President Bola Tinubu on Monday, June 19, announced the appointment of new Service Chiefs for the nation’s Armed Forces, Inspector General of Police, others, thus sending the former Service Chiefs, he IGP, others on compulsory retirement.
In a statement from the Office of the Secretary to the Government signed by Willy Bassey, Tinubu announced Major General Christopher Musa as the Chief of Defence Staff; Major General Taofeek Lagbaja, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admirral E. A Ogalla, Chief of Naval Staff; Air Vice Marshall H.B Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff; and DIG Kayode Egbetokun as acting Inspector-General of Police.
Since the announcement, Nigerians have expressed different opinions about what many regarded as their sack.
But in the actual sense, according to officers, their removal is a normal routine in the military.
As a matter of fact, the former Service Chiefs had prepared their handover letters to go home after the tenure of former President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed them into office expired on May 29. Since they were not appointed by the incumbent president, their replacement was nothing new.
The former Service Chiefs: General Lucky Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS); Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, Vice Admiral Auwal Gambo and Air Marshall Oladayo Amao, were appointed by former President Buhari on January 26, 2021.
However, there are others who described him as a very passionate person who cannot afford to see his people suffer.
Also, there was serious grumbling among personnel during his tenure as he was said to have cared less about their welfare.
THE NEW SERVICE CHIEFS
For the new Service Chiefs, many say they don’t have any reason to fail if the consolidation among their course mates is anything to go by.
Apart from the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Christopher Musa, who is a member of 38 Regular Course, of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the others of the Army, Navy and Air Force are all members of the 39 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy.
There was no doubt that they were picked by the president because of their track records after due consultations with some former Service Chiefs and security experts.
MAJOR GENERAL MUSA
As an infantry officer, Major General Musa, has lived the life of a warrior as an army officer. Apart from being a warrior, Musa is also a peacemaker. He has succeeded and made headways in most of his assigned tasks as an army officer.
The new CDS, who once served in the Niger Delta, in the days when militancy was rife in the region was instrumental to the successes and relative peace enthroned in the region.
Described as hardworking, committed, go-getter and above all as team player, his appointment as the CDS is seen by all as the best thing that has ever happened to the military especially at this time when the nation is battling insecurity.
As a fighter who has been engaged in the counter-terrorism war in the Northeast over the years, it was during his tenure as theatre commander that Boko Haram terrorists started to surrender in their thousands.
As at the time he left the theatre as commander, over 80,000, terrorists and their families had surrendered to the troops in the various theatre of operations in the Northeast. Call him the man with a Midas touch and you won’t be wrong as it is believed that with his appointment as CDS, the end to insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities is just a matter of days.
General Musa is expected to bring his experience to bear in bringing the war against insurgency, banditry and other criminal activities ravaging the peace of the country to an end. He will no doubt consolidate on the gains of his predecessor in all operations. It is also believed that the activities of oil thieves, illegal bunkering and other criminality in the nation’s maritime domain will improve significantly and oil production will increase.
It is believed that in the coming days, Nigerians will begin to sleep with their two eyes closed and insecurity would become a thing of the past.
Retired and serving officers who spoke to Sunday Sun, advised the CDS, to properly coordinate the services, focus and improve the standards of the Special Forces Command in Niger State, expand the Nigerian Army Language School to accommodate officers from the Navy, Air Force and even the paramilitary and ensure the inclusion of Arabic and Fulani languages to French and other languages already in the curriculum of the school.
The language school, it is believed, will benefit personnel of the Armed Forces and paramilitary when they are mostly deployed on internal security operations to the areas where most of these criminals who come from other countries speak these languages.
The CDS, they said, also needs to look into the activities of the Defence Attachees with a view to strengthening their offices. The offices of Defence Advisers need to be strengthened for timely provisions of intelligence, they argued, adding that “it is a shame and a failure on the part of the Defence Attachee’s that we are yet to identify foreign nations that are sustaining the influx of arms into the country.”
MAJOR GENERAL LAGBAJA
He is another warrior and fighter doing what he knows how best to do as a soldier and no doubt loved by his men. Gen. Lagbaja, is not just a General by mouth as the personnel said, but a General with actions. He is said to have personally led his men on most of the operations to destroy criminals’ hideouts and gave them the battle of their lives. As the General Officer Commanding 82 Division Enugu, Lagbaja, was said to have been instrumental to the destructions of several strongholds of members of the Independent People Of Biafra(IPOB), and the Eastern Security Network(ESN), and their operations in various forest in the Southeast. His contribution as GOC, was said to have led to the drastic reduction of the activities of IPOB, ESN and other criminal groups terrorizing the peace in the Southeast part of the country.
When the activities of bandits who virtually took over some forests in the Birnin Gwari area of Kaduna State, kidnapping and killing innocent citizens, the former Chief of Army Staff, Yahaya, was forced to redeploy Lagbaja to the 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna to give the terrorists and bandits a red nose.
Upon his assumption as GOC, he took the war to the domain of the bandits, when he personally led his soldiers and carried out a massive onslaught on the criminals, killing several of them and destroyed virtually all their enclaves in the forests where they had operated for years.
The heat of the operations which had no break, forced the criminals to flee the area and relocated to Niger State where they have continued to terrorize innocent persons.
Lagbaja did not stop there, he again led his soldiers and took the war to the bandits in Niger State, killing scores of them thus forcing them to relocate to different areas.
During the operations, he was able to destroy most of their logistics bases and made several arrests. His continuous bombardment of the criminals led to the drastic reduction in their ability to carry out coordinated attacks and also made the Birnin Gwari road safe and passable for motorists and other road users, thereby reducing to the barest minimum cases of kidnapping for ransom.
Impressed by his successes, his predecessor redeployed him to the army headquarters as chief of training and operations to oversee and coordinate the entire army operations.
As chief of training and operations, Lagbaja had a firm grip of all army operations and contacts with commanders in the field. He was also said to have embarked on several operational visits to see things for himself rather than be told. Many described him as a practical persons who does not believe in hearsay.
It was while carrying out his assigned tasks that he was appointed as Chief of Army Staff.
His appointment, according to officers and soldiers of the Nigerian army, is another good thing that has happened to the army as he would no doubt bring all his experience on the field to quell the insecurity in the country.
Gen. Lagbaja is popular amongst officers and soldiers because he developed a personnel relationship with officers and soldiers in all the commands, units and formations of the Nigerian army where he served.
It is expected that in the coming days, apart from the insurgency in the Northeast, the incessant attacks and killings of innocent citizens in the North-central states and Northwest states of Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Niger, would change for the better.
As COAS, it is advised that apart from concentrating on operational matters, he should pay special attention to the issue of barracks, which many say is a time bomb waiting to explode.
It is no longer news that most officers and soldiers now live outside the barracks not because they don’t want to live in the barracks, but because there is no accommodation available anywhere for them.
Those who managed to get accommodation in the barracks are forced to live like chicken as three families are made to share a two bedroom flat with each family taking over the master bedroom, another the visitor’s room and the other the sitting room. They are forced to share one tiny kitchen, toilet and bathroom with their wives and children.
Previous army chiefs did not also do well in this area. It is sad to know that with the massive recruitment being carried out by the army, the service did not make adequate arrangements for these officers and soldiers.
This has led to troops spending more years in operational areas because they don’t have a home to put their heads when they are eventually redeployed.
It is believe that Gen. Lagbaja will write his name in history of the Nigerian army as COAS if he is able to provide comfortable accommodation for the officers and soldiers and by that way his fight against terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals terrorizing the peace of the country would be achieved in the shortest possible time as the soldiers knowing that their families are properly accommodated would go all out to fight with the last drop of their blood to make their COAS happy.
It is also advised that he ensures prompt payment of operational allowance to boost morale of troops and continue to provide welfare flights for troops in operational areas to go and see their families.
Another area he should look into since security challenges are not what he can fight alone is the issue of border security, which is a major setback for the many successes recorded in army operations.
Another major setback in army operations is that of herders’/farmers’ crisis and the response time of the army.
He should use his relationship with the new administration to get the Federal Government force the relevant agencies responsible in the area of controlling and manning the nation’s porous borders to brace up.
The inability by these agencies to curb criminals from the Sahel region like Sudan, Somalia to gain free entry into the country and bring in huge weapons among others to carry out attacks should be checked.
Also the collaboration between the paramilitaries and the security agencies should be strengthened.
REAL ADMIRAL EMMANUEL OGALLA
Perhaps, one of the appointments of the Service Chiefs that shook the entire Armed Forces is that of the Chief of Naval Staff, Real Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla. His appointment which can best be described as the biblical stone rejected by the builders that later became the chief corner stone, shook the Nigerian navy to its marrow.
Not much is known about this officer and gentleman save for the fact that he is a first class material and made the best result in his course at the Nigerian Defence Academy. Since his passing out, he has suffered one form of neglect or the other by past navy chiefs who perhaps saw the shining star in him and did everything to put the light out.
Described as easy going, his only friends are his course mates who did not abandon him as they find time to visit him in one of the cubicles provided for him as office at Naval headquarters. As a rear Admiral in the Nigerian Navy, Ogalla does not have any officer attached to him save for ratings. It was also said that he was not even provided with an orderly save a driver and he has never held any command. But all that came to an end on June 19, when President Tinubu announced him as the CNS and a man who never held any command suddenly rose to the pinnacle of his career.
The navy no doubt is in daunted with several challenges, but one of the most critical the officers and ratings he is going to lead in the coming years is that of reuniting the navy and to restore the ‘Onward Together’ slogan of the service.
As the new navy chief, it is advised that he carries everyone along because irrespective of what they might have done to him, God did not abandon him.
It is advised that one of his first task should be to seriously work on uniting the navy to work as one.
His appointment of officers to the various offices should be purely on merit and not favouritism.
To stop crude oil theft in the Niger Delta region, the new CNS is advised to ensure that only dedicated, radical, committed and loyal officers are posted to that region of the country and by that way the daily oil production would increase to what it used to be two years ago to cushion the effect of subsidy.
Ogalla is also advised to pick men who do not work with routine to carry out his assigned tasks. Before now, Nigeria’s oil production was between 2 million and 1.8 barrel per day, but that has reduced to about 900,000, barrels in the last two years.
Officers said that he should concentrate on fighting oil thieves and deploy more patrol boats on the waterways. They equally advised that he should concentrate on deploying committed personnel to naval bases in Niger Delta and Ondo, saying it should no longer be business as usual.
They also said that he should look into the areas of clash between the service and NIMASA, vis a vis their roles and report to the president who is very much interested in the fight against oil theft, pointing out that it is believed that when you have two captains in one boat there are bound to be gaps and exploitation.
Before now when ships conveying stolen crude are arrested, there was no arrangement for the NNPC to take over those crude.
This, they said, was why the military resorted to burning these vessels which also was discovered affected the environment.
The CNS should also consolidate on the gains of his predecessor in the area of acquiring more platforms for the service. Also the navy should be commended for its genuine fight against oil theft because it is the navy that uncovered that some pipes were attached to the main ones to allow ships load freely without being detected.
For now, since there are no much serious aggression in the nation’s maritime domain, the CNS should look critically into smaller vessels rather that the gigantic ones that would have no role to play in the creeks, observers said.
“On the issue of modular refineries, there is need for the navy to get Niger Delta governors together after due consultations with the Federal Government to curtail activities of modular because as it is now, there seems to be no end in sight of these activities in Niger delta region,” an officer said.
Still on the issue of uniting the navy, the CNS should take a critical look into the perceived rivalry between the Regular Course and short service officers which was said to have worsened in the last two years. It is believed that a recent publication in the Nigerian Navy Orders (NNOs) that came to be that was tilting towards that as you don’t need a senior staff course to make commander rank which is against the HTACOS.
Also a situation where only a selected few are selected to go for training abroad should no longer be allowed, they said.
AIR VICE MARSHAL HASSAN ABUBAKAR
The new Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Hassan Abubakar is no doubt coming to office with his wealth of experience as the NAF has no doubt come of age lately with the acquisition of several helicopter platforms and UAVS. To be on top of his game and sustain its operational successes, the Chief of Air Staff, is advised to look into the local manufacturing of drones and other equipment as the nation can no longer depend on foreign nations for their supply.
However, some of the personnel who spoke to Sunday Sun, advised that he concentrates more on the primary focus of the service which is to defend the territorial integrity of the nation and ensures that Nigerians are safe.
He is also advised to consolidation on the successes of his predecessor and intensify all air operations.
All targeted bombings must continue and he should work with the Nigerian Army, Navy and other security agencies as joint efforts remained the key to the sucess to winning the insecurity bedeviling the country.
Above all, the welfare of the fighting manpower must be taken care of seriously in terms of accommodation, their health and that of their families, as well as their education.
He should ensure that NAF schools function properly, the teachers are well paid because the children of the personnel have to be settled before their parents will be focused on their jobs. He is advised to look into the enhanced payment of allowances because once the personnel are happy he can now go to bed with his two eyes closed.
He should learn to carry everybody along both retired and serving officers during his tenure because the retired personnel remains members of the Nigerian Air Force family, they also advised. However, in trying to take care of them, he must not forget those that are still in service who are putting in their efforts, they said.
They also advised him to reunite the NAF family as it is called and make it happier than he met it, adding that postings and redeployment should be done purely on merit and not malice.