major-General Minimah was the commander of the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps, Jaji.
The new chief of naval staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, was born on September 16, 1959 and joined the navy as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 24 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, he was director of training at Defence Headquarters.
The new chief of air staff and immediate past commander of the Presidential Air Fleet, Air Vice Marshal Amosu, was born on August 1, 1958 and joined the air force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 25 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, Air Vice Marshal Amosu was the air officer commanding, Tactical Air Command, Makurdi.
On why the president did not wait for NASS approval of the new service chiefs as directed by the Federal High Court in Abuja, our source said that it was due to the sensitivity of security and for political expediency.
"If President Jonathan had waited, then all the service chiefs would have had to remain in office while the process of replacing them was going on and we are talking of security managers here. I wonder why the attorney-general of the federation has not appealed the ruling. Then another reason may have to do with the ongoing crisis rocking the PDP. How many senators are loyal to the president and his party today? To seek for their approval could mean an endless wait for the approval of the service chiefs and again this is not good for the security of the country."
Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had ruled on Monday, July 1 2013, in the suit filed by human rights lawyer Mr Festus Keyamo challenging the appointments, that the appointment of service chiefs should be done with the approval of the National Assembly. Justice Bello, in his judgement, held that the service chiefs were appointed without the approval of the National Assembly.
The court also restrained President Jonathan from further appointing them without the approval of the Senate. Keyamo had filed the suit against the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the attorney-general of the federation and all the service chiefs, in 2008.
In his judgement, Justice Bello agreed with the plaintiff that appointment of the service chiefs by the president without the confirmation of the National Assembly was illegal, unconstitutional and void. The court further held that Section 18 (1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A. 20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, was in conformity with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, so as not to fall within the category of existing laws under Section 315 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, that "the president, may, by order, modify its text, to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the constitution".
It was the position of the court that by the combined interpretation of the provisions of Section 218 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A. 20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the president could not appoint the service chiefs without the confirmation of the National Assembly first sought and obtained.
The court granted "an order restraining the president from further appointing service chiefs for the federation without first obtaining the confirmation of the National Assembly".
The special adviser on media however said that Jonathan had briefed the leadership of the National Assembly before appointing the service chiefs.
"President Jonathan has briefed the leadership of the National Assembly on the appointment of the new service chiefs and will, in keeping with the provisions of the law, request the National Assembly to formally confirm the appointments when it reconvenes," he said.
Profile of Badeh, new CDS
The new chief of defence staff and former chief of air staff, Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, was born on January 10, 1957. He joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 21 Regular Course.
The new chief of army staff, Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah, was born on July 27, 1959, and joined the Army as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 25 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, Major-General Minimah was the commander of the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps, Jaji.
The new chief of naval staff, Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin, was born on September 16, 1959, and joined the Navy as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 24 Regular Course. Until his appointment as chief of naval staff, he was director of training at Defence Headquarters.
The new chief of air staff, Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu, is the immediate past commander of the Presidential Air Fleet. Air Vice Marshal Amosu was born on August 1, 1958, and joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy's 25 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, Air Vice Marshal Amosu was the air officer commanding, Tactical Air Command, Makurdi.