It was a season of handovers recently in Lagos, as top military officers who have completed their tours of duty in their various formations handed over to new officers who were posted to take the mantle of power in key military formations in the state.
First was the handover of the General Officer Commanding, 81 Division, Major General Olu Irefin to a new General Officer Commanding (GOC) Major General Godwin Umelo. The latter was drafted from the Army Directorate of Operation to take over as the new GOC, 81 Division.
To take over the mantle of leadership as the number one infantry officer in 81 Division areas of responsibility, the force ushered General Umelo into Lagos with a solemn military ceremony that evoked emotions.
The Division’s ensign, which was hoisted when General Irefin assumed office in July 2019, was lowered during a quarter guard ceremony, folded and handed over to the outgoing GOC for keeps, while a new ensign was handed out by General Umelo to the Division’s RSM who in turn handed it over to the soldiers that hoisted it.
The lowering and the hoisting of the division’s ensign, according to the military, symbolises the end of an era for the departing officer and the beginning of a new era for the new GOC.
General Irefin, before the ensign was lowered, spoke to the officers of the division, especially those who worked with him. He urged them to cooperate with the new officer to ensure that they moved+ the force forward.
He assured the new GOC that the officers and men he was handing over to him are good individually and professionally, adding that these men were instrumental to his success as GOC.
Irefin expressed satisfaction at the successes recorded during his one year stay as the GOC, one of which he said was the plethora of structural development all over the Command’s areas of responsibility (AOR),
He said: “We had so much, especially the conduct of Operation Crocodile Smile 4, which combined all the services. It had tremendous successes as it curbed the activities of miscreants within AOR.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t carry out all the scheduled first quarter activities due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic”,
Addressing the troops afterwards, at the Bonny Cantonment parade ground, General Godwin Umelo expressed satisfaction at the brief he got on their conduct, assuring them that he would strive to make available all they needed to function efficiently.
He charged officers and soldiers of the division to work hard in their assigned roles of protecting the nation’s territorial integrity.
Umelo, who sought the cooperation of officers and soldiers of the division, noted that with their collective efforts, there is no challenge that cannot be surmounted.
He said: “It’s a privilege and honour to be appointed as the GOC 81 Division. I am not unmindful of the challenges inherent in command responsibilities like this but I want to believe that with collective efforts, we should be able to surmount whatever challenges that comes.
“I want to challenge everybody under my command to be ready to work. I am a workaholic and I would ensure that the standard does not go below what I have met on ground and I extend the hands of fellowship to everybody as we steer the ship of 81 Division to greater heights.”
He also spoke on discipline and general conduct, noting that based on the brief he received from his predecessor, he was impressed about the troops’ behaviour generally.
“I urge you to continue on that brilliant note. However, I will ensure we have regular interaction where we can address pertinent problems,” he added.
To complete the handing over ceremony, General Irefin decorated his successor with the division’s badge and accoutrements at the parade ground of the 65 battalion inside Bonny Cantonment, even as he expressed joy at the successes recorded in his one year in office.
Irefin, who was redeployed to 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt as the GOC, reiterated that he was privileged to command the division.
The same military ceremony of handover was replicated at the Nigerian Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NAEME) Corps where Major General Johnson Olawumi held sway as the Commander. He handed over to a new Corps Commander, Major General Dickson Ehiorobo.
General Olaumi, before he exited the corps, warned soldiers of the corps, not to join in the common practice of some Nigerians to tarnish the image of the Armed Forces and the country.
Specifically, he warned that soldiers must not join others in sharing videos capable of tarnishing the image of the country and the Army on social media, tasking them to show loyalty to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Similarly, Major General Victor Effiong, the Corps Commander of the Nigerian Army Supply and Transport unit, was also moved out of the corps to the Defence Headquarters. He handed over to a new Corps Commander, Major General BN Salami who was previously the Commandant of the Supply and Transport School.