Nigerian president appoints new military chiefs
Country’s top brass had faced mounting criticism for failing to crush Boko Haram insurgency

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed new top military commanders Monday, hours after he sacked the country's military chiefs in an apparent bid to restructure the army before tackling the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s volatile northeast.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said in a statement that the president appointed Major General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin as Chief of Defense staff, Major-General Tukur Buratai as Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff.

Other appointments included Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan as Chief of Defense Intelligence and retired Major-General Babagana Monguno as National Security Adviser.

Sources at Nigeria's military headquarters said the sacking of the former military chiefs came "just hours" after Buhari had met with them at the Aso Rock Villa in the Nigerin capital, Abuja.

Nigeria’s national security advisor and chiefs of defense army, naval, air staff were all dismissed from their positions.

The sackings were long expected as many Nigerians have criticized the military's handling of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.

This is in addition to allegations that the military hierarchy became politicized under the previous government and charges of human rights abuses against top military chiefs.

Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst for Red24, a crisis and security management assistance company, said the hammer was long expected to fall on the military hierarchy.

"The decision was needed,” Cummings said. "President Buhari was pressured to take decisive steps against the Boko Haram resurgence. The Amnesty report (accusing the army of human rights violations) brought additional pressure for reform.”

But he doubted the mass firing, one of the most sweeping in the history of the Nigerian army, would lead to any disturbance in the country's political leadership.

"It is unlikely in my opinion," he said. "The Nigerian army is too decentralized these days. Plus, those sacked are unlikely to have the support of the rank and file."

Dr Abubakar Mu'azu, a security analyst and researcher of the Boko Haram insurgency, also hailed the president's decision.

"It is long overdue. I hope that the new chiefs will do something drastic about this insurgency," he told Anadolu Agency.


Austin Umoh, an international relations and strategic studies lecturer at Lagos State University, said: "I think the appointments respect regional balancing to a good extent and with no one from his northwest region, it will be unfair to accuse the president of any bias. In any event, no one can say these appointments are not based on competence."

"The new Chief of Defence Staff, Maj.-Gen. Olonishakin, hails from Ekiti State (southwest),” the presidential spokesman’s statement said.

"Until his appointment as Chief of Defence Staff today, he was the Head of the Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command in Minna, Niger State," the statement said.

"The new Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Buratai hails from Borno State (northeast). Until his new appointment today, he was the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force which has its headquarters in Ndjamena,” the statement said.

The new Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibas, hails from Cross River State in the oil rich south and the new Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Abubakar, hails from Bauchi State in the insurgency-wracked northeast.

"The new Service Chiefs will hold their appointments in an acting capacity until confirmed by the Senate," according to the statement.

"President Buhari thanks the outgoing Service Chiefs and National Security Adviser for their services to the nation and wishes them well in their future endeavours."

Attacks by the notorious militant group Boko Haram have spiked in recent weeks, with over 400 people killed across the northern region since Buhari assumed the presidency on May 29.

Last Modified: 2015-07-14 11:56:06
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