100 military generals will be forced to retire over Tinubu’s appointment of new service chiefs

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Service chiefs in Nigeria
New Service chiefs in Nigeria 2023.

… The Army, Air Force, Navy, Course 37, and others may be affected by the retirement gale.

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According to The PUNCH, about 100 top officers in the Nigerian Army, Air Force, and Navy, including generals, brigadiers-general, air vice marshals, and admirals, may be forced to retire following President Bola Tinubu’s appointment of new service chiefs on Monday.

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Aside from the impending gale of retirement, many officers would be promoted to the next rank to fill the vacancies left by retiring generals as part of the new service chiefs’ reorganisation of the services.

This comes six months after 24 major generals and 38 brigadier generals retired last December after 35 years of service to the country.

Tinubu announced the immediate retirement of General Lucky Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Lieut Gen Farouk Yahaya, Chief of Army Staff; Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Marshal Oludayo Amao, Chief of Air Staff, and replaced them with new military chiefs.

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The new service chiefs are Maj Gen Christopher Musa, Chief of Defence Staff; Maj Gen Taoreed Lagbaja, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice Marshal Hassan Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff.

DIG Kayode Egbetokun was named acting Inspector-General of Police, and Maj. Gen. E Undiandeye was appointed Chief of Defence Intelligence.

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In addition, Nuhu Ribadu, a former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman who was appointed last week as the President’s Security Adviser, was promoted to National Security Adviser.

In keeping with precedent, Maj Gen Musa will be given the full four-star General rank, while Lagbaja will be given the three-star Lieutenant General rank, Ogalla the Vice Admiral rank, and Abubakar the Air Marshal rank.

However, the President would only be decorated with the new ranks after Senate confirmation.

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The PUNCH has learned that the planned retirement of senior officers across the three services is in keeping with a long-standing military tradition of retiring officers who are senior to the service chiefs.

It is customary in the military that when a junior officer is appointed as a service chief, senior officers who are ahead of him or her retire.

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Senior military officers, it is assumed, are unlikely to take orders from their juniors.

While the new CDS belongs to 38 Regular Course, the COAS, CNS, and CAS belong to 39 Regular Course.

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According to multiple sources, this meant that the security chiefs were junior to some generals on Course 37 and Course 38.

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According to a reliable source, approximately 100 top officers from the Army, Air Force, and Navy may leave the service in the coming weeks because it is improper for a senior officer to serve under his juniors in the military.

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On Tuesday, a retired general told one of our correspondents in Abuja that many top brass, particularly members of Course 37 and Course 38, would likely leave the service.

Though the former military officer was unsure of the number of senior officers who might retire from the army, air force, and navy, he did say it could be as many as 100.

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”Top officers who would leave the service could number in the hundreds,” he said, referring to the three services. Because the Chief of Defence Staff is RC 38, the retirement exercise would have no effect on RC 39 officers; they would simply report to Defence Headquarters.

RC 37 and 38 officers will undoubtedly leave the service. Some of them may be retained, however, because COAS Yahaya, who was a member of RC 37 at the time, did so. So he’s leaving now with his classmates.”

When asked how many officers make up a regular course, the source said there was no set number and that “some of them would have been weeded out along the line through retirement, deaths, accidents, sickness and other factors.” As a result, the course members who advance to the top level are typically about 20% to 30% of the officers who enrolled together.”

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Officers of the highest rank in the military

A serving military officer echoed the retired general, saying, ”All officers who are senior to the new service chiefs are supposed to go home; mostly senior officers who are members of Course 37, 38, and some of 39.

“I said some Course 39 members because they are the new service chiefs’ classmates.” Some service chiefs may choose to work with some of their course mates, while others may choose not to, but 37 and 38 will undoubtedly go.

“Of course, 39 officers will be let go, but some may be allowed to lead tri-service institutions such as the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, the Nigeria Defence College, and the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre.”

Another source stated that the former CDS’s coursemates cannot be retained because they are seniors to the three service chiefs.

“Yes, the CDS is a member of Course 38, but he is not expected to make any appointments from among his coursemates because the COAS, CNS, and CAS are members of Course 39,” he said.

”If he does, they will be older than them. Even those enrolled in Course 39 will attend. Those who are on senior courses at foreign missions would be exempt from retirement. Looking at all three services, that number could be higher than 100.”

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It was also learned that all officers enrolled in the Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 39 who could not be accommodated at Defence Headquarters were to retire voluntarily.

Former CDS General Irabor is an NDA Regular Course 34 member. On June 28, 1986, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian Army’s Signal Corps.

Lt Gen Yahaya, the former COAS, is a member of the NDA’s 37 Regular Course. On September 27, 1985, he began officer cadet training and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian Army Corp of Infantry on December 27, 1990.

Vice Admiral Gambo, the ex-CNS, is a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 36 Regular Course, and Air Marshal Amao, the 21st CAS, joined the Armed Forces of Nigeria in January 1984 as a Cadet of the Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 35.

The new CDS Maj Gen Musa, on the other hand, is a member of the NDA’s 38th Regular Course and was commissioned into the Infantry Corps on September 21, 1991.

Maj Gen Lagbaja, the 23rd COAS, is a graduate of NDA RC 39 and was commissioned on September 19, 1992, while Vice Admiral Ogalla, the new CNS, is a graduate of NDA 39 Regular Course.

On September 19, 1992, the new CAS, Air Vice Marshal Abubakar, enlisted in the Nigerian Air Force as a member of NDA RC 39 and was commissioned as a pilot.

According to the PUNCH, the Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Maj Gen Ibrahim Yusuf, and the Commandant of the National Defence College, Rear Admiral Murtala Bashir, are among those who may retire alongside the former service chiefs.

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AVM IG Lubo, Chief of Policy and Plans, HQ NAF; and Air Vice Marshal Oluwarotimi Tuwase, Commandant, Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji.

Brig Gen Tukur Gusau, Director of Defence Information, could not be reached for comment at the time of filing this report. He did not return phone calls and had yet to respond to text messages as of press time.

Egbetokun adorned

Meanwhile, Vice President Kashim Shettima appointed Mr Kayode Egbetokun as Acting Inspector-General of Police on Tuesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The VP was honoured alongside the wife of the new police chief, Mrs Elizabeth Egbetokun, just 24 hours after a major shift in the country’s security leadership.

Speaking to journalists after the ceremony, Egbetokun expressed his eagerness to resume duties on Wednesday, describing himself as a tiger ready to chase away all of the country’s internal enemies.

When asked how he felt about the weight of his new responsibilities, Egbetokun responded, “Now, I’ve just been decorated, and I’m looking forward to taking over tomorrow morning by 11:00 am.”

“I really can’t describe how I feel right now, but if I have to tell you something, I feel like a tiger inside of me right now, ready to chase away all the criminals in Nigeria.”

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“At times, I feel like a lion within me, ready to devour all of Nigeria’s internal enemies.” That is how I am feeling right now.”

Former Inspector General Usman Baba, for his part, described his successor as an old, experienced hand who would build on what he is leaving behind.

“It’s a stage; you come, work, and leave.” I’m relieved to be passing the baton of leadership to someone I know will continue where I left off.

“We learned on the job.” I used to be his boss, even when I was IG. He worked for me twice; we’ve been working together, and I know how he’ll continue to champion the police course from where I’ve left off,” Baba said.

Egbetokun would serve as acting IGP until the 10th Senate confirmed him as the 22nd substantive IGP.

The ceremony was attended by Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser; Hope Uzodinma, the Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum; Femi Gbajabiamila, the President’s Chief of Staff; George Akume, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and others.

In a related development, Yusuf Zailani, the immediate past Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, has praised President Buhari for appointing retired AIG Nuhu Ribadu as National Security Adviser and the service chiefs.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by his Press Secretary, Ibrahim Danfulani, Zailani, who is also the Chairman of ‘The APC Speakers Forum,’ said he was particularly pleased with the appointment of Ribadu, noting that Ribadu’s professionalism, hard work, and dedication to service, track record, earned him the job.

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He also described the appointment of CDS Maj Gen Musa, who is from Kaduna State’s Zangon Kataf Local Government, as deserving and a reward for sacrifice to ’s service.

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