*Retired officers have no case — Defence Minister
*Our retirements driven by vendetta — Retired officers
By Kingsley Omonobi & Emmanuel Elebeke
ABUJA — The Army high command and 38 senior officers retired last week were, yesterday, locked in a war of words over the latter’s mode of disengagement.
While the Army and Defence Minister, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali, said the officers were indicted for what they described as political and monetary corruption, some of the officers said they were not given fair hearing, arguing that they were neither involved in the 2015 elections nor in procurement of arms and ammunition used in the war against Boko Haram.
Those retired included nine Major Generals, 10 Brigadier-Generals, seven Colonels, 11 Lieutenant Colonels and a Major.
Retired officers have no case
The Defence Minister, who spoke at the Peace Support seminar organized at the National Defence College, Abuja, said those protesting the retirement had no case, especially since due process was followed before the retirements were announced.
FILE: CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF (COAS), LT.-GEN. TUKUR BURATAI BRIEFING NEWSMEN DURING NIGERIA ARMY COMBAT ARMS TRAINING WEEK RECENTLY. NAN
He said: “This is about Defence sector reforms and it has to start in earnest. What we did is to make sure that all those indicted in one way or the other, both for professional corruption and monetary corruption, were shown the way out.
“By professional corruption, I mean if you are partisan, that is professional corruption and you will be asked to go. That is exactly what happened. So, all those that were indicted were asked to go.”
Asked if the officers were given fair hearing and terms and condition of service strictly observed, the minister said: “Of course, they were given fair hearing. They were called by a board and they went and testified.
“Don’t forget that in the military, there is no half-way of doing things. The moment you are found wanting, you have to succumb and you will go.”
Meanwhile, the Defence Minister in his remarks at the seminar, said: “There is political will under the Buhari administration to transform the armed forces.”
Emphasizing that the involvement of the military in policing duties around the nooks and crannies of the country was responsible for the Army getting involved in politics, Dan Ali said: “Of recent, most of the functions of the police had been taken over by the military. But we cannot just go and take away the armed forces from the streets. It has to be a gradual process.
“2015 election duties were not our responsibility. Our duties were only to support the police. The military was involved in too much professional corruption by way of partisanship. We were not to be seen near polling stations.
“But due to the militancy of our elections, the military were called in as standby and to support the police, not to take over the elections and coerce people.
Military soiled its hands
“The consequence is that the military has soiled its hands. We are losing credibility. That is why I have called for security sector reforms.
“In alliance with the Ministry of Interior, we are returning the police to its pride of place. We are initiating better training for them to perform their functions better.’’
In his address, Commandant of the National Defence College, Rear-Admiral Samuel Alade, said since the Defence Minister assumed office, the friction that usually existed between the Ministry of Defence and the Services in the area of military procurement and logistics requirement was no longer prevalent, adding that there was now better co-ordination, co-operation and transparency that had made things easier.
We followed due process in retiring them — Buratai
Speaking in a similar vein, yesterday, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Tukur Buratai, said the Army followed due process in retiring the senior officers.
Buratai, who gave the explanation when he paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, in his office in Abuja, said there was no better time to carry out the exercise than now as the process took a painstaking effort to achieve.
He said the entire process was subjected to various stages of scrutiny to avoid picking innocent officers, adding that the list was, thereafter, forwarded to higher authorities for consideration.
He said: “There is no better time than now to retire the affected military officers. It took us painstaking procedure to be sure that we don’t pick innocent ones.
“We started with inquiry from one Division GOC to the other. After that, we subjected it to legal review. After the legal review, we forwarded our recommendations to higher authorities for consideration.
“So, it took us time; we have our own process also; our administrative process, dovetailing into our legal review and so on. I think this is the better time; there is no better time than now.”