- Authorities accused of ethnic, religious bias
- It’s not true –Army spokesman
From MOLLY KILETE, Abuja
the dust raised by the decision of the Army Headquarters to redeploy 649 officers to various units and formations across the country on July 18, 2017, is yet to settle as the move came barely two months after over 500 officers were earlier redeployed on May 5, 2017, in a major shakeup of the command structure of the army.
Seven Major Generals, 45 Brigadier Generals and 597 Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, Majors, Captains, Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants, made up the total figure of 649 officers affected.
The redeployment letter signed by the Military Secretary, Army, however did not go down well with officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army who perceived the latest postings as vindictive.
Although postings and appointments is routine in the military, this particular redeployment was said to have political, religious and tribal undertones as it was said to be hasty, considering that it was done shortly after the last exercise carried out just two months earlier. Incidentally, some army personnel had equally kicked against the May redeployment, saying that it was lopsided.
To demonstrate their displeasure with the perceived selfish moves of the army high command, some aggrieved personnel took to social media and private online platforms on July 23, 2017, to make the posting public for Nigerians to have a first hand information of the goings-on in the army, almost one week after it was released by the authorities.
Expectedly, it generated instant, sharp negative reactions from within and outside the army, resulting in controversy. It was gathered that but for the leakage of the document, the army would not have mentioned it. In the view of the aggrieved personnel, the redeployment exercise was a continuation of the injustices being experienced by them in the service where religion, tribe and other sentiments rather than merit play greater role in determining promotion and posting.
Sources in the army told Sunday Sun that the army authorities place more emphasis on religion, tribe and politics to favour personnel from a particular region of the country while those from other regions are given less consideration.
Citing instances, the sources said that officers from a particular region in the country are posted to the places considered as juicy like the Niger Delta in the South-South and the South East.
Apart from posting favoured officers to the Niger Delta, where illegal oil bunkering and other lucrative businesses are perceived to be thriving, they are also posted to the South-West region, while their counterparts from another region are posted to the North-East to fight the Boko Haram and other criminal groups in the North Central and other areas in the country prone to crisis.
It was also gathered that postings to foreign missions and foreign courses favour mostly personnel from a particular region of the country, while others who are even better than them remain in the country or sent to African countries.
Sunday Sun further learnt that this development is perceived as one of the reasons the service is losing steam in the war against Boko Haram.
From inception of the counter insurgency war in 2008, Sunday Sun learnt, some officers have never been posted to serve in the North-East because of where they hail from. These officers who are considered to be “untouchable” and who have remained in Abuja or other juicy areas for years are said to be criticizing the performance of the operation that they know nothing about, each time the operation is being discussed.
The latest redeployment list, which was revealed to the public, has left the army battling to save its image. It is also believed to be causing suspicion and bad blood among the service personnel.
To douse the tension generated by the redeployment, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, on July 25, eight days after the list was made public, announced the promotion of 6,199 soldiers fighting the counter insurgency war in the North-East.
In a statement, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, said the promotion was for soldiers between the ranks of Lance Corporal and Warrant Officers.
Usman, gave the breakdown of the promoted soldiers to include 329 Staff Sergeants promoted to Warrant Officers; 371Sergeants to Staff Sergeants; 707 Corporals to Sergeants; 1,290 Lance Corporals to Corporals and 3,502 Privates to Lance Corporals.
Sunday Sun gathered that the promotions were well deserved, especially as some of the soldiers had spent over five years in the North East fighting terrorists.
Aside tribal and religious sentiments attached to the redeployment, the army chief might also be playing politics to gain favour from the presidency after his controversial alert that some politicians were approaching army personnel for undisclosed reason. That alert by the army chief was also alleged to be over a possible coup plot which drew condemnation from within and outside the country.
However, military sources hinted that the alarm which they described as “false”, was to cover up the redeployment carried out by the army chief on May, 5, when some General Officers Commanding were redeployed.
According to the authorities, the redeployment was done then in a bid to re-strategize Operation Lafiya Dole, where it injected a total of 147 officers into the operation.
However when the list began to generate more tension, the army quickly reversed the posting of Major-General Oyebade, who was redeployed to the army headquarters as Chief of Logistics, from Kaduna.
In the redeployment list of May 5, Major General A.M Dikko was posted to 1 Division as GOC, Major General I Attahiru, Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General LEO Irabor, Field Commander, Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Major General PJ Dauke, GOC, 81 Division, Brigadier General BI Ahanotu, Acting GOC 3 Division and Brigadier General IM Yusuf, Acting GOC 7 Division, among other postings.
While the army is doing everything to uncover those behind the undesirable act of making the redeployment list public, it was gathered that the army is said to be investigating how the posting list tagged “Top Secret” was leaked.
Army sources told Sunday Sun that those being investigated are personnel attached to the Office of the Military Secretary, Army, located at the Mambilla Barracks. The office is responsible for the promotion, appointment and redeployment of officers in the Nigerian Army.
A team of investigators from Army Intelligence Corps, it was further learnt, had been directed to fish out those responsible for the leakage.
The investigators who have since commenced work are said to be making progress at the time of filing this report. They are expected to hand over the suspects to the military police upon completing their assignment. The military police would in turn file necessary charges for their prosecution before a General Court Martial.
Controversy over alleged lopsided promotions and appointments, had forced Buratai to issue a warning to personnel against leaking secret documents to the public.
Before issuing the warning, the army chief, had organized a seminar for clerks and other personnel responsible for keeping records to educate them on how best to safeguard secret documents and not jeopardize national security, stressing that such act contravenes the Official Secrets Act.
In an interview with Sunday Sun, Brigadier General Sani Usman, the army spokesman, denied that postings in the army were being done maliciously. He also denied that the postings had tribal, religious or political undertones.
On the allegation that only officers from a particular religion and tribe were given preferential postings and sent on courses abroad, Usman said officers are sent abroad to study based on their performance at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College and other army training institutions.
He also said it was not true that posting to the North-East was reserved for personnel from a particular geographical zone while others were posted to places considered to be juicy.
His words: “Promotion, appointment and redeployment are not based on religion, tribe or favoritism. People should talk with every sense of responsibility. All newly appointed officers were appointed because they deserved it and it was done purely on hard work and nothing more.”
He added: “Contrary to insinuations by the online media, postings and appointments are routine administrative and career development matters of officers. Unlike what they wrote, the present Chief of Army Staff believes in planning hence instead of releasing postings and appointments piecemeal, postings are now done on quarterly basis, except on special circumstances that border on exigencies.
“What you saw on the medium was released last week, precisely on July 18, 2017 but tampered with by either the medium or the person that obliged them with it.”