Controversy Trails Nigerian Government’s Handling of Appeals By “Unjustly” Dismissed Soldiers
The fate of some officers of the Nigerian Army who sought redress after they were “unjustly” dismissed has been left hanging.
There is a riddle around which desk is handling their appeal letters and what treatment has been given the letters, over two months after submission.
Defense officials said the appeal letters had been forwarded to the “appropriate authorities.”
But President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the authority empowered by law to consider the officers’ appeal, would not confirm he has the letters.
The Nigerian Army compulsorily retired 38 senior officers on June 9, claiming investigations revealed the officers indulged in professional misconduct during the 2015 elections, and that they were involved in the arms procurement fraud scandal.
But PREMIUM TIMES investigations revealed some of the affected officers were laid off without query or indictment by any panel, thereby raising question of arbitrariness.
Insiders said the Army authorities retired most of the affected officers without going through due process, but for reasons that smack of high-level arbitrariness, pettiness, witch-hunting and partisanship.
The Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, a Colonel, denied this though. He said affected officers who felt abused should seek redress, using the window provided by relevant law.
Paragraph 09.02(e) of the Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers, 2012 (revised) – provides that any officer compulsorily retired or dismissed can appeal to the President through the Chief of Defense Staff within 30 days.
Documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed that some of the affected officers exploited this window as soon as June 20, 11 days after their removal, to turn in their appeal letters to President Muhammadu through the Chief of Defense Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, a Major-General.
“I want to respectfully state that I was not in any way involved in any of the 2 issues stated as reasons for compulsory retirement of 38 officers of which I was among,” Abdulfatai Mohammed, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, wrote in his petition.” I was never investigated at any time and have not committed any serious offence.”
He urged Mr. Buhari to “accept my appeal and set aside the letter of compulsory retirement with File Reference AHQ MS/GI/300/226 dated June 9 2016 that was issued to me and reinstate me into the Army to ensure course of justice, good conscience and equity is served.”
“A thorough investigation of the surreptitious inclusion of my name in the list of officers that have enquiries and indicted would expose possible manipulation of processes and victimisation in my case,” he added.
But more than two months after the petition was submitted, Mr. Mohammed, like others, has not had his petition transferred to the president for consideration.
The affected officers accused the Defence Minister, Mansur Ali, of blocking their appeal from being transferred to the President.
The Minister, Mr. Mohammed said in his Statement of Facts filed before the Industrial Court on August 12, “has wilfully inserted himself into the process by having the appeal sent to him and upon receipt of this appeal on July 13, 2016, he has ensured the appeal did not get to the President.”
The allegation was directly conveyed to the minister through a July 25 letter by Mr. Mohammed’s counsel.
According to one of the affected officers who spoke to this newspaper, Mr. Ali is allegedly frustrating the appeal of the officers “because he was part of the decision (to retire the officers) and does not want the President to know he took part in illegality.”
However, the allegation of frustrating officers’ appeal was denied by the Minister, himself a retired General.
He spoke with PREMIUM TIMES through his spokesperson, Colonel Gusau.
“The minister is just information addressee,” Mr. Gusau said. “He was only copied for the purpose of information or his knowledge. The appeal is through the Chief of Defense Staff who is the action addressee to the President, C-in-C. The minister is not sitting on anybody’s appeal.”
The Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, also denied the minister was stalling the appeals.
“It’s not possible,” Mr. Usman, a Colonel, said; adding that all appeals are “being treated.”
Unravelling the exact locations of the letters is seemingly intractable. The presidency said it had “no information” on the appeals while the Chief of Defense Staff, simply said it had been forwarded to the appropriate quarters.
“The letters have been forwarded to appropriate authorities,” the Defense spokesperson, Rabe Abubakar, said.
Mr. Abubakar, a Brigadier General, confirmed that some of the aggrieved officers had sought redress.
“But the Armed Forces of today is different from the previous time. We follow due process and work with established law.
“Even those that submitted (appeal) after 30 days stipulated were also given the opportunity of seeking redress. Their letters were also treated and forwarded to the appropriate authorities (the President) as provided by law.”
But when contacted, “the appropriate authorities”, that is the Presidency, did not confirm Mr. Buhari had received the letters.
“I don’t have information about that,” presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said.
Asked if he would conduct checks and revert back, he replied, “No, just quote me I don’t have that information.”