It is one major trauma that has caused immense pain for this retired Major of the Nigerian Army.
Major Ken Chioma Obi is angry and sad. He wants the Nigerian Army to reinstate and promote him as well as pay him all arrears of his entitlements.
Obi said his premature retirement at the peak of his combat fitness had caused him trauma as well as impacted terribly on his family.
He said: “At a time, I was so impoverished that I couldn’t pay my house rent at the Army Estate. My coursemates, members of 39 RC, were the ones that came together to pay my house rent.”
Obi, whose full name is Kenneth David Chioma Obimnonso, said he enlisted in the Nigeria Army on September 12, 1987, as a member of the 39 Regular Course. At his graduation from the Nigeria Defence Academy, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant on September 19, 1992 . But he was retired on October 9, 2003 under circumstances he said were far from lawful.
“I was prematurely retired on medical grounds following a petition written by two medical officers – Colonel M.O. Olayinka and Brig General Okulate. Both have since retired.
“Even at the point of the medical assessment by the above two medical officers, I vehemently protested at the 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, in the presence of the Hospital Commandant as at 2002/2003, Major General Njoku.
“But the medical officers were under severe pressure to produce a retirement inclined report, even without a proper medical board as stipulated by the terms and conditions of service (TACOS) 1984, under which I was retired.
“The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), as at then, General Alex Ogomudia, had cautioned the Army to ensure that they followed due process before my retirement. He did this via a letter dated October 7, 2003, addressed to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Yet the Army released my medical retirement letter 48 hours later, on 9 October, 2003, against the directive of the CDS.”
Obi said he had been writing protest letters since 2004, asking the Army to review and reverse the unjust retirement or at least follow the standard regulations for medical retirement.
“I also wrote to the Chief of Army Staff, General Martin Luther Agwai, for an audience, called interview in military parlance. The Army first ignored my letters for about two years between 2004 and 2006. But as my writing persisted and new service chiefs came on board, they began to respond, stating that my retirement was in order and irreversible, even against contrary and superior evidence.”
He said some luck smiled on him on February 9, 2009, when he was engaged to work in the Office of the Vice President as a Personal Assistant (Special Duties) to the Senior Special Assistant (Special Duties). He said he was there when the then Vice President Jonathan Goodluck became Nigeria’s Acting President.
“I remained at my duty post handling sensitive paperwork as well as other classified activities on the field across Nigeria,” he recalled. “The Army now had a dilemma of explaining how a so-called medical invalid on 100 per cent medical disability retirement could function so effectively in the most powerful and highest office in the country.”
He alleged that an attempt was made by the Office of the NSA, General Andrew Owoye Azazi via his PGSO, Major General Letam Wiwa, to disengage him from the Presidency via a medical classification as a ‘psycho.’
“But my boss in the Presidency stood his ground, and with the tacit support of Mr President, Dr Jonathan, sent me back to the same Yaba Military Hospital, for a comprehensive medical examination funded by the Presidency.”
Obi said he arrived Yaba Hospital in November, 2010 and spent 21 days undergoing comprehensive examinations at the Department of Psychiatry including Electro-Encophalogram (E.E.G) tests.
He said: “Certain kinds of tests required advanced equipment, but such was not available at the Army Hospital. So I was referred to the Lagos State Psychiatric Hospital where the tests were done and results sent directly to the Army Hospital authorities.
“Consultant Psychologists like Mrs Chiegboka of Nigerian Army Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, spent time examining me. Even my blood relations, including my first cousin, Celestine Okonkwo, my maternal uncle, Mr Charles Nwokoye and my boss in the Presidency, who knew me from birth, were invited and interviewed to turn in a report of my conduct and performance in the office.
“At the end, all the experts compiled their reports and submitted them to the Army authorities. The Chief of Army Staff as at November/December 2010, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, collected the reports and locked them away. I was not allowed to see the result of my own medical tests nor the final medical report till date.”
Obi said though he was weakened, he was not deterred. He noted that he returned to his job in the Presidency after the attempt to remove him had failed woefully.
“But by November 2011, after the hectic labour for the success of Mr President in the April 2011 Presidential elections, I applied for a two-year study leave to go for some courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Though I was released by my boss, I never made it to Israel due to the same overbearing influence of my traducers in the National Security Adviser’s office who turned in a negative report to the Israeli Embassy in Abuja.”
Obi said he wrote to the Senate requesting a public hearing on his case on October 17, 2017 and was invited by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, chaired by Senator Chris Anyanwu. He explained that other officers who were also unjustly retired were invited as well for presentation at the Meeting Room 120, New Senate Building.
He showed the reporter copies of the Senate Invitation Letter in 2017 and the Senate Resolution after a vote by the entire 109 Senators in January, 2018. In the letter, the Senate conveyed the resolution to both the COAS and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) on January 26, 2018, in two separate letters.
But Obi said that just as in the previous cases, the army did not care about his complaints. “Since January 2018, the Army sat on the matter till date. There was not even a letter to me or to the Senate asking for more time or to explain the reason for the delay,” he lamented.
He said he wrote the CDS and the office of SGF a reminder,adding that they both wrote back to the army. “Yet nothing has been heard from the Army till date,” he said. “On the August 14, 2019, I wrote yet another reminder to the COAS. I have a copy of the acknowledgement stamped.
Obi said his prayers to the Senate, SGF and Army, were clearly stated in the video recording of the Senate Public Hearing on October 17, 2017 where both him and the Army stated their positions on the case. He said his position has not changed. He stated that he had also made copies of the video available to Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, two eminent persons in Anambra State, his state of origin, as well as his lawyers.
“My prayers are simple, I should be reinstated, promoted to the same rank as my mates and paid arrears of all my salaries since 2003,” he said.
He pointed out that the Army never stated any offence he committed throughout his 16 years in service. “In fact, my medical retirement letter stated clearly that I had 16 years and six days of unblemished service with good conduct,” he said.
According to him, the position of the Army on the matter was in theArmy’s presentation at the Senate Public Hearing. “They said the COAS has no power to retire any officer except by the directive of the Army Council,” he said.
The Army Council sits once a year and it is made up of Mr President as Chairman, Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence and so on. They approve promotions, retirements, reversal of retirements, and so on.
Obi said he expected that his case should be forwarded to the Army Council during its November/December 2018 sitting, since the Senate Resolution was already with the Army since January 2018. But it was not presented. So he is waiting to see if it will come up during the council’s next sitting towards the end of 2019.
Obi recalled that he was part of the Nigerian Battalion 5 ( NIBATT 5) with Colonel Ishaya Gangum Bauka ( later General Bauka) as the Commanding Officer and General Martin Luther Agwai (later Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff) as the Deputy Force Commander in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra-Leone (UNAMSIL) in 2000.
He was given a double United Nations Medal for Outstanding Performance in Peace Keeping and was later promoted to the rank of Major in 2001 after attending the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State, between January and June, 2001.
He said he was arrested in Kano on November 6, 2002, and detained in an underground tunnel at the Directorate of Military Intelligence facility in Lagos. he was later retired in 2003 on medical grounds.