20 March 2014

Nigeria: Military Row Now Resolved As Minister Gusau Meets Service Chiefs

Nigeria's defence minister, Aliyu Gusau, has eventually held a meeting with the chiefs of army, navy and airforce, after a dramatic week-long standoff between the minister and the Chief of Defence, Alex Badeh, who blocked the meeting, questioning Mr. Gusau's authority.

Government sources said the meeting held Tuesday following the intervention of the presidency which tried for days to reconcile the defence minister and Air Chief Marshal Badeh who had insisted last week that Mr. Gusau would be overstepping his powers by directly issuing operational directives to army, navy and airforce chiefs.

Details of Tuesday's meeting were not clear but our sources said Messrs Gusau and Badeh agreed to bury the hatchet and work together to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging Nigeria's northeast.

The embarrassing row between the minister and the defence chief triggered speculations of the minister's resignation barely a week after his appointment.

A mediation meeting scrambled on the instruction of President Goodluck Jonathan last Thursday ended in a deadlock after Mr. Badeh refused to withdraw his objection and declined to offer an apology; and the minister insisted on meeting with the service chiefs directly.

Officials briefed about the controversy, told PREMIUM TIMES Mr. Gusau had his way shortly after the stormy session, and was finally allowed to have a meeting with the military chiefs on the instructions of the president.

"Yes, the minister was able to meet with the military chiefs and everybody at the meeting agreed this is no time for Nigeria's military brass to bicker while Boko Haram continues to strike," a source familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES. He declined to be named, saying he was not authorised to speak on the matter.

It is not clear whether the defence chief apologised or withdrew his earlier comments.

Officials briefed about the first meeting said Mr. Badeh stuck to his guns, insisting that the minister should route all comments to the service chiefs through his office.

The meeting, convened by the president's Chief of Staff, Jones Arogbofa, had in attendance Mr. Gusau, Mr. Badeh, Minister for State, Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, and the permanent secretary of the ministry, Aliyu Isma'ila.

The sources said when the defence minister, Mr. Badeh, was asked to apologize to Mr. Gusau, he said that could only be done to the extent that he did not make his position clear. But he vowed not to apologize on the substance of his stand.

In his letter to President Jonathan, which stirred speculation of his resignation, Mr. Gusau described the chief of defence staff as being "rude", insiders said.

According to the officials, while Mr. Gusau did not expressly submit a resignation letter, he told the president he was not prepared to work with military officials he considered "insubordinate".

Under the Nigerian law, only the president-who is the commander-in-chief, and the chief of defence staff, are empowered to pass directives to the service chiefs.

But analysts have also referred to a constitutional provision that delegates presidential powers to ministers, like Mr. Gusau, a retired general and a former National Security Adviser.

Many Nigerians have expressed concerns over the likely implication of the rift on the government's effort at foiling an increasingly bloody insurgency by extremist group, Boko Haram.

Copyright © 2014 Premium Times. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.