By Kazeem Ugbodaga
The new Service Chiefs appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari have resumed duty even without their confirmation by the National Assembly.
The new Service Chiefs are: Major General Lucky Irabor, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff respectively.
There have been furore over their appointment without confirmation by the National Assembly, with leading lawyers like Femi Falana, SAN, Ebun Adegboruwa and others faulting the move.
In Keyamo Vs. President & Ors, the Federal High Court set aside the Armed Forces Modification Order 2008 (purportedly made under Section 315 [2) of the Constitution) on 1st July 2013 and ruled that the confirmation of the National Assembly must be sought for the appointment of the Service Chiefs.
Falana (SAN), had said the nation has continued in its habit of operating under an atmosphere of impunity, saying going on to appoint the new leaders of the Armed Forces without the confirmation by the two chambers of the National Assembly, constituted a disregard for the rule of law.
Falana said the provisions within section 218 of the constitution empower the National Assembly to approve the appointment of the Service Chiefs. According to the rights lawyer, the new service chiefs have only been nominated by the president and are awaiting confirmation by the legislators.
A statement issued by Senator Babajide Omoworare, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly, had said on Friday that Buhari has communicated the appointment of the Service Chiefs to the National Assembly and has sought for the confirmation of the said appointment by the Senate through his letter to the Senate President dated 27th January 2021.
He said this was done in furtherance of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap. A.20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“Contrary to fears expressed in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari has “by-passed” the National Assembly in the process of appointment of the Service Chiefs and that he has no intention of seeking consideration and confirmation of their appointment, Mr. President upon nomination for appointment sought confirmation of the Senate for the appointment of Major General Lucky Irabor, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff respectively, vide his aforementioned letter.
“It is on record that this same procedure was adopted when the immediate past Service Chiefs were appointed. Upon announcement of the appointment of the then Service Chiefs – Major General Abayomi Olonisakin (Chief of Defence Staff), Major General Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff), Rear Admiral Ibok-Efe Ibas (Chief of Naval Staff) and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar (Chief of Air Staff), Mr. President had written the 8th Senate on 14th July 2015 for confirmation,” he said.
Be that as it may, the Service Chiefs have already resumed duty while the National Assembly is yet to sit on their matter. The Senate will officially resume on February 9, 2021 from its recess. How can the National Assembly sit on the appointment of the Service Chiefs who have already assumed office?
On Thursday, the former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, formally handed over to the new Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru at the Army Headquarters.
Likewise, on Friday, former Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Abayomi Olonisakin, formally handed over to the new Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Leo Irabor.
Olonisakin, on his twitter handle said “Today I formally hand over the baton of leadership as the CDS- AFN to Maj Gen LEO Irabor. I wish to sincerely appreciate the President, C-in-C of the AFN, and Nigerians for the privilege to serve this great country. I congratulate Maj Gen Irabor and wish him a successful tenure.”
More so, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo on Friday, January 29 took over as the 21st Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) from Rear Admiral Ibok-Efe Ibas. Likewise, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao has resumed duty as Chief of Air Staff.
This is a clear case of illegality. What if the National Assembly disqualifies any of them who has already assumed duty? It goes on to show that the National Assembly is an appendage of the president, who could do anything he likes.
If as Omoworare said that the president has already written to the National Assembly to confirm the new Service Chiefs, why can’t they wait until their confirmation? Why the rush to resume duty? This is a clear case of trampling the rule of law under foot and amounts to violation of the nation’s constitution.