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Army 38: Again, dismissed officers petition Buhari

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Challenge president to prove his ‘integrity’

•Insist on justice

Jude Johnson 

The group of 38 Army officers who were dismissed in a controversial circumstances in 2016 has agained petitioned  President Muhammadu Buhari, to seek redress and justice.

This third petition  Buhari by the aggrieved officers seeking for justice over a decision by the Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai-led Nigerian Army, they see as arbitrary and contrary to the Army Act as well as the harmonised terms and conditions of the military.

In the latest letter obtained by Global Sentinel,  the officers urged the President to prove his much avowed integrity by giving them a fair hearing and revisiting their case.

Unfortunately, these petitions to the president including the one written to the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo while in acting capacity as President, were neither acknowledged nor replied.

Buratai had on June 2016 approved the compulsory retirement of 38 officers mostly from the Southern part of the country including nine Major-Generals, 11 Brigadier-Generals, seven Colonels and 11 Lieutenant-Colonels.

The then Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brig-Gen. Sani Usman, had cited that the officers were dismissed for political interference and other corruption allegations.

But most of the dismissed officers have claimed victimisation and violation of the  Army rules in their  sack, noting that most of them were wrongfully accused.

They also insisted that they were never Court-martial or given fair hearing, before decision was taken against them.

Part of the latest petition read: “Your Excellency,” began the latest petition dated 3 September 2018 forwarded through lawyer Abdul Mohammed, “for over two years the Army 38 have repeatedly requested the Army leadership to state their offence(s)…the Army leadership has not been able to state the specific offence(s) save to say to punishment to my client came ‘from above’, signifying that (the President) ordered for the punishment…”

“Mr President, you have put out a reputation of being a man of justice, dignity and integrity buy you are yet to prove it to all Nigerians in the case of these 38 innocent Army officers. In the past two years, grave injustice has been meted to (them), and in spite of repeated passionate letter(s) of redress to you as their Commander-in-Chief, you have been curiously silent.”

Apart from writing series of petitions through their lawyer, Mr. Abdul Muhammed, some of the affected officers have sought other avenues to seek redress including suing the Nigerian Army at the Industrial Court as well as meeting the National Assembly to hear their cases.

It is even worse that one of the affected officers, Ojebo Baba-Ochankpa, died while waiting for justice in January last year.

According to the report  by Premium Times ,Buhari’s spokesperson, Mr. Femi Adesina, declined comment when contacted to speak on the issue.

“If it’s about the army, contact the army spokesperson, please,” said Mr Adesina, who would still not speak for his principal when told the presidency is the ultimate authority for consideration of the affected officers’ appeals and they had repeatedly sent such appeals before the latest just last week.

It also noted that , nothing came of the effort to extract comment on this report from the spokesperson for the Army, Texas Chukwu.

Read the full petition:

Dated: September 3, 2018
Ref: 20180905/ctcdms/army38/president

President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR
President and Commander in Chief
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock Villa, Abuja

RE: ABUSE OF OFFICE BY LEADERSHIP OF THE NIGERIAN MILITARY IN RESPECT OF THE UNLAWFUL COMPULSORY RETIREMENT OF 38 SENIOR ARMY OFFICERS

Dear Mr. President:

My clients, the 38 Senior Army officers (Army 38) that were unlawfully punished by way of compulsory retirement on June 9, 2016 without having done any wrong whatsoever, have requested me to make the third appeal for justice to their Commander-in-Chief, in the following terms:

1. Your Excellency, for over two years the Army 38 have repeatedly requested the Nigeria Army leadership to state the offence(s) which gave rise to the punishment meted out to these individuals on June 9, 2016. Army leadership has not been able to state the specific offence(s), save to say that the punishment to my clients came ‘from above’, signifying that President Muhammadu Buhari ordered for the punishment and or retirement of the Army 38. However, none of these officers has ever had any personal interactions with Mr. President to warrant a decision by Your Excellency to punish them and without recourse to due process at that.

2. Mr President, you have put out a reputation of being a man of justice, dignity and integrity but you have yet to prove it to all Nigerians in the case of these innocent 38 Army Officers. In the past 2 years, grave injustice has been meted to the Army 38, and in spite of earlier passionate letter(s) of redress to you as their Commander-in-Chief you have been curiously silent. Records will bear me out in stating that as counsel I have also written directly to you about their plight. My letters elicited the strangest stance of non-responsiveness to the legitimate respective appeals of these 38 Army Officers, and I was forced to cause the publication of my two previous appeals in open letter format and these letters were duly published in the Daily Trust newspaper of July 6, 2017 and October 31, 2017 respectively.

3. It is sad that the Nigerian government under your leadership with your acclaimed reputation for truth and justice has continued to deprive these patriotic 38 Army officers of the most basic fairness and justice, which they seek and which is their right as soldiers, citizens and human beings to receive. No society can thrive on a steady diet of injustice.

4. Sir, it is regrettable that nothing has been done for over 2 years to review the serious injustice that the troika of Mr. Mohammed Mansur Dan-Alli (Minister for Defence), General AG Olonsakin (Chief of Defence Staff) and Lt Gen TY Buratai (Chief of Army Staff) meted to the Army 38 despite their respective letter(s) of redress sent to you to do justice to them as provided in the Harmonised Terms and Condition of Service Officers. Sadly, these officers never got any response from Your Excellency on their individual letter(s) of redress. Our fighting men surely deserve better treatment having put in many years of military service in defence of our dear country!

5. Mr President, it gives me great pain to note on the facts of this matter that despite the avowed commitment of your government to ensuring justice, some of our fighting men in the military have been subject to unfairness and injustice without any action from you and this is at variance with the public posture of your government to do things right. When the Army Council sat on June 9, 2016 to mete out punishment to the Army 38, there was no verdict of a court martial against any of these officers. To be clear, the Army Council did not have any record of conviction by court martial against not even one of the Army 38 at any time before June 9, 2016. Your Excellency knows better than most that the function of the Army Council in the circumstances was to review or confirm verdicts/decisions of a duly convened court martial and not to award punishments as such an action constitutes abuse of office.

6. Most importantly, Your Excellency, none of the 38 senior officers that were compulsorily retired was at any time ever charged, tried by a court martial or found guilty of any offence in line with Armed Forces extant rules and regulations, before they respectively heard of their retirement in the media. Interestingly, none of these officers has been informed of the particulars of any alleged offense till date. Some of the affected officers wrote to the Army Authority to furnish them with facts that constitute any alleged offense, but regrettably the Army has failed to respond to this simple request over 2 years after in the like manner they were treated with their appeal to the Commander-in-Chief.
7. The total absence of facts and the complete failure of due process can be seen in the debacle that was the unfair punishment by way of compulsory retirement given out to my clients. The absence of facts in support did not constrain the troika of Mr. Mohammed Mansur Dan-Alli ( Minister for Defence), General AG Olonsakin (Chief of Defence Staff) and Lt Gen TY Buratai (Chief of Army Staff) even in the slightest from betraying the dignity of their high offices by victimising my clients when the troika convened the Army Council to meet and mete out punishment by way of Compulsory Retirement on June 9, 2016 to 38 Senior Army Officers despite the fact that was it known to the Army leadership that there were NO DECISIONS of any court martial against these officers for the Army Council to consider, review or approve.

8. After the very public dismissal of the 38 Senior Army officers, the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Army Staff went to the media with the narrative that the 38 Army Officers were professionally corrupt and that these officers were punished after due process. These are untrue statements because the dismissed officers we never indicted or found culpable at all and there was a complete failure to follow the processes laid down by the Nigeria Army with respect to these wrongful and illegal dismissals.

9. Sir, whereas it has been eerie silence from Your Excellency despite the several letter(s) of redress from the 38 Army Officers, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have given a hearing to petitions of members of the Army 38. The Nigerian Congress through their respective Public Petition Committees after their respective investigations of the matter had admonished the Nigerian Army over arbitrary disengagement of officers, as this action would discourage serving officers and soldiers from giving their full commitment to the service of the nation.

10. Both chambers of the National Assembly are on record to have recommended immediate reinstatement as the officers were found to have done no wrong whatsoever. The resolutions were duly forwarded to Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Chief of Army Staff but these resolutions of Congress have been completely ignored which indicates a deliberate pattern of abuse against these innocent officers.

11. The refusal to respect the clear advice of the National Assembly is just one episode in the pattern of victimization of these innocent officers with a discerning and direct impact on the morale of our fighting forces. Mr President, while it may be difficult to quantify the effect of injustice on the morale of our fighting men and women, it is however easy to see how a pattern of injustice has affected the morale of our men. For the sake of Nigeria, I respectfully urge you to take the first steps at the reversal of this decline.

12. In the over two years of persistent abuse and denial of justice to the 38 retired officers, one of them, Lt Col Baba-Ochankpa has died. This gallant officer died literally of a broken heart. Your Excellency, the 38 Senior Army Officers are crying for justice as promised to Nigerians by your administration. The widow of Lt. Col Baba-Ochankpa (Mrs. Ruth Baba-Ochanpka) deserves justice. The children of the late Lt Col Baba- Ochanpka, Master Joshua Baba – Ochankpa, Miss Esther Baba-Ochankpa and Miss Abigail Baba-Ochankpa deserve our justice. These beautiful children deserve to have removed the stain that the present Army leadership has put on the memory of their father the late Lt Col Baba-Ochanpka.

In the closing, I respectfully urge Your Excellency to review the lingering injustice that has been perpetuated by the Army leadership against my clients.

Yours faithfully:

____________________________
Abdul Muhammed Esq.
Chief Trial Counsel/DMS
Mobile 0803 707 8385
Email: amlppdp@gmail.com

 


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