THIRTY-EIGHT senior officers of the Nigerian Army who were ‘unjustly’ dismissed from service have made another passionate appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in their case.
The dismissed officers, in a letter written on their behalf by their lawyer, Abdul Mohammed, urged Buhari to prove his integrity to Nigerians by ensuring that justice is done to them.
The letter, which is dated September 3, 2018, and obtained by Premium Times, read in part: “Your Excellency, 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 the 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 but 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 out to (them), and in spite of repeated passionate letter(s) of redress to you as their Commander-in-Chief, you have been curiously silent.”
When contacted, Femi Adesina, spokesman to President Buhari, said any question with regards to the dismissed officers should be directed to the Army authorities.
A little background
In June 2016, the Nigerian Army said it sacked the affected officers for alleged partisanship in the 2015 general election.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to inform the general public that quite a number of senior officers of the Nigerian Army were retired from service yesterday,” read a statement issued on June 11, 2016, by then Army Director of Public Relations, Sani Usman.
“Their retirement was based on Service exigencies. It should be recalled that not too long ago some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 General Elections.
“Some officers have already been arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). People should therefore not read this out of context.”
But contrary to the Army statement, only one out of the 38 dismissed officers was being tried by the EFCC. Further investigation into the case revealed that majority of the affected officers, including Letam Wiwa, a Major General and brother to the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, were never even issued a query, much less made to face a panel, before they were dismissed.
In fact, some of the dismissed officers were serving in some of Nigeria’s foreign missions and were not even in the country during the 2015 election, yet they were all laid off. Others were dismissed for alleged loyalty to the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
But Usman, when contacted at the time, insisted that “those that were compulsorily retired had one problem or the other that warranted their compulsory retirement”.
Subsequent attempts by the dismissed officers to seek redress, including instituting a court case, have yielded no positive result so far.
At a hearing of one of such court cases, in April this year, the Army, through one of its lawyers, N. Okorie, a colonel, told the court that the soldiers were dismissed for failure to “renew their appointments“.
“He took an oath of allegiance to be employed for 18 years, after which he would renew his employment,” said of one of the dismissed officers.
“He failed to comply with the provisions. That is a serious offence. The disciplinary measure is to write the letter (of dismissal) which is what the Army has done.”