Nigeria: Buhari Promotes Northerners in Overhaul of Military Leadership

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has named a new team of military chiefs in a move that follows years of criticism over the government's handling of the war against Boko Haram, and bandits in the north of the country.

The president had been ignoring calls for change in the leadership of the armed forces, Bashir Ibrahim Idris, editor of RFI's Hausa service in Lagos, tells Africa Calling podcast.

"His announcement at the new chief of defence staff has elicited happiness and even celebration from those living in the north-eastern part of Nigeria," Idris says.

Major General Leo Irabor, who is well-known in the north, has been named chief of defence staff. Irabor headed successful operations in rooting out Boko Haram when Buhari first came to office in 2015.

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According to Idris, as theatre commander in Maiduguri, Irabor protected local governments from bandits, capturing five Boko Haram commanders and killing others during his short stint there before he was transferred.

Other new military chiefs with northern experience include chief of naval staff Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, from the north-western Kano state, and chief of army staff Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru, from Sokoto. Their experience and familiarity with the restive north is well-regarded by the Hausa community, Idris says.

"There is a kind of relief from many Nigerians that probably these officers, coming at this point in time, may take the war against Boko Haram further than expected," he adds.

Corruption probe

The opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) has jumped on Buhari's announcement, calling for the government and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to look into allegations of corruption and diversion of funds for weapons.

Furthermore, the @OfficialPDPNig demands an immediate inquest into the tenure of the last service chiefs to unravel the circumstances behind the security lapses and compromises as well as accusation of involvement in the alleged looting of funds...

- Official PDP Nigeria (@OfficialPDPNig) January 26, 2021

"One of the major complaints from many Nigerians was the inability to provide the military with enough equipment to prosecute this war, which has been going for over 10 years now," says Idris, adding that the National Assembly had been approving the budgets but not seeing the equipment.

"Where is the money going? Where is the missing equipment from the war front? Why are the soldiers complaining? These are the reasons why some Nigerians were calling for a probe to do with all military procurement dealings," Idris explains.

The Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and cattle rustling has claimed some 40,000 lives. Northern Nigerians hope the new defence team will help end the reign of terror.

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