Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Senior military officers, numbering 26, including a former Major-General and 10 retired Brigadiers-Generals, have petitioned the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, over what they termed compulsory retirement from the Nigerian Army.
The petitioners, who include Maj Gen O. Ugo, Brigs Gen. J. Chima (Imo State), J. Ebong (Akwa Ibom), P. Aro (Ondo), M. Odediran (Osun), A. Busari (Oyo), E. Albara (Niger), J. Audu (Kogi), O. Falade (Osun) and G. Shipi (Plateau) and others, argued that their retirement was unlawful.
Apart from the petitioners who were Regular Combatant Officers, it was learnt that about 120 Direct Regular Officers who were mostly medical doctors, lawyers and other professionals also got retirement letters in February, 2019.
In their petition dated April 1,2019, signed by their lawyer, Johnson Oyewole, they contended that as Regular Combatant Officers, they could not be retired from the Army based on Rule 020810 (I) which the Military Secretary relied on to retrench them from service.
The petitioners further stated that they protested the development via a letter dated February 20 to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai, adding that this was followed up with a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari both of which were not responded to.
The former military officers also explained that the NAC under the Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (retd.), the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, conveyed an emergency meeting of the council where they directed the military secretary to retire them in spite of the fact that they had not clocked 35 years in service or attained 60 years as stated in the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers (2017) revised.
The petition read: “We further state that our clients have converted and lost two years and six months of service to properly align them with the officers holding Regular Combatant Commission. According to HTACOS, from the date of their conversion, they ceased to have Short Service Combatant Commission type of commission. This was the purpose of the conversion and losing two years and six months seniority.”
The letter further contended that the decision of the Army to retire the officers amounted to double jeopardy, having lost two years and six months seniority without also getting the privileges of a Regular Commission Officer.
“A cursory look at the list (of retired officers) revealed that 17 of them are from the southern part of the country while the rest are from the North.
“Our clients were not investigated for any infraction, indicted by a court martial or convicted by a disciplinary panel for any criminal breaches,” the petition read.
The petitioners insisted that they still had between two and seven years to serve their fatherland in the Army and sought the intervention of the House to set aside their retirement.