Lawyers: Service chiefs, others’ tenure extension unjust, illegal
Lawyers have condemned the practice of tenure elongation after attainment of statutory retirement age which has become the norm in the nation’s armed forces and other para-military agencies. To them, the trend which has continued to weaken the system is an abuse of power by those in authority. AKEEM NAFIU reports
“The trend has continued to weaken the system. No certainty in career progression for officialswhoaresupposed to step into the shoes of the officials who had served out their years of service. The law has in no mistaken term provides for when the concerned officials are to retire from service”, one of them said.
Another said: “Keeping officials or civil servants who have served out their statutory period in office is not only unconscionable, immoral and unjust, it is also illegal”.
The above quotes were part of the submissions of some senior lawyers who kickedagainstthepracticeof tenureelongationafterattainmentof statutoryretirement age which has become the norm in the nation’s armed forces and other paramilitary agencies.
The lawyers beratedthosein authority for abusing their powers by sanctioning tenure extension for public officials in clear violation of the dictates of relevant extant laws. Tenure elongation after attainment of statutory retirement age has become the norm in the nation’s armed forces.
The service chiefs, namely- the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice AdmiralIbok- EteIbasandChief of AirStaff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; all have their tenure extended in 2017 by President Buhari after attaining the statutory age of retirement and spending more than 35 yearsinmilitary service.
They wereallappointedbythepresidentin2015. President Buharihadextendedtheirservicesbytwo years in 2017 and has since renewed the extension, citingtheunendingwaragainst Boko Haram.
Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, assumed office as the 20th Chief of Army Staff (COAS), of the Nigerian Army on 16th July, 2015.
He was born on 24th November 1960 at Buratai town, Biu Local Government Area of Borno State. After completing his primary and secondary schools, he proceeded to Government Teachers’ College Potiskum, now in Yobe State, where he completed and subsequently obtained his Teachers’ Grade 2 Certificate.
He later applied and gained admission into Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of the 29th Regular Combatant Course (29 RC) on 3rd January, 1981. On successful completion of his Officer Cadet training, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 17th December, 1983 into the Infantry Corps.
Upon his assumption of office as the COAS, Gen. Buratai unveiled his vision which is “to have a professionally responsiveNigerianArmy inthedischargeof its constitutional roles.”
The vision which is designed to engender a professional rebirth of the Nigerian Army clearly spelt out the defeat of the insurgency, and the liberation of all the territories held by the insurgents.
General Abayomi Olonisakin, a member of 25 Regular Combatant Course of 1981, was on July 13th, 2015, appointed Chief of DefenceStaff (CDS) byPresident Muhammadu Buhari.
He reports to the Commander-in-Chief with administrative supervision of the Minister of Defence.
It is the duty and responsibility of the CDStoformulateandexecutepoliciesand programmes towards the highest attainment of National Securityandoperational competence of the Armed Forces namely; the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Prior to his appointment as CDS, General Olonisakin was Commander, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Nigerian Army and Commander, Nigerian Army Corps of Signals.
Olonisakin was promoted to General in August 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari upon hisconfirmationasChief of DefenceStaff.
Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, born on 27th September, 1960, was on July13th, 2015 appointed asthe22nd Chief of NavalStaff (CNS) of the Nigerian Navy by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Prior to his appointment as CNS, Ibas hasheldseveralappointmentsintheNigerianNavy. Asa midshipman, he servedon board NNS Ruwan Yaro, NNSObuma and NNSAradu. HelaterservedonboardNNS Ayam and NNS Ekpe as a watch keeping officer after he was commissioned sublieutenant.
He was to later become the executive officer of NNS Siri, NNS Ekun and NNS Ambe between July 1993 and August 1996 as a lieutenant commander.
He was the commanding officerof theNigerianNavy Underwater Warfare School from August 1997 to September 1998 and thereafter, the commanding officer of the Forward Operating Base Ibaka from September 1998 to June 2000.
Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, born on April 8, 1960, was on July 13, 2015, appointed as the Chief of Air Staff by President Muhammadu Buhari. Abubakar’s previous appointments include Chief of Standards and Evaluation, NAFHeadquarters, Chief of Defence Communications and Air Officer Commanding, NAF Training Command.
He also served as Chief of Administration, NAF Headquarters, prior to his appointment as Chief of Air Staff
NCS, NIS, NSCDC’stenureelongation
Also, theheadsof threeof thefour principal agencies under the Federal Ministry of Interior, namely: Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) andNigerian SecurityandCivil Defence Corps (NSCDC), also had their tenures extended by between six months and two years.
The Controller-General of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), Ja’afaru Ahmed, who assumed office on May 17th, 2016, had initially had his tenure extended byoneyearfromJuly21st, 2019toJuly21st, 2020by PresidentBuharireportedlyowing to his track record of pioneering innovative reforms in the prison service.
Prior to his appointment in 2016, the NCS helmsman worked as an Education Officer at the Sokoto Ministry of Education in October 1985 before moving to the Nigerian Prisons Service in 1989, as a Superintendentof Prisons. Hesubsequently rose through the ranks to become an Assistant Comptroller-General of Prisons in 2008.
Ahmed, who clocked 60 years of age in 2019 and attained the mandatory 35 years in servicein 2020, wasreportedto have had his tenure extended again by the Minister of Interior, for an additional six months to allow him consolidate and implement some key programmes and policies, especially on human rights compliance, infrastructuraldevelopmentandwelfareof staff and inmates. His extended second extension will now end on January 21, 2021.
The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, who was expected to retire in September 2020, is another beneficiary of the ‘new norm’ of tenure extension. He has been asked to stay in office until 2021.
This made him the longest-serving top officer of the agency, after joining the serviceinJune1985, andhasspent35years in service. The Jigawa-born NIS boss holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Islamic Studies; together with a Master’s degreeinLawEnforcementandCriminal Justice fromthe Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
The Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Abdullahi Gana, assumed office in July 2015 following his appointment by President Buhari.
His tenure which was originally scheduled to lapse by July 2020 was extended by another six months and will now end by January 2021. Ganahadworkedintheprivatesectors for over a decade before joining NSCDC in 2000.
He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Usmanu Dan-Fodio University (UDUS), formerly University of Sokoto in 1986,as well as a Master’sdegreeinLawEnforcementand Criminal Justice from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. The tenure extension was reported to have been carried out by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, who is also the Chairman of the Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board.
Someseniorlawyershaveinthemeantime been speaking against the practice of tenureelongationforpublicofficialsby those in authority. The lawyers frowned at the trend saying it is an assault on the rule of law.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Hakeem Olatunde, expressed concerns that the practice is affecting the polity negatively and asked that it be stopped forthwith.
He said: “The trend has continued to weakenthesystem. Nocertainty incareer progressionfor officialswhoaresupposed to step into the shoes of the officials who had served out their years of service.
The law has in no mistaken term provides for when the concerned officials are to retire from service. “Therelevantlawshavenotgivenroom forextension. Inthatcircumstance, allthe extensions we are witnessing are nothing but assault on the rule of law which is a forerunner to anarchy and state failure.
Tenure extension must be condemned in all its ramifications. It should not be encouraged or allowed.” On his part, another silk, Mr. Kunle Adegoke, questionedtherationalebehind the keeping of the service chiefs by the president when their capacity to curtail insecurity in the land is zero.
“The issue of elongation of tenure of the Service Chiefs is one that should be addressed from the legal point of view beforeassessingtheperformanceof thesaid servicechiefs.
Thepointof legalitycomes before competence as the latter point may be sentimental and highly subjective. “As regards the legality of tenure elongation of service chiefs, we must first consider who has the power to appoint service chiefs and whether such power is curtailed in any way. Section 218(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeriaveststhepowertoappointservice chiefs in the president.
“It specifically mentioned such offices into which the president can make appointment in the Armed Forces to includetheChief of DefenceStaff, theChief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff and heads of any other branches of the Armed Forces of theFederationasmaybeestablishedbyan Actof theNational Assembly. TheArmed ForcesareestablishedbySection217of the Constitution itself.
“By Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act made pursuant to Section 218(4) of the Constitution, the National Assembly has prescribed the procedure by whichthe president can appoint the service chiefs and this Section defines service chiefs to mean the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Navy Staff and the Chief of Air Staff. Thus, it is conclusive to say that the power of appointment of service chiefs is vested in the president and no other.
“By Section 11 of the Interpretation Act, the power to appoint a person into an office includes the power to appoint the holder of that office from time to time.
This provision must be read together with Section 11.08 and Section 11.09 of the Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) Officers 2017 for the ArmedForces whichspelt out the ‘Tenure of DefenceandServiceChiefs’andvestsin the President the power to appoint such service chiefs and extend their tenure irrespective of age or length of service. From all the above, it is within the power of the president to extend the tenure of service chiefs.
“With respect to the appointment of Head of Immigration, I believe it is the president that has the power under Section 3 of the Immigration Act.
The power to elongate shall, therefore, be available to the president in line with Section 11 of the Interpretation Act. Where, however, the power is exercised by the minister, that is ultra vires and a nullity as only the president can so elongate.
“The announcement of elongation of tenure of the Head of Immigration by the Minister may be upon the directive of the president which power is still exercised by the president. The same thing goes for theController-Generalof theCorrectional Centres.
“On the other hand, the competence of the service chiefs has been questioned in view of the prevalent insecurity in the country. One is sounding like a broken record already by questioning the bona fides of Mr. President in retaining these service chiefs as their capacity to curtail insecurity in the land is definitely zero.
One only hopes the wisdom dictating the acts of the President will result in better preservation of lives and property for Nigerians”, the silk said. Dr. Fassy Yusuf accused President Buhari and other constituted authorities who engage in tenure elongation of public officers as abusing their office. He said: “What we are experiencing in the country today is pure abuse of office.
The president is abusing his office by denying qualified Nigerians their rightful positions. So, if the leadership is abusing his office, what do you expect the followership to do? “Hence, it is no longer strange to us that some of his ministers are also trailing the samepath.
Thisisvery sad and itismaking the country ungovernable. These officers who refused to leave when they ought to haveleftarejusttellingusthattherestof us can go to hell and that they care less. “This is because transparency, probity is lacking and our public officers are now our masters. They can continue with all these anomalies but there is a limit to how far they can go.
Sooner than later, the president will leave and I hope by the time he leaves, a lot of danger and destruction would not have befallen the country. My advicetothoseinpoweristhattheyneedto bevery circumspectintheway thecountry is being run”. A rights activist, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, also frowned at the trend saying it is not onlyunconscionable, immoralandunjust, but also illegal.
“Keeping officials or civil servants who have served out their statutory period in office is not only unconscionable, immoral and unjust, it is also illegal. For crying out loud, majority of Nigerians are out there looking for employment after graduation tonoavail, yet, youkeepcertainindividuals in office which would have been occupied by other younger job seekers.
“The most annoying thing here is that thepresidentisnotbothereddoingallthese fuelling the speculation that he is a nepotisticandfavouritismmerchant.
Manypeople believed that the president deliberately keepthesefewindividualsinofficebecause they are from certain parts of the country even when they are not performing.
“A good example is that of the service chiefs whom he has kept against all meaningfuladvicebyNigerians. Wearesickand tired of all the president’s ethnic jingoism manifesting in the keeping of people in officeagainstthelawof thelandwithoutany rhyme or reason other than his subjective judgement of pseudo-optimum performance,” he said.