Thirty-eight senior army officers have petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over what they described as wrongful dismissal from the Nigerian Army and accused the Minister of Defence, Brig-General Mansur Dan Ali (rtd), Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai of victimisation of innocent senior officers.
The retired officers alleged that Ali, Olonisakin and Bruatai abused their offices with impunity by maliciously punishing innocent officers.
In a petition dated August 22, 2017 and addressed to President Buhari by the law firm of Abdul Muhammed LP, the officers recalled that at the beginning of this administration, two panels were instituted to inquire into allegations of electoral malpractices by Nigerian Army personnel and allegations of corruption associated with arms procurement under the office of National Security Adviser (NSA).
The officers also noted that sometime in June 2016, the Nigeria Army under the leadership of the troika of Ali, Olonisakin and Buratai presided over an abrupt sitting of the Army Council that saw to the punishment by compulsory retirement of the 38 senior officers of the Nigerian Army.
The petitioners also told President Buhari that after their unjust retirement, some of the officers wrote letters of redress for the president’s matured consideration of their individual cases, through the Chief of Defence Staff as provided by the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service (Officers) 2012 but the military authorities deliberately refused to show proof of transmitting the said letters to the president as required by regulations.
The petitioners argued that even though it was claimed that these officers were “retired”, they were actually dismissed going by the proper construction of their circumstances.
“I must point out that the very public nature of the declaration of compulsory retirement of the 38 officers has undermined the individual reputations of these senior army officers and frustrated their respective efforts as securing a livelihood for their families,” said Abdul Muhammed, who signed the petition.
The petitioners told President Buhari that 18 of the senior army officers that were dismissed did not at any time appear before any one of the two panels that were set up or any other inquiry or investigation for that matter.
According to the petition, “the 18 officers were never investigated for any infraction, they were never indicted, they were never tried and they were never convicted of any disciplinary or criminal breaches whatsoever.
“Additionally, many of these officers have no relationship whatsoever with election duties or procurement office as falsely alleged by army leadership. Most importantly, Your Excellency, none of the 38 senior officers that were compulsorily retired was at any time ever charged or tried by a court martial or found guilty of any offence in line with due process of the armed forces extant rules and regulations, before they respectively heard of their retirement in the media. Interestingly, none of these officers has been informed of the particulars of any alleged offence till date,” the petitioners explained.
The affected officers also recalled that some of them had written to the army authority to furnish them with facts that constitute any alleged offence, but the army failed to respond to this simple request one year after.
“After the very public dismissal of the 38 senior army officers, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Army Staff went to the media with the narrative that the 38 army officers were professionally corrupt and that these officers were punished after due process.
These are untrue statements because the dismissed officers were never indicted or found culpable at all as there was a complete failure to follow the due processes laid down by the Nigeria army with respect to these wrongful and illegal dismissals.
Your Excellency, in fact records of the Army will confirm that at the relevant periods some of these 38 retired officers were actually in the frontline of North Eastern operations waging war against terror which earned them official commendations and accolades for their exploits, as against the narrative of participating in election duties.
Several others in the list of petitioners were on Army posting outside the shores of Nigeria or civil studies during the period of the General elections and during the entire periods that the relevant panels were sitting in Kaduna and at Abuja,” the petitioners explained.
They accused Ali, Olonisakin and Buratai of gross act of abuse of office without any due process by punishing innocent officers and deliberately misleading the President.
The petitioners appealed to President Buhari to order an urgent investigation and reinstatement of the innocent officers, alleging that the names of innocent officers were substituted in place of the guilty ones in a case of gross corruption and abuse of office.
The petitioners also disclosed that after one-year of persistent abuse and denial of justice to the 38 retired officers, one of them, Lt Col Baba-Ochankpa died of a heart attack while the military leadership deliberately refused to forward his appeal and that of others to the president for his matured consideration as stipulated by the Harmonised Terms and Condition of Service (Officers) 2012 which was the quoted basis for their retirement.
“Your Excellency, the 38 Senior Army Officers are crying for justice as promised to Nigerians by your administration.
The widow of Lt. Col Baba-Ochankpa (Mrs. Ruth Baba-Ochanpka) deserves justice. The children of the late Lt Col Baba- Ochanpka, Master Joshua Baba – Ochankpa, Miss Esther Baba-Ochankpa and Miss Abigail Baba-Ochankpa deserve our justice.
These beautiful children deserve to have removed the stain that the present Army leadership has put on the memory of their father the late Lt Col Baba-Ochanpka,” the petitioners added.