President Muhammadu Buhari has communicated the appointment of the Service Chiefs to the National Assembly and has sought the confirmation of the said appointment by the Senate.
This communication was done through Buhari’s letter to the Senate President dated 27th January 2021.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare who made this disclosure on Friday stated that this is in furtherance of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap. A.20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
According to Senator Omoworare, Buhari’s gesture goes contrary to fears expressed in some quarters that the president has “bypassed” the National Assembly in the process of the appointment of the Service Chiefs and that he has no intention of seeking consideration and confirmation of their appointment.
“Mr President, upon nomination for the appointments, sought confirmation of the Senate for the appointment of Major General Lucky Irabor, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff respectively, vide his aforementioned letter.
“It is on record that this same procedure was adopted when the immediate past Service Chiefs were appointed. Upon announcement of the appointment of the then Service Chiefs – Major General Abayomi Olonisakin (Chief of Defence Staff), Major General Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff), Rear Admiral Ibok-Efe Ibas (Chief of Naval Staff) and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar (Chief of Air Staff), Mr. President had written the 8th Senate on 14th July 2015 for confirmation. Whilst the correspondence was read on the floor of the Senate on 28th July 2015, consideration and confirmation of the appointments was carried out at the Committee of the Whole on 4th August 2015,” Senator Omoworare stated.
The National Assembly is to resume plenary sessions on 9th February 2021, and Omoworare said he is hopeful that then the president’s communication for consideration and confirmation of the nominations for appointment of the Service Chiefs would be undertaken.
Service Chiefs nominated, not appointed yet, says Falana
The news about President Buhari writing to the National Assembly comes a few hours after human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) faulted the president’ appointment of the new Service Chiefs following the resignation of the former officers.
In a statement personally signed by him on Wednesday, Mr Falana quoted a 2013 judgment which described the appointments of Service Chiefs without the concurrence of the National Assembly as illegal and unconstitutional.
Consequently, he said the Service Chiefs have only been nominated but not appointed.
“Yesterday, President Buhari was reported to have appointed new service chiefs for the armed forces.
“Upon a critical review of the law on the subject matter the members of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAP) have found that the appointments remain inchoate as President Muhammadu Buhari has not forwarded the names of the proposed service chiefs to the National Assembly for approval in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Armed Forces Act.
“The appointments of service chiefs without the concurrence of the National Assembly which had been the practice since 1999 was challenged in the Federal High Court sometime in 2008 by Mr. Festus Keyamo SAN (the current Minister of State in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity) in the case of Keyamo v President Goodluck Jonathan (unreported Suit No FHC/ABJ/ CS/611/2008).
“In his landmark judgment delivered on July 2, 2013, Adamu Bello J. (as he then was) held that it was illegal and unconstitutional, null and void for the President to single-handedly appoint Service Chiefs without the approval of the National Assembly having regards to the combined effect of Section 218 of the Constitution and section 18 (1) & (3) of the Armed Forces Act..,” the statement read.
“Because it was acknowledged that the judgment was sound and unimpeachable the Federal Government did not challenge any aspect of it at the Court of Appeal.
“To that extent, the judgment is binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria in accordance with the provisions of section 287of the Constitution”.
Falana and ASCAB, therefore, called on President Buhari to forward the names of the proposed Service Chiefs to both houses of the National Assembly for confirmation, stating that a failure to do so, means that the said appointments are liable to be set aside on the basis of the valid and subsisting judgment of the Federal High Court.