The presidency has described the ambassadorial nomination of the immediate past service chiefs as reward for “hard work and exceptional sacrifice.”
This was contained in a statement by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Sunday. Mr Shehu also criticised the main opposition party, PDP, for calling for the prosecution of the retired military chiefs.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, forwarded the names of Gabriel Olonisakin, former chief of defence staff; Tukur Buratai, former chief of army staff; Abubakar Sadique, former chief of air staff and Ibok Ibas, former chief of naval staff, to the senate for confirmation.
Their nomination comes about one week after they resigned from service and their replacements named.
Reacting to their nomination, the PDP and many other Nigerians accused the Buhari administration of attempting to shield the ex-service chiefs from investigation and subsequent prosecution for alleged crimes against humanity.
Buratai, others gave their best
In reaction to the PDP’s criticism, the presidency said the ex-military chiefs gave their best to the nation and would be remembered for that.
Mr Shehu said the allegations that the presidency was trying to shield the ex-military chiefs from prosecution was false.
“The Presidency wishes to dismiss the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) attack over the widely praised nomination of the former heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Military Intelligence to the Senate for confirmation as non-career ambassadors.”
“This transition is normal in decent democratic societies.”
“But the newspapers and online media are full of pages of laughable criticisms of the President and former Service Chiefs by the party, the latest of which was the false claim that they were nominated as ambassadors so as to shield them from trial by the International Criminal Court, ICC.”
“How on earth can decent people run down hardworking professionals who have put in their best to defend their country? How can you run down your country and equate that with normal political dialogue and opposition?”
“What is baffling about this false and baseless assertion is that this is coming, not from Boko Haram terrorists who the military kept largely in check and confined to a known section of the country, Sambisa, but from a so-called leading opposition party that fraudulently kept power for 16 years and is nursing the hope of one day returning to office as an elected government.”
“What is more, under these corrupt politicians the insurgency conquered large swathes of territory-18 Local Government Areas.”
“Pray, if a political party, in a blind search for power can spurn the interest of the nation, embrace the language of hate campaign against the country’s military as enunciated by the terrorists, as the PDP does, what will be left for the Boko Haram to do? PDP is doing Boko Haram’s work!” The statement said.
The statement challenged the PDP to provide evidence to back their claims on the abuse of human rights by the ex-service chiefs.
PREMIUM TIMES, Amnesty International and various rights groups and civic organisations have reported on the extra-judicial killings and massacres carried out by the army under Mr Buratai as army chief. These include the 2015 massacre of over 300 Shiites including women children for which no soldier has been prosecuted, the shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters in Lekki Lagos, last October and the killing of unarmed residents of Oyigbo, Rivers State last year.
Mr Shehu did not address any of these cases in his statement.
“We live in an evidence-based era for arguments. If the PDP has evidence of rights abuse against the military in the war against terrorists, wouldn’t it be beneficial to the nation that they publish such evidence instead of levying grave accusations without proves? And to ask, in whose interest are they making these accusations that lack any depth?”
“To add, we don’t think the ICC, which these childish calls are being made needs to be lectured on democratic values and human rights by the PDP. Who are they, and what is their record in office to lecture anyone? Zaki Biam and Odi where thousands of citizens were on record, the genocide operation comes to mind. Did they report themselves to the ICC?”
“PDP’s attacks on the ambassadorial nominations should be seen in the context of the opposition party’s track record as a university of liars, whose modus operandi is to propagate lies.”
“The President is rewarding hard work and exceptional sacrifice by a set of military leaders who gave their best to the nation and will be remembered, sooner than later, for their contributions to the security and survival of Nigeria as one nation. They should be allowed to move to the next level.”
“This is so that their examples will help to inspire others if given the opportunity to serve,” Mr Shehu said