Reps to screen service chiefs Wednesday, as group calls for federal character

The Special Committee set up by the House of Representatives will, on Wednesday, screen the newly appointed service chiefs in line with the resolution passed last week.

The screening exercise is to be chaired by the Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Hon Babajimi Benson, alongside Chairmen, Deputy Chairmen and three members of joint Standing Committees on Army, Navy, Air Force and Defence.

Those expected at the screening are; Major General Lucky Eluonye Onyenuchea Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka O. Amao, Chief of Air Staff.

Meanwhile, a Non-Governmental Organisation under the aegis of Coalition of South-East Professionals Network in Nigeria and Diaspora (CSEPNND) have tasked President Muhammadu Buhari with the urgent need to ensure the application of the federal character principle in appointments into sensitive positions.

According to the group, the framers of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), did not include the federal character principle as a decorative item, but rather a mandatory requirement for the sustainability of the nation’s unity and corporate existence.

They maintained that at all material times, the President and other leaders occupying positions of responsibility must ensure that the tripod upon which Nigeria stands – Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo – was reflected in appointments into public offices, noting that the development will ease tension in the polity.

In a statement issued by its National Coordinator, Prof Chika Madumere, the group warned against the danger of treating any ethnic nation as second-class, noting that the consequence of such may be too grave to contemplate in the long run.

The group alleged that sometime in July 2015, when President Buhari assembled his team of Service Chiefs, upon assumption of office on May 29 of the same year, no officer of Igbo extraction was considered worthy of inclusion.

The Coalition further placed on record the fact that other appointments made by the President into the leadership’s of security, intelligence as well as paramilitary agencies, were devoid of any consideration for the South-East.

The concerned professionals said they were compelled to issue the statement after the January 26 appointment of new Service Chiefs, which like others, had no senior officer from the South-East.

Consequently, they have noted that no multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation, survives what they described as bare-faced alienation and marginalisation for too long.

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They have, therefore, in the interest of justice and fairness, appealed for the immediate review of the appointment of military heads, to reflect geopolitical balancing.

The group also underscored the urgency in a nationwide address by President Buhari, amidst the growing tension in parts of the country, arguing that doing so will calm frayed nerves.

“We want to begin by introducing ourselves as a group of very responsible South East professionals with the primary objective of ensuring the inviolability and indissolubility of Nigeria.

“As a South-East group with membership from within and outside the country, we have the ultimate mandate to rise in defence of the Igbo nation, in times of need, as doing otherwise will amount to dereliction of moral duty,” the statement read.

The professionals alleged that never has the interest of the South-East geopolitical zone been so blinking in the national equation, than under the current administration of President Buhari.

The statement read in full: “During the oath-taking ceremony, President Muhammadu Buhari had vowed to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by implementing its provisions faithfully and conscientiously.

“As a group of educated and informed Nigerians, we are aware that the Federal Character Principle is a fundamental aspect of our national life, especially owing to its proportionate representative nature in appointments into public offices.

“A community reading and understanding of this critical requirement of the Constitution, coupled with the oath to uphold same, would have suggested that governance will be executed on the twin-pillars of equity and justice – the fulcrum of modern society.

“Alas, we are witnesses to how our dear President Buhari, a man known for discipline and professionalism, has applied that extant law in the breach, because of some misinformation available to him from some enemies of Igbos, and we say this without any fear of contradiction.

“As a professional group with interest in the South East, we dare say that the Igbo nation is an equal partner in national affairs, and must be so regarded, notwithstanding whatever biases or prejudices anyone or group may hold against the race.

“It is in recognition of the egalitarian nature of modern society, which Nigeria proudly belongs, that we humbly appeal for an urgent review of the recent assembling of military heads, to incorporate the interest of the South-East.

“We advise that the zone must not be offered a second-class status, as doing so may continue to inflict more injuries on the Igbos, therefore, giving credence to the criminals IPOB which we have since rejected.

“To Ndigbo home and in the diaspora, we urge you to stay calm and focused, while keeping faith with the country’s unity in diversity.

“At no time should the South-East be seen to be exploring and exploiting the nation’s fault lines, as many out there are wont to do, thereby setting Nigeria on the edge.

“We will not conclude without appealing to Mr President to, in the interest of national unity, peace, security and order, make a national broadcast, in a bid to douse the rising ethnic tension which, by all means, is tilting towards a crescendo.”


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