The Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs, who were retired by President Bola Tinubu, on Monday, June 19, 2023, are to get bulletproof Sport Utility Vehicles, personal aides, guards and other perks of office, including generous allowance for medical treatment abroad, as retirement benefits.
The affected senior military officers are the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao.
The Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria 2017 (revised), which was exclusively obtained by journalists and marked as “Restricted”, listed the benefits of the retired Generals upon leaving the respective services.
Section 11.8 of the HTACOS 2017, a revised version of the HTACOS 2012, listed the benefits of a retiring CDS and service chiefs to include one bulletproof SUV or equivalent vehicle to be maintained by the service and to be replaced every four years; Peugeot 508 or equivalent backup vehicle; and five domestic aides made up of two service cooks, two stewards and a civilian gardener.
Each of them is also entitled to an Aide-de-Camp/security officer; special assistant of a lieutenant/captain or equivalent, or personal assistant of the rank of warrant officer or equivalent; and nine standard guards of nine soldiers.
The immediate past CDS and service chiefs are also entitled to three service drivers; one service orderly; escorts to be provided by the appropriate military units/formations as the need arises; and free medical cover in Nigeria and abroad.
They are also to retain all military uniforms and accoutrements to be worn for appropriate ceremonies, as well as personal firearms. However, such firearms shall be retrieved by the relevant services upon the death of the beneficiaries.
Section 11.19 of the HTACOS 2017 also listed the retirement benefits of a Lieutenant General for the Nigerian Army, Vice Admiral for the Navy and Air Marshal for the Air Force to include two Peugeot 508 cars, or one Toyota Land Cruiser, two cooks, two stewards, four residential guards, one service orderly, two service drivers, free medical treatment in the country and abroad to the tune of $20,000 yearly.
Meanwhile, many Major Generals and equivalence in the Navy and Air Force are expected to apply for voluntary retirement latest by Monday following the appointment of a new CDS and service chiefs by the President.
In the HTACOS, however, the retirement benefits for a Major General in the Army, Rear Admiral in the Navy and Air Vice Marshal in Air Force, who are two-star officers, include one Peugeot 508, a cook, a steward, two residential guards, one service orderly, one service driver, free medicals in Nigeria and abroad to the tune of $15,000 per year.
Their one-star officers who are Brigadier Generals, Commodore and Air Commodore upon retirement are entitled to one Peugeot 408, a service driver, two residential guards, one service orderly and free medicals locally and abroad to the tune of $10,000 each.
For Colonels, Captains and Group Captains in the Army, Navy and Air Force, respectively, each of them is expected to go with a Peugeot 301 or another car of the same value and free medical cover in the country.
The harmonised conditions of service, however, provided that for Major Generals, Brigadier Generals, Colonels and their equivalents in the Navy and the Air Force, all the benefits could be monetised for the retiring officers.
In comparison, the 2012 version of the HTACOS made provisions for one security car to be maintained by the respective service and replaced every four years; retention of all military uniforms and accoutrements to be worn for appropriate ceremonies, as well as personal firearms, which shall be retrieved by the relevant services upon the death of the beneficiaries; three domestic civilian aides (cook, gardener and steward), or cash in lieu; Aide-de-Camp/security officer; six standard guards; one service driver; and one service orderly for retiring Generals, CDS and service chiefs in Section 09.17.
The HTACOS was reviewed in 2022 in accordance with the five-year review period, but it was not signed due to rumblings that the senior generals were taking good care of themselves at the expense of the rank and file.
It was learnt that to become operative, the HTACOS would be signed by the CDS with the permission of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The current HTACOS in use specifies that the CDS and service chiefs must be four-star Generals and can hold the positions for a continuous period of two years and that the Commander-in-Chief can extend such appointments for another period of two years from the date of the expiration of the initial two-year period.
However, Section 11.09 leaves the tenure of the CDS and service chiefs open and at the discretion of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, stating, “The foregoing notwithstanding, the President, C-in-C reserves the prerogative to extend the tenure of a CDS/service chief irrespective of his age or length of service.”
Former President Muhammadu Buhari relied on this provision to retain the services of Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who were appointed in 2015 but were not replaced until January 2021 even though there were calls for them to be sacked based on the rising insecurity in the country.
‘Too many generals’
A former spokesman for the Nigerian Air Force, Group Captain Sadeeq Shehu (retd.), said the country had too many generals, which he noted had led to difficulties in appointing service chiefs in the military.
Shehu stated this on Friday in an interview with Arise TV, which was monitored by one of our correspondents.
He said, “The retirement is going to include the Generals in the Army, Air Force and the Navy. What is important is not the effect that this retirement will have on security, because we have enough Generals. If these people go, they will be replaced.
“However, it is important to note that it is not normal for the military anywhere in the world to retire about 100 Generals, and by my own estimate, we have close to 133 Major Generals in the Army, Rear Admirals in the Navy and Air Vice Marshals in the Air Force, that are leaving. We also have to remember that this is not the first time. When the last set of service chiefs retired in 2022, we had another batch of about 100 who left.
“The issue here is when you look at the money that is spent on training these people, whether it is foreign courses or the ones here, the experience we are losing and the money we are wasting on these people and then telling them to go is not good for the national economy.
“On the individual level, I must put the premise that our President and Commander-in-Chief, according to the constitutional requirement in Section 217, has the right to appoint service chiefs and the constitution does not tie his hands that in appointing service chiefs, he must pick either the most senior or the middle senior or the most junior. It is completely within his right to do that.
“But President Bola Tinubu came and met about 350 Major Generals across the services, so to be honest with you, his work was not even easy in picking his service chiefs. I think there is a problem that started long ago. We should not be having 350 Major Generals for the President to pick from. The services themselves or the superintendents in the Ministry of Defence approved that number.”
Shehu added, “When you join the military, they will tell you that the military is a pyramid. Now to maintain that pyramid, the lower bottom of the military should be higher than the next higher level. You are supposed to have a large base of Second Lieutenants who came out of the Nigerian Defence Academy in the Navy, Air Force and Army and as they progress into their second rank, which is full Lieutenant, it is almost automatic unless someone dies.
“But from Lieutenant rank, when you are moving to captain that is when the process of filtering starts coming in such a way that you have like 80 per cent, and from Captain to Major, you have like 70 per cent. Towards the end, at the top which is the General, the ideal is that you have like two per cent and a maximum of three or five per cent. But what do we have in Nigeria?
“According to the research I made, there are some courses that since they went out of the NDA, about 44 per cent of them became Major Generals. This is not a good way to go about it. So, I think the failure has to do with a well-coordinated and modern military personnel management system.
“So, I think the problem was not made by the President himself, but the military as an institution with the strict supervision of the Ministry of Defence should be able to follow this filtering process so that only the best become Generals in line with global practices. Unfortunately, that filter has not been working.”
The former NAF spokesman stated, “Those of us that studied these things as far back as 2012 noticed this tendency of promoting too many Generals. There are too many Generals. I know the times are not like when I joined the military, but I remember in 1984 when I joined the military in Kaduna, you could hardly see a Brigadier around. But what do we have now? We have too many Generals.
“We need to listen to our elders. General Ishola Williams, as far back as 2020, gave us this warning that we are having too many Generals and too little field troops. In the long run, it is the country that loses.”
Experts weigh in
Shehu added that ex-military Generals worked for their pay and that service chiefs who are made to retire suddenly, often leave the military unprepared.
He stated, “The issue is that when you continue doing this, people who leave, not really unprepared but you know what the military promises them, they are not going to attain it. So it is not a win-win situation for everybody. You lose vibrant young men, they leave unprepared and then you have a bloated military structure. And what does a bloated military do? It costs a lot of money.
“Let us be frank, there is no money you can pay somebody for his life. Whatever you pay a General after serving 35 or 30 years, he is worth it because they are in the bush and stay awake while others sleep.”
A security expert, Kabiru Adamu, said the appointment of service chiefs was political as well as professional, adding that they should benefit from what their counterparts in other parts of the world were enjoying.
He said, “There are a lot of things that are wrong with our security structure at the moment. For example, the position and role of our service chiefs is somewhere in between political and professional, and this has put them in a very difficult situation that sometimes they have to dance to the dictum of politicians.
“As an example, when they are appointed, their tenure is not clearly stated. If they are professionals, their appointments should be based on certain professional codes. Why I am saying this is to indicate that because their role is not entirely professional; it also has a political undertone; they’re entitled to benefit from the largesse of any political administration.
“By that, I mean any benefits that political appointees will get, they should get. Is this the best way to run a government, especially where the cost of governance is one of the factors affecting our economy? No. It is not, but I don’t want us to isolate them. It is something that is general with civilian administrations and sadly over time, the problem has deepened. “
Brigadier General, Bashir Adewinibi (retd.), said, “I don’t know what the service chiefs are entitled to but we have terms and conditions in the armed forces and I believe that whatever they will be entitled to would have been stated there and it will be implemented to the letter. It is their entitlement and nothing can be done to it except it is not in the harmonised conditions of service. “
On his part, Colonel Saka Foluso (retd.), said, “I don’t think there is anything too much for Generals who have put their lives on the line for over 35 years. Political appointees, who have not done what the Generals have done, get more than that for say the eight years they have served. There is nothing given to them (military officers) that is too much.
“What they will be given has been stated already, which includes driver, car and what have you; they are not too much. They have made sacrifices for these. Do you know how many joined the service with them who are no more? If you are complaining about the economy, let us block the leakages elsewhere. Curbing oil theft is one of the ways we can generate more money.”
A former military governor of the defunct Western Region, Maj. Gen. David Jemibewon (retd.), said the retirement benefits earmarked for the outgoing service chiefs and other military officers were well deserved.
He stated that it showed that the country was now paying better attention to the welfare of the “persons who have served it meritoriously and retired.”
Jemibewon said, “I don’t think there is anything wrong with the retirement packages for these men, who have served the country meritoriously and retired.
“This is evidence that the country is making positive progress towards the stabilisation of professions and recognition of efficient performance in one’s position.
“It will also, perhaps, promote higher and satisfactory performance among the serving chiefs in that they know that they will be highly rewarded for good service to the nation.
“It was not like that when I retired. This is why I said it was an improvement. The country is making a lot of progress. It was not as detailed as it is now. It is a welcome development.”
However, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Armourcop G. Security Systems Limited, Mr Timothy Avele, said he did not see how the purchase of bulletproof vehicles for the retired service chiefs would look to the common man who can barely feed at this time.
In a message to one of our correspondents, Avele said, “I don’t see the benefits of purchasing bulletproof vehicles for the retired Generals, especially now that even the common man cannot feed. I think the government just wants to appease them, otherwise, it is a drain on the economy.”
‘Don’t play politics with military’
Meanwhile, the immediate past CDS, General Lucky Irabor, has warned against playing politics with the military.
According to him, the military enjoys unity and bond not found in any other sector.
Irabor spoke at a reception organised by the Defence Headquarters after his pulling-out parade in Abuja on Friday.
“The friendship and unity that exists within the armed forces you cannot find it anywhere else and that is why you shouldn’t play politics with the military because from the 774 LGAs of this country, everyone is represented. There is no commander that goes to war with those he claims are his kinsmen,” he stated.
He said contrary to general belief, no military personnel takes any special injection to be tough but for the training and indoctrination, which come from the regimentation.
He said “The military is a family for those who may not know. It is a family. I have answered so many questions about being given an injection. What is that injection? There is no injection. The injection is training and discipline. They also said we operate like a cult; the process alone there is nothing wrong if I say we are in a cult, but it is a good cult.
“In the training establishment when I was a cadet, we spent three years, but two years later it became a five-year programme; when it was three years, the admission was every six months and when it became one year, the admission became every year.
“For you to finish a three-year program means that you will have five sets of your seniors and five sets of your juniors. The bonding that comes with it, you can’t find in any other place and that is why you think it is a cult.
“The values and traditions are transmitted from one generation to the other. When you get to the field, you see yourselves as brothers. I want to use this opportunity to appeal to our friends and the citizens, the investment in members of the armed forces is such that other sectors need to take a cue from.”
Irabor also urged his successor, Major General Christopher Musa, to follow up on some of the promises the President made for the military, adding that if they were fulfilled, it would be to the benefit of the country as well as the services.
At his pulling-out parade earlier on Friday, Irabor said he was leaving the military more capable to tackle adversaries than he met it.
He admitted that the task was not easy under his watch due to the large and diverse nature of the country.
He said, “National security for a large and diverse country like Nigeria is not an easy task, but it is also not an impossible one. In 2021, the security situation of the nation was admittedly in a state of dynamic plus. Efforts made by the Federal Government of Nigeria using the AFN in collaboration with the NPF, other security agencies and critical stakeholders were in different stages of gestation; we were encouraged to pursue these measures in addition to other initiatives to reinvigorate the national security architecture to deliver critical national security functions.
“I make bold to say that I’m leaving the armed forces of Nigeria today, bigger, stronger, and more capable to deliver on its constitutional mandate and national security functions.”
He said the military under his watch significantly curbed the threat of terrorism and piracy among others.
Irabor said, “In more specific terms, we significantly curtailed the threats of terrorism, insurgency, piracy, sea robberies, vandalism of critical national assets and kidnappings, and the military aid to civil authority role.
“We successfully work in conjunction with other security agencies and stakeholders to deliver a physical security environment that is amenable for law and order, critical democratic processes as well as human security and national development.”