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Service chiefs’ appointment: Buhari goes against judgment, bypasses National Assembly

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The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.) appointment of service chiefs on Tuesday violated a 2013 judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja.

The judgment, which was delivered by Justice Adamu Bello on July 2, 2013, stated that it was mandatory for the President to obtain the confirmation of the National Assembly for the appointment of the service chiefs.

But the President, who on Tuesday appointed service chiefs including the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Lucky Irabor; the Chief of Army Staff,  Major General Ibrahim Attahiru; the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, and the Chief of Air Staff,  Air-Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao, did not seek the National Assembly’s approval.

It was also gathered that Buhari had no intention of sending the names of the service chiefs to the National Assembly for confirmation.

There was an indication to this effect as the President’s spokesman,  Femi Adesina, in a statement on Wednesday addressed the new heads of armed forces with their new posts instead of in acting capacities if Buhari had the intention of sending their names to the National Assembly for confirmation.

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Recall that Justice Bello while delivering a judgment on a suit filed by Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, who is now the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, declared that the appointment of then service chiefs by former President Goodluck Jonathan was null and void.

The service chiefs affected then included the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Alex  Badeh and the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral  Ezeoba.

Justice Bello had stated, “It is clear that under Section 18(1) and (4) of the Armed Forces Act, the President in appointing such officers as the ‘service chiefs’ is expected to consult with the Chief of Defence Staff and the Forces Council but such appointment must be subject to the confirmation by the National Assembly.”

President not under obligation to get N’Assembly confirmation for service chiefs — Presidency source

A Presidency official, said the  President was not under any obligation to send names of new service chiefs to the National Assembly for confirmation

The Presidency official said the nation’s constitution made it clear that the President should appoint service chiefs.

Though he acknowledged the court judgment asking that service chiefs’ appointments must be confirmed by the National Assembly, the source said the constitution is superior to any other law.

He said, “The constitution is clear on this matter. It said the President should appoint service chiefs.

“This is not the first time President Buhari will be appointing service chiefs. Those he appointed the first time, did he send their names to the National Assembly for confirmation?

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“It is true that Keyamo went to court at a time but the truth of the matter is that the constitution is superior to any other law. The constitution says the President should appoint service chiefs and he has just done that.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, declined comment on the matter when he was contacted.

New service chiefs need confirmation, says Keyamo

But  Keyamo insisted on Wednesday that the new service chiefs needed confirmation from the National Assembly.

Keyamo, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone, said he was sure that being a competent and intelligent person, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, would do the right thing on the matter.

The minister said, “The position of the law on the matter is still the same. It has not changed. That their names have been announced does not mean that they won’t be sent for confirmation. They need confirmation and I am sure that the AGF, being a competent and intelligent person, will do the needful on the matter. They need confirmation.”

It was not certain on Wednesday whether  Buhari would send the names of the newly appointed service chiefs to the Senate for confirmation or not.

When contacted on Wednesday, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, could not categorically state whether the military chiefs would appear before the Senate for confirmation or not.

Ndume said, “I don’t know whether there would be confirmation from the Senate or not, although there was a court judgment to that effect.

“ That was why we had the Inspector General of Police appearing before the Senate for confirmation.

“I don’t know whether the same thing would apply to the service chiefs or not.

“The immediate past service chiefs did not appear before the Senate for confirmation,  that was why the issue of tenure did not affect them

“I don’t know whether they would send the names of the new service chiefs to the Senate for confirmation or not.”

Ndume, however, commended Buhari for appointing the new service chiefs, saying that they had experience, competence and tact to carry out the assignments given to them.

New service chief can’t get fresh salaries – Adegboruwa

But a human rights lawyer,  Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, said the judgment obtained by Keyamo was still valid.

Adegboruwa said, “There was no appeal against the judgment of the Federal High Court, which decided that the appointment of service chiefs had to be confirmed by the Senate.

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