President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday injected fresh vigour into efforts by his administration to combat insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality with the appointment of new service chiefs.
Buhari’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement that announced the appointments, named tested insurgency war general, Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor as the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS); Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo as the Chief of Naval Staff; while Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao emerged the Chief of Air Staff.
Their appointments followed the resignations and retirements of their predecessors who had come under severe attacks, leading to mounting pressure on the president to drop them, over their perceived inability to tame the nation’s worsening insecurity.
Those who retired are the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
Yesterday’s appointments, described by analysts as a sign of the president bowing to pressure to replace the service chiefs in a bid to combat insecurity attracted kudos and knocks from groups and organisations, including the Senate; the House of Representatives; Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF); pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; All Progressives Congress (APC); Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
The presidency also said the new appointments were carried out in a bid to inject fresh ideas into the system.
The statement quoted the president as congratulating the new service chiefs, urging them to be loyal and dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities.
Buhari also accepted the immediate resignations of the service chiefs and their retirements from service.
He thanked them for what he called their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country” and wished them well in their future endeavours.
Adesina shed more light on the appointments while featuring on a television programme last night, saying that the president felt it was the best time to rejig the security system in the country.
“The president knew the time to do it and I believe the time has come and that is why it has been done,” he said.
He faulted claims that their resignations were a result of security failures under their tenure or due to the pressure mounted on the government to sack the service chiefs.
“I don’t think it is a matter of right or wrong,” Adesina said when asked to clarify the situation, adding: “It is just a matter of doing what is best for the country at the best time.”
He explained: “It will not be right to say one side was right or one side was wrong because the president even in the statement we issued also commended the outgoing service chiefs for their contributions to engendering a safer country.
“That shows that by and large, he was satisfied with their performances and he just felt it was time to rejig the system; have fresh energy, have fresh blood, have fresh ideas.”
The Senate welcomed the new appointments, saying Buhari’s action is in tandem with its earlier resolutions to replace the service chiefs.
Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru, told newsmenyesterday that the change in the service chiefs was in line with two earlier resolutions of the Senate for the nation’s security to be overhauled.
He said: “It is an honourable thing for the CDS and other service chiefs to have resigned and give room for fresh blood and you know that in the past, we had called for the realignment of the security network of the country and the need to inject a new set of leadership into the military.”
He urged the new service chiefs to work towards tackling all the security challenges facing the nation, especially the insurgency in the North-east and banditry in some parts of the country.
The Senate Minority Caucus said the appointment of the new service chiefs was better late than not coming at all.
Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said: “It is better late than never. We had been calling for this for a long time now; let’s hope this team will stem the tide of insecurity.”
The House of Representatives also lauded Buhari for finally heeding the calls of the National Assembly and Nigerians by replacing the service chiefs.
The House, since its inauguration, has been clamouring for the replacement of the service chiefs due to their failure to curb the worsening insecurity in the country.
The House, in two previous resolutions, had asked the president to sack the service chiefs if they failed to resign.
However, their resolutions were ignored by Buhari until yesterday.
Speaking to newsmen yesterday, House spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, described the appointment of the new service chiefs as a reflection of leadership that listens.
Kalu noted that the coming on board of the new service chiefs is an injection of new energy, which though may not be automatically magical but is still a good step towards combating insecurity.
While appealing to Nigerians to manage their expectations from the new service chiefs, he urged everyone to support them.
He said: ”For the House of Representatives, it is a reflection of the leadership that listens. On our part, we’ve shown that we pay attention to wishes, desires, hunger and the need of the Nigerian people. What they actually wanted is what we have carried on our shoulders and presented at the plenary as their representatives.”
The ruling APC also expressed confidence that the new service chiefs will consolidate on the remarkable achievements of their predecessors in keeping the country safe and peaceful.
The National Secretary of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the party, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, in a statement yesterday, said the ruling party welcomed the appointments.
It urged increased synergy among the armed forces in achieving these tasks.
The PDP described the replacement of the service chiefs as belated, adding that much harm had already been done to national security.
The party said the belated replacement showed that Buhari is a leader who has always refused to heed to wise counsel by well-meaning Nigerians.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “If Mr. President had acted when our party and other well-meaning Nigerians, including the two chambers of the National Assembly impressed it upon him to do so, the security situation in the country would not have degenerated to this abysmal level.”
PDP, however, expressed the hope that the new service chiefs will brace up to the challenges.
ACF spokesman, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, commended Buhari for finally heeding the calls to sack the service chiefs.
“Indeed, they had overstayed their welcome; I understand that some junior officers were retired prematurely because the service chiefs refused to move out of the way. I think the country is better for it,” he said.
General Secretary of NLC, Mr. Emma Ugbaja, told newsmen that Nigerians expect the new leadership of the armed forces to rise to the occasion and ensure that they win back the confidence of the people by frontally tackling insecurity.
“We expect that the new people will bring new impetus to their job. The new army chiefs included tested hands in real combat activities. We expect them to help us restore stability in our security to enable workers to go to work much more freely and to enable Nigerians not to embark on deaths trips each time they set out to go to work or travel. Rather let it be that people will go out and expect to come back safely to meet their loved ones,” he said.
Spokesman of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, also told newsmen that the replacement of the service chiefs at this moment is belated and not impressive.
“The action does not in way invalidate the invidious agenda that brought about the unusual situation we have just passed through. It is not lost on us that the South-east for instance has nobody in the new service chiefs,” he said.
PANDEF welcomed the appointments, saying it is long overdue.
PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, stated that the group commended the president for finally responding to calls by well-meaning Nigerians to replace them.
“We congratulate the new service chiefs while hoping that they will discharge their duties and responsibilities professionally, without biases and tendencies, in the best interest of the country,” he stated.
But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) faulted the composition of the new security chiefs, saying it’s lacking in proper representation.
Special Assistant to the CAN president, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said the replacements though belated, is a welcome one.
Oladeji, in a text sent to THISDAY, however, said the only concern about the composition is the absence of any Igbo extraction among them.
“President Muhammadu Buhari did well by replacing the service chiefs with new ones though belatedly. It is a case of better be late than never. Their prolonged tenure has cost the nation a lot in terms of security. Hopefully, the new ones will be able to inject the long-awaited confidence, hope and new ideas. Security architecture needs a total overhauling as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other well-meaning Nigerians have been calling for.
“The new service chiefs should bring in new helmsmen to other security agencies such as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other related para-military organisations.
“Our concern about the new security chiefs is the absence of any Igbo extraction among them. It is the status quo ante on the composition,” the CAN stated.
The former President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, however, condemned the non-appointment of an Igbo officer as a service chief.
“Gen. Buhari thanks for making us in Igboland feel once more that we are not fit to head any of the security services,” he said.
Lucky Irabor (CDS)
Maj. Gen. Lucky Eluonye Onyenuchea Irabor was born on 5 October 1965 in Aliokpu Agbor, Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria. The senior officer gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna as a member of the 34 Regular Course in 1983 and was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 28 June 1986 into the Signals Corps of the Nigerian Army.
Irabor attended military and civil courses both locally and abroad. He attended Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) for his Junior Staff Course in 1995 and Ghana Armed Forces Staff College, Teshi, Accra, Ghana for Senior Staff Course in 2000/2001 amongst others. He equally attended the National Defence College in Bangladesh in 2010 and Harvard Kennedy Schools of Government and Executive Education, the USA in 2012 and 2017 respectively. Irabor is a trained engineer from the Obafemi Awolowo University and holds two Masters Degrees from University of Ghana, Accra and Bangladesh University of Professionals, Dhaka.
Ibrahim Attahiru (COAS)
Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru was born on August 10, 1966, and hails from Kaduna North Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Ibrahim was a member of the 35th Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).
Until his appointment as the Chief of Army Staff, he was the General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Nigerian Army.
He was appointed to lead the offensive against Boko Haram in the North-east in May 2017, but was redeployed by his predecessor, Buratai, after a string of attacks by the insurgents. He had also failed to meet the July 2017 deadline given him to deliver Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, dead or alive within 40 days.
But Attahiru, in his valedictory speech as the theatre commander said his removal was routine and not as a result of failure to realise his mandate.
Awwal Gambo (CONS)
Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo was born on 22 April 1966 and hails from Nasarawa LGA in Kano State. He enlisted into the Nigerian Navy on 24 September 84 as a member of Regular Course 36 and was commissioned Sub-Lieutenant on 24 September 1988. He is an underwater warfare specialist with a sub-specialisation in intelligence.
He has attended many military courses, including sub-technical course and officers’ long course at NNS QUORRA. He also attended Junior Division 48/99 and Senior Course 26 both at AFCSC Jaji. Other courses attended include the National Defence Course at the South African National Defence College. Until his appointment as the CNS, he was the Director of Procurement at the Defence Space Administration.
He holds a PGD in Transport Management and a Master’s degree in Transport Management (Logistics option) both from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso in Oyo State.
He is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Fellow of the Certified Institute of Shipping, Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria as well as a fellow of the National Defence College, South Africa.
The senior officer has been awarded the Grand Service Star, Distinguished Service Star, passed staff course among other decorations and awards. He is married to Hajiya Nana Aishat Gambo and the marriage is blessed with three children.
Isiaka Amao (COAS)
Air Vice-Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao was born on 14 September 1965 at Enugu. He hails from Osogbo Local Government Area of Osun State. He enlisted into the Nigerian Air Force on 19 January 1984 as a member of 35th Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course and was commissioned as a pilot officer on 20 December 1986. He has the following academic qualifications: Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Defence and Strategic Studies from University of Madras India; Master of Military Science and Strategy (M.MSc.) and Advance Diploma in Defence and Strategy Studies from National Defence University (NDU) China, Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations and Diplomacy from Kaduna Polytechnic Nigeria, National Diploma in Freshwater and Fisheries Technology from Federal College of Freshwater and Fisheries Technology (FCFFT), New Bussa and Nigerian Defence Academy Certificate of Education.