The National Assembly has of recent received a lot of petitions over the recent promotion and retirement of senior officers in the Nigerian Army, with most of the petitioners accusing the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika of bias towards his South East region at the expense of the North and the South West.
They also accused him of favouring the South East ahead of the other five geo-political zones in the recruitment of soldiers into the Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria, while specifically voicing their discomfort with the promotion of the former aide-de-camp to late President Umaru Yar’adua, whom they said tried to prevent President Goodluck Jonathan from being Acting President of the country.
They asked the National Assembly to intervene in the matter and President Jonathan to look into the alleged tilt in the promotions.
The petitioners also accused the COAS of exceeding the number of officers approved for promotion by the Army Council, while also promoting junior officers above their seniors without any regard for the rules.
The allegations of marginalization which begun in 2010 has now degenerated into a tense situation within the army, they said.
They claimed that the discrimination is more pronounced in Ordinance Corps, Armoured Corps, Supply and Transport Corps, Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and graduates of National Defence College, especially courses 19 and 20.
The petitioners, in one case, said: “There is a new dangerous trend in promotions and recruitment in the Nigerian Army which should be firmly and promptly checked before it destroys the military and the country.
“This trend is clearly visible in the manner in which the current Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika, is handling these two important aspects of running an effective army institution which is very critical to the survival of any state.
“It appears that the Chief of Army Staff is on a specific mission, most probably, sponsored by some sinister dark forces bent on destroying the army and setting the country on the path of serious conflagration.”
In the case of the former aide-de-camp to late President Yar’adua, they said his promotion was causing disaffection within the army.
In their words, his promotion was a clear example of the entrenchment of nepotism and mediocrity within the Army.
They added: “This officer was the ADC to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who was central to the scheme to deploy soldiers in the airport when the late Yar’Adua was flown into the country from Saudi Arabia.
” He did so by disobeying the Chief of Defence Staff, National Security Adviser and the acting President. He prevented Acting President Goodluck Jonathan from functioning until the death of President Yar’Adua.
“Curiously after the death of President Yar ‘Adua, the Brigadier’s colleagues were summarily retired or denied promotions. However, not only was the Brigadier promoted, he has also been elevated above all his seniors
“The question that arises is, what explains the retention and the preferential treatment being given to this Brigadier? One plausible explanation for this elevation of mediocrity is that it is a calculated attempt to achieve a certain sinister or diabolical objective.”
On the disregard shown by the COAS towards the decision of the Army Council with respect to the retirement of officers, they said it showed clearly that Ihejirika was pursuing an agenda.
“The Army Council approved the retirement of 11 Major Generals, but General Ihejirika retired 12. Similarly, 26 Brigadiers were retired instead 25 approved by the Council, while 13 Colonels were retired instead of the 12 approved.
“It should be mentioned that many Igbo officers who have an age problem were not presented with letters of retirement unlike others who have since been eased out without a chance to progress. A case in mind is that of a Brigadier General from Bauchi who was never presented to any promotion board since he was promoted in 2008. Nefariously, the officer was blocked from being presented three times so that age would catch up with him.”
One of the petitions accused Ihejirika of what they termed ‘attempts to Igbonize the Army’ when the pattern of recruitment of soldiers, in which his ethnic group was taken in much larger numbers than others was taken into recruitment.
“For example, Abia State, the home state of General Ihejirika, with a population of only 2.8 million, has so far had the largest share of recruits, 450, far above Kano with a population of 9.3 million, Lagos with a population of just over 9 million and Kaduna with a population of just over 9 million. These states have so far had 259, 255 and 382 recruits respectively.
“The case of Ebonyi is also symptomatic of this glaring lopsidedness in the recruitment figures. Thus although 377 were recruited from Ebonyi with a population of just 2.2 million, Oyo State with a population of 5.6 million had only 282; Katsina with a population of 5.8 million had only 248; Lagos State with a population of just over 9 million had only 255 and only 271 was recruited from Plateau State with a population of of 3.2 million.
“When the same table is analysed on zonal basis, General Ihejirika’s bias in favour of his zone also becomes patently clear. The South East geo-political zone with a population of 16.3 million has so far had the highest recruits – 1925. The North West, which is the largest geo-political zone with a population of 35.8 million, double that of South East, has only 1949 recruits.
“Similarly, the South West geo-political zone with a population of 27.6 million, has only 1561 recruits. Thousands of qualified recruits from these states have had their applications turned down by a kangaroo selection group set up by General Ihejirika.”
The petition pleaded with President Jonathan and the National Assembly to look into the matter, saying such actions held a great danger for the Army and the Nation as a whole. They also noted a disgruntled officer corps was a recipe for disaster, as it would lack unity, cohesion and purpose, citing the Civil War as a precedent of such when the Army was preoccupied with fighting itself.
A Senator, who spoke in confidence, said: “We have received some of these petitions, and we are looking into them. It borders on security matter; that is why we are quietly treating issues in these petitions.
“We will demand statistics and records from the Chief of Army Staff. But issues surrounding these petitions might be addressed with the Army leadership behind closed doors. We do not want any action which could aggravate the current security challenges facing the nation.”
The outgoing Director of Army Public Relations, Major General Bolaji Koleosho, who has been redeployed as the Chief of Civil-Military Affairs, could not be reached for comments.
Repeated calls to his mobile telephone lines indicated that his lines had been switched off. Sources at the Army Headquarters told our correspondent that he travelled out of his duty post.
Brigadier General Ibrahimn Attahiru who, replaces Koleoso as Army spokesman, is expected to assume responsibilities on Monday after the official hand-over ceremony.