Some prominent Nigerians have demanded that if the Chief Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, failed to resign from his position following the revelation that he bought two houses in Dubai, worth $1.5m, he should be sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Those who called for the Army chief’s resignation or sacking are human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome; and Second Republic House of Representatives member, Dr. Junaid Mohammed.
Others are the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, and the National Publicity Secretary of the National Advance Party, Mr. Tosin Odeyemi.
Ozekhome specifically demanded that Buratai should be tried before he would be allowed to resign.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said people who were found guilty of stealing public funds, should not just be fired or allowed to resign but should be made to return such money.
Odumakin, who said it was not in the culture of Nigerians to resign for wrong-doing, however, believed that the posture of the Buhari administration on the allegation against Buratai cast a serious doubt on the anti-corruption war of the administration.
But a SAN, Mr. Yusuf Ali, and the Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumumi, believed that the allegation against Buratai should be thoroughly investigated before he would be asked to resign or be sacked.
Falana said in a statement that despite Buratai’s commendable feat of leading the Nigerian Army to defeat Boko Haram in the North-East, the war on corruption was also a must-win for the Buhari administration.
The lawyer described as a “cock and bull story” the explanation by the Nigerian Army authorities that Buratai paid for the properties in instalments through his personal savings.
He regretted that the name of the Nigerian Army had been “illegally” used to defend Buratai in the unfolding scam.
While he condemned the involvement of the Nigerian Army in defending Buratai, he said no one had yet to explain to Nigerians how an army General could manage to save $1.5m.
He added, “In view of the ban on the opening and operation of foreign accounts by public officers, the Code of Conduct Bureau should be involved in the investigation.
“If the Chief of Army Staff does not deem it fit to resign forthwith, President Buhari should not hesitate to remove him in the interest of national morality.”
Falana commended the Buhari administration for putting on trial military officers, allegedly involved in the diversion of the sum of $15bn, meant for the procurement of arms.
He said the alleged diversion led to the killing of about 25,000 Nigerians by the Boko Haram sect while two million others, including children, had been displaced.
‘‘How an army General managed to save $1.5m has not been disclosed to Nigerians. Since the General was in charge of procurement for the Nigerian Army at the material time, the cock and bull story of the military high command has been called names,” the SAN stated.
Mohammed called on Buratai to honourably resign or be fired by Buhari.
Speaking on Sunday, the Second Republic lawmaker noted that some of Buratai’s predecessors from other parts of the country were currently facing trial over their roles in helping themselves to funds meant for the procurement of arms.
The medical practitioner argued that it defied logic that Buratai, who was in charge of procurement when these men held sway, had not been asked to give account of his stewardship.
Mohammed added, “The fact that he was a long serving Director of Procurement at Defence Headquarters when some of the nastiest procurements were made, not only for the Army but for the Armed Forces, makes it incumbent on him to vacate his seat.
“The manner of his leaving will require tact, which this administration has never demonstrated from day one, but I believe that the options are clear: One which is my suggestion is for Buratai to retire to go and leave his life quietly in Buratai, his village, or elsewhere, he has tried in the fight against insurgents.
“If Buratai does not want to go that way honourably, he should be compulsorily retired or sacked outright by the Commander-in-Chief.
“Nobody with any sense of decency or justice can leave Buratai in service.”
In his reaction, Ozekhome, believed Buratai should not be removed without trial.
He said the government should make the Chief of Army Staff to undergo trial while still serving as a military officer to prove that its anti-corruption war was not targeted at profiled opponents.
Ozekhome said, “I will rather urge that he be first tried through our criminal justice system trial, which is accusatorial and not inquisitorial. When found guilty, he can then be dismissed or court-martialled.
“Let the government for once prove us wrong that its so called anti-corruption war is not targeted at profiled opponents by putting him through trial as a serving military officer. Just for once, I want to be proved wrong.”
The Catholics Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Father Matthew Hassan Kukah, declined comment.