The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate transparency by ensuring justice in the case of the thirty-eight (38) Senior Army Officers who were compulsory retired on June 9, 2016 and have been subjected to a deliberate pattern of abuse, including denial of access to administrative procedures for seeking redress.
Addressing the media in Lagos, national coordinator of NOPRIN Okechukwu Nwanguma said, the senior army officers have written petitions to Mr. President, individually and collectively, seeking his intervention for justice but the President has, till date, yet to acknowledge any of their petitions, let alone take any step to ensure justice.
Nwanguma, noted that there was no factual basis whatsoever for the punishment meted to the army 38 by way of their purported compulsory retirement and subsequent false narrative to the media that the affected officers were corrupt.
He argued that the purported compulsory retirement of the army 38 by the Army Council was illegal and constitutes an abuse of office as the Army Council does not have the powers to punish any officer, stressing that the powers of the Army Council in relation to discipline of personnel are limited to only a confirmation authority of punishment awarded by a duly constituted Court Martial.
Nwanguma, further stated that none of the army 38 was ever queried, charged or tried by a court martial at any time and therefore the Army Council is in no position to sit over any disciplinary matter pertaining to any of the 38 Officers.
He further argued that the purported punishment of the army 38 by way of compulsory retirement without giving any of them the opportunity to defend themselves against any allegation is against the principles of natural justice and fair hearing, pointing that the pattern of abuse meted to the army 38 by the military leadership indicates deliberate witch hunt of selected officers based on tribal affiliations and pedigree.
Nwanguma, said that after the illegal compulsory retirement of the army 38, the victims have individually written to the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Defence Staff and Mr President, the C-in-C to request for details of any wrong doing that may have warranted their compulsory retirement even when the Army Council has no power whatsoever to retire any officer on disciplinary grounds, but none of them has been furnished with any offence.
He disclosed that the individual request for redress by the army 38 to the C-in –C was sent since July 2016 in line with the prescribed procedure but they were ignored, and thus the calls for justice by these fine officers who have individually earned awards and accolades in their careers have remained ignored by their C-in-C for 3 years now.
He said that as part of their efforts in pursuit of justice, some of the officers approached the Senate and House of Representatives for an independent investigation of their matter, and both chambers at different times investigated the matter and came to the same conclusion that the punishment of the army 38 was arbitrary with no evidence of any offence committed.
Both chambers went further in their respective terms to admonish the Nigerian Army over the arbitrary disengagement of officers as this action would discourage serving officers and soldiers from giving their full commitment to the service of the nation, and directed their immediate re-instatement, he said.
He said the illegal retirement has eroded officers’ sense of job security since they now know that they could be compulsorily retired arbitrarily without regard to laid down legal procedure, adding that this will affect officers’ productivity and also make them resort to self-help whenever the opportunity presents itself to enrich themselves and therefore prepare a fall-back nest in case of any eventuality.
On the basis of these, he said NOPRIN, is joining well-meaning citizens and groups in the country who are truly committed to justice and the rule of law to call on the President to prove his integrity and sense of justice by reviewing the arbitrary, unjust and unwarranted punishment meted to the army 38 by the Army Authorities.