Anger, controversy as Army retires over 200 officers

 

Controversy is now trailing the sudden retirement of about 200 senior officers from the rank of Lieutenant Colonels to Major Generals in the Nigerian Army.

The affected officers, it was gathered, have already been served with notices of retirement and they are to proceed on terminal leave with effect from yesterday (Friday).

Credible military sources informed Saturday Tribune that the controversy started when the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai, directed the Military Secretary (Army) to serve notice of retirement to officers who went through the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria (a secondary school) where they spent five years.

The instruction of the Army chief, the sources added, directed that the five years the affected officers spent as secondary school students in the Military school, should be added to their years of military service.

The Army spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman, who would have reacted to this development, is one of the affected officers.

However, a source close to the Army authorities explained to Saturday Tribune that the decision affected “about 200 officers” and that “it was as a result of a new policy of the Federal Government.”

The source added that the policy was not targetted at army officers only and that “other services are expected to comply with the policy, but are yet to do so.”

The Army source also said all those affected had received their disengagement letters effective from February 8, 2019, and explained that “their terminal leave was supposed to be from that day, but some of them have up till March 8, 2019, to sort things out and then leave the service.”

According to insiders in the service, the argument of the government is that while the officers were in that school, they were being paid salary and that therefore their years of service had started counting by then.

However, it was also discovered that most of the affected soldiers did not go to the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) directly from the school as some of them opted to go to the university to obtain degrees before joining the Army.

The grouse of the ex-boys from NMS, who were later commissioned as officers and have been asked to proceed on compulsory retirement, was that they were given only three to four days notice.

It was gathered that most of the “boys” were commissioned as Short Service Combatant or  Direct Regular Combatant or Regular Combatant as stipulated by the reference book called Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service Officers (HTACOS) in the Nigerian Armed Forces.

Another source of anger is that, according to the source, “these affected officers have been asked to go on mass retirement without completing their mandatory 35 years or attaining the 60 years age ceiling.”

It added: “This measure taken against the SSC is out of malice because they have paid their dues by fulfilling the conditions as stipulated by the HTACOS in order to get to 35 years and 60 years age limit.”

“The Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service 2017 (TACOS) states that officers service records start running from the Academy and not the Military school,” the source said.

Following this development, there is currently unease, especially on why such a decision should be taken without the affected officers being contacted.

The argument for their being contacted, it was gathered was that the controversial policy was not part of their conditions of service and that this runs contrary to what the law states.

The Military source disclosed that some of the affected officers took their case to the National Assembly, which summoned the Military Secretary (Army) F. Yahaya.

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Yahaya reportedly told the National Assembly members that it was a directive from the Army authorities and that there was nothing he could do about it.

Meanwhile, among other things, the affected officers are complaining that serving them with notice of retirement meant that they had served only 30 years and not 35 years and that they had not also attained the retirement age of 56 years for Major Generals and 54 years for Brigadier Generals.

The source added that this policy had created fear as many officers are unsure what their future would amount to in the service.

A signal from the Military secretary’s office notified the affected officers of retirement and maximum length of service. It called the attention of the officers to Rule 020810(1) of the Public Service Rules of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2008 Edition which states that the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier.

“Also Rule 020810(ii) of the same Public Service Rule says “no officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.”

The harmonised terms and conditions of service of officers 2017 Revised chapter 1, section 4 states that “military service of an officer is a period of unbroken service in the Armed forces of Nigeria from the date of commissioning to date of retirement from service. Also, it commences from the date of enlistment into service as soldiers/ratings/airmen for SSCC, DSSC, DRC and EC/SD/BC/CC officers.”

The notification also stated that the affected officers would be presented before a career review board in line with extant regulations.

Based on this, the Military secretary directed the affected officers to apply for voluntary retirement to the office of the Chief of Army staff, but added that “the Army Council will consider such officer for compulsory retirement.”

It further directed the affected officers to the February 8, 2019 terminal leave date, but stated that their final disengagement from the Nigerian Army was subject to the approval of the Army Council.

The military source explained that “it is under this law that the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General S. K. Usman, proceeded on his retirement on Friday.”

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