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Nigeria: Dambazau Damns Reps Over Army Retirements

— IN apparent deference to the intervention by members of the House of Representatives in the rancour from 79 recently retired senior military officers, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Abdurahman Bello Dambazau, yesterday, said any senior officer retired by Army authorities who felt his rights had been infringed upon was free to go to court to seek justice.

He said the terms and conditions of the service were duly applied in carrying out the retirements.

Dambazau also noted that officers who were writing petitions to the National Assembly or elsewhere, knew the right thing to do on issues relating to retirement or otherwise.

The army chief made the disclosure just as he pointed out that the Nigerian Army would not be involved in the conduct of elections in 2011 because the Army was not the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Dambazau who was speaking at a briefing to flag off this year’s Nigerian Army Day Celebration, NADCEL, said: “In our terms and conditions of service, TACOS, there is a provision whereby any officer who is retired and is not satisfied, has a right, within 30 days, to write to the President and Commander in Chief to seek redress if he or she feels satisfied or dissatisfied. Secondly, all retirements are governed by the terms and conditions of service.”

Vanguard gathered that the retirement of senior officers including major generals, brigadier generals, colonels, up to captains in the army was occasioned by the run-out date of many of these officers, meaning that the stipulated age for a particular rank has caught up with them and they cannot be promoted further.

Acting on petitions from some of the affected officers, the House of Representatives summoned the two ministers in charge of Defence: Prince Adetokunbo Kayode and Mutallab Yar’Adua, and military chiefs.

Vanguard learnt that while the ministers were at the House, yesterday, none of the military chiefs was seen. However, their absence according to sources might not be out of disobedience but possibly because the Representatives did not schedule their meeting with them for yesterday.

Harmonized terms and conditions

On the harmonized terms and conditions of service currently with the minister of defence, Dambazau said, the Defence headquarters and the services headquarters had done their review following the setting up of several committees adding that the processes of passing it into law were yet to be completed.

Asked if the Nigerian Army would play any role in the 2011 elections following past criticisms of their involvement in elections, the Army chief said: “The Nigerian Army is guided strictly by constitutional provisions and Section 217 states that primarily, our duty is to defend the territorial integrity of the nation and provide aid to civil rule when the need arise.

“We are not part of INEC or the Nigeria Police who are in charge of internal security. If there is anything, it is the police that should do the job. We will not be involved in conducting elections because we are not INEC.”

On suggestions that soldiers deployed to provide internal security in troubled areas be withdrawn once normalcy had been brought to the area, Dambazau said: “We have made it known to the authorities that the rule stipulate that we spend six months in a troubled zone and pull out except that the people involved request for extension of our stay in troubled spots. The essence is that we don’t want to be out there illegally.

“However, many of the states involved where we have our men, have written to Mr. President and Commander in Chief, requesting for revalidation of our stay because they believe if we move our men, the situation will return to normal and more crises will follow.”

Reps order reversal of sack

Meantime, the House of Representatives has directed military authorities to reverse the compulsory retirement of some 79 military officer who had petitioned the National Assembly that their planned removal from the Armed Forces did not follow due process.

The reversal order came through the House of Representatives Committee on Defence, after a meeting with the Defence minister, Adetokunbo Kayode, his deputy, Murtala Yar’Adua. The affected officers would keep their jobs pending the outcome of another meeting with the three service chiefs and the two ministers next Thursday.

The affected officers who were directed to proceed on their terminal leave between July and September before now, were mostly from the army and navy. But the meeting between the ministers and the committee abruptly came to an end following a telephone call Kayode received from the Presidency calling him to another meeting.

After he whispered the message to the committee chairman, Rep Wole Oke, PDP, Oyo, the Chairman announced the postponement of the meeting.

He said: “Colleagues, a very important meeting is going on in the Villa and these ministers’ attention are needed. We should please allow the ministers to go. We should reschedule this meeting.” When asked to chose a a suitable date, Kayode chose Thursday next week for the next meeting.

However, a member of the committee, Umar Bature, PDP, Sokoto, suggested that the retirement of the officers be suspended pending the conclusion of the meeting next week. The suggestion was then adopted by the two parties.

Speaking during the brief meeting, Kayode had informed the lawmakers that though he did not know whether the service chiefs were invited to the meeting with the committee members, he was of the opinion service that they should have been in attendance,

He however said that they were attending an important meeting at the Presidential Villa, though did not state the nature of the meeting

“I can’t say whether the service chiefs were invited. They are attending a meeting at the villa. We were supposed to be at that meeting but because of the interest generated by your invitation to us,” he said, adding “For us to do justice to this issue, the service chiefs should be here.”

In his opening speech, Rep Oke told the ministers that they were invited following series of petitions the committee received from some of the affected officers.