Nigeria’s New Service Chiefs


President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked service chiefs whose appointment were voided in July 2013 by the Abuja Federal High Court, He has also sent the names of their replacements to the Senate for confirmation in accordance with rule of law

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Jan. 27, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

SIX months after the Abuja Federal High Court voided the appointment of service chiefs in the country because due process was not followed, President Goodluck Jonathan has finally done the right thing by relieving them of their jobs. He has also sent the names of the new service chiefs to the Senate for confirmation. This is the first time since the return of civilian rule in 1999, that a sitting president will do so in accordance with dictates of the Constitution.  The new service chiefs are Air Marshal Alex Badeh, chief of defence staff, Major-General Keneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah, chief of army staff, Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin, chief of naval staff and Air Vice-Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu, chief of air staff.

MinimahBadeh, who took over from Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, is the third Air Force chief to be the chief of defence staff after Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike and Air Chief Marshal Olusheye Petinrin. Minimah took over from Lieutenant.-General Azubuike Ihejirika while Jibrin replaced Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba while Amosu succeeded Badeh, who is the only former service chief reappointed to another position. The new appointment came after the meeting Jonathan had with the service chiefs at the presidential villa. It also came a day after the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration.

Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, in a statement, said that the changes were with immediate effect. Since the appointment of the ex-service chiefs, about 15 months ago, they had been grappling with the Boko Haram insurgency which led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. The initial state of emergency which lasted for six months was extended last year by the National Assembly.

The new service chiefs are coming at a time the security situation in the country is still precarious and would be expected to take on the onerous duty of stablising the situation before the 2015 general elections. Time will tell whether they will surpass the achievements of their predecessors, who were sacked without the federal government saying why it did so.

But the handwriting of it happening has been on the wall ever since the July 2, court ruling. Immediately after the ruling lawyers who in most cases have different opinions on court rulings unanimously agreed with Justice Adamu Bello, declaring the appointment of service chiefs in the country as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. Most lawyers Realnews talked to then agreed with Bello’s ruling and advised the president not to appeal the case but, instead, do the proper thing by sending the names of the service chiefs to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

Recently appointed service chiefs (2014)
Recently appointed service chiefs (2014)

Bello’s ruling restrained the president and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, from henceforth appointing service chiefs without the approval of the Senate. The judge made the declaration while ruling in a case instituted in 2008 by Festus Keyamo, a lawyer, who asked the court to determine whether the president had the powers to unilaterally appoint service chiefs.

In the suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/611/2008, the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, the attorney-general of the federation and all the service chiefs were listed as the defendants. The court was asked to determine whether, by the combined interpretation of section 218 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Section 18 (1)(2)of the Armed Forces Act, capA.20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 was not in conformity with the 1999 Constitution, so as to fall within the category of existing laws under Section 315 (2) of the 1999 Constitution that the president, may, by order, modify its text, to bring it to conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.

In his judgment, Bello answered both questions in favour of Keyamo, plaintiff, and as a result granted all the orders sought in the suit. The ruling apparently affected the former service chiefs. Emeka Ngige, SAN, had advised the president to regularise the appointment of the service chiefs without delay and that pending the time such was done, the service chiefs should cease to perform their functions and vacate their offices in obedience to the rule of law and come back after a week or two when their appointment would have been regularised. But it took longer than that for the president to act and when he did, he ended up sacking them without notice.

Keyamo said the new appointment of service chiefs showed that President Jonathan had respect for the rule of law. He said it was the first time in history that a Nigerian would seek for approval of the National Assembly in the appointment of service chiefs.


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