One of the first major actions to be taken by President-elect Muhammadu Buhari on assumption of office is a massive shake-up of the military, TheCable understands.
There will be a “mass retirement” of senior officers who are believed to have corruptly enriched themselves or “who abandoned professionalism for politics”, sources in the know of the plan told TheCable.
Already, a small group has been set up quietly to work out the modalities for the shake-up and scout possible replacements for those to be weeded out.
Most likely to be affected are officers who allegedly mismanaged funds meant for military operations, those who colluded with crude oil thieves and those who engaged in political activities in breach of their professional duties.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in his congratulatory letter to Buhari after the March 28 election, had urged the president-elect to reform the military, saying “so much harm [had been] done to many national institutions including the military, which proudly nurtured you and me”.
Obasanjo, on assuming office in 1999, retired all officers who had held political appointments — an action thought to have helped prevent a possible coup after several military interventions in the nation’s history.
Buhari is a retired major-general who had commanded all the divisions in the Nigerian army before becoming head of state in 1983 after a coup. He was retired in August 1985 following his ouster his chief of army staff, Ibrahim Babangida, now a retired general.
An insider in Buhari’s circle told TheCable: “The military has been politicised and bastardised in the last few years. Corruption has reached unprecedented levels with the oil theft in the Niger Delta and haphazard anti-terror war.
“Nobody can say sincerely that the leadership of the military has lived up to expectations. We need a professional military. We cannot be relying on neighbouring countries to be bailing us out of our internal issues. Buhari will transform the military to an institution of pride for all Nigerians again.”
TheCable could not ascertain the extent of the planned purge, apart from the expected change of service chiefs and division commanders.
But the primary aim of the planned changes, the source added, is to rid the military of “greedy and unprofessional officers”.
The military has come under scrutiny in recent years over its seeming failure to curb terror and oil theft as well as corruption in the top hierarchy.
In the north-east operations against Boko Haram, there were reports that monies meant for the allowances of troops were being diverted to private pockets.
Instead of the monthly allowance of N30,000, the troops were reportedly getting N15,000 with no satisfactory official explanation on what happened to the balance.
The troops were also allegedly being given only three sachets of “pure water” per day in the desert heat and lacked sleeping kits.
Their food supplies for the day were allegedly brought at once in the morning, a situation that saw them eating cold lunch and sour dinner.
Many troops were also battle-weary and suffering psychological trauma but did not get the necessary support from the authorities, leading to several cases of mutiny which resulted in death sentences for soldiers found guilty of refusing to fight.
At some stage last year, troops fired shots at the commander of the 7th division in Maiduguri, Borno state, Ahmed Mohammed, a major general, who narrowly escaped death in the hands of the frustrated soldiers.
He was immediately transferred from the division, which was created by President Goodluck Jonathan specifically to fight Boko Haram insurgents.
These deficiencies, compounded by the perceived superior firepower of the Boko Haram militants, were largely held responsible for the prolonged war against terror which only came to live when the February 14 presidential election was postponed by six weeks.
Also, Daily Trust newspaper reported last year that the army top brass had shared part of a land meant for barracks in the Asokoro District of Abuja, a further evidence of the rot in the military.
It said the 439 beneficiaries of the landgrab included spouses, relations, friends, associates and companies owned by senior army officials.
Kenneth Minimah, a lieutenant general and chief of army staff, and his predecessor Azubuike Ihejirika, a retired general, were allocated 2035.41sqm and 3909.35sqm of land respectively, the newspaper reported.
Those who got allocations along with their wives included two former chiefs of defence staff, Oluseyi Petinrin, a retired air chief marshal, and Ibrahim Ola Sa’ad, a retired admiral.
Former chief of air staff, Mohammed Dikko Umar, a retired air marshal, also got his share, while Ihejirika’s wife, Gift, got Plot 4882 which is 2385.59sqm.
One other beneficiary named “Oke Ihejirika” was given 1,583.59sqm, in addition to three more ‘Ihejirikas’ who were listed as Goodok Oil and Gas’s directors: Ihejirika Okechukwu, Ihejirika Chika and Ihejirika Goodluck. The company got 7476.95sqm of land.
Daily Trust came under attack from soldiers after its report, with soldiers seizing copies of the newspaper and detaining its distribution vans.
Military authorities defended the action, maintaining then that the operation was based on a tip-off that terrorists wanted to use newspaper vehicles to transport explosive materials.