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I learnt of my retirement from the newspaper, disengaged army officer tells court

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ABDULFATAH Mohammed, a former Lieutenant Colonel with the Nigeria Army has narrated to the Justice R.B Haastrup of the National Industrial Court (NIC) how he learnt about his compulsory retirement from the pages of the newspaper.

Mohammed was one of the 38 army officers that were compulsorily retired on disciplinary grounds by the army hierarchy in 2016, while some of them were said to have been disengaged because of their partisanship during the 2015 general election.

Having taken several steps to seek redress, including an appeal to the President and Commander-n-Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari, Mohammed approached the NIC seeking to be reinstated into the army and restored to the rank of Colonel which is the rank he ought to have attained before his disengagement.

When the trial resumed on Wednesday for cross-examination of witness, counsel to the Nigeria Army, Jibrin Okutepa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, showed the claimant, Mohammed, copies of his letter of commissioning and posting in the army and asked him whether he accepted the terms and conditions of service. To this he responded in the affirmative.

The defence counsel also pointed out to the claimant where it was written in the letter that he was being commissioned into the army for a period of 18 years, after which he could apply for re-engagement. He asked whether the claimant applied for re-engagement after the 18 years elapsed.

Mohammed, in his response, explained that there were that were some conditions provided in the Nigeria Army’s book of terms and conditions of service, and that these provisions exempted him from applying from re-engagement.

He stated further that his letter of compulsory retirement did not indicate that he was being disengaged for having served the required 18 years, rather the letter stated he was being retired on disciplinary grounds.

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He said he had received no query, no reprimand, and that he only learnt of his compulsory retirement from the pages of the newspaper before the letter was later brought to his office.

Mohammed further informed the court that he wrote an appeal to the Commander-in-Chief in 2016, as required by the rules and regulations of the Nigeria Army, but that till date, the letter has not even been acknowledged by the presidency.

“I have served in the army for 20 years, nine months, and 22 days. I have served in the North East, I was a war commander, yet after all these years of service, my C-in-C did not care about my plight for almost three years now,” he said, almost breaking down in tears.

Asked by the defence counsel whether he received the three months salary advance that is to be paid to a disengaged officer as required by law, Mohammed said he received no such payment.

Mohammed said that the director of  army welfare had called to inform him that since he had left the service, he would be paid his welfare contributions over the years, but that he informed the director that the issue of his disengagement was still in court, hence he has not received any money from the army in terms of severance package.

After listening to the cross-examination, Justice Haastrup adjourned the case to January 25, 2018, for continuation of cross-examination.

A number of suits involving the dismissed army officers are currently at various levels of hearing before different judges at the National Industrial Court.

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One of such cases, involving one Danladi Hassan, a Colonel, was decided on Tuesday in favour of the claimant. Justice Sanusi Kado ruled that the letter of dismissal issued to Hassan was null and void, and ordered the Nigeria Army to reinstate him with all his rights and privileges.

Another of such cases, involving another Colonel, Mohammed Suleiman, who was until his disengagement, a Defense Adviser in the Republic of Chad, was adjourned till February 25, 2019, for cross-examination of the defence witness.

At the last adjourned date, Justice Kado, the trial judge, fined the counsel to the Nigeria Army the sum of N20,000 for making flimsy excuses over their inability to present the defence witness in court.

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