Members of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions were on Wednesday infuriated by the refusal of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, to honour the invitation of the committee.
The committee had sent invitation to Mr. Buratai to appear before a public hearing over a petition submitted by a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, Abdulfatai Mohammed.
Mr. Mohammed alleged that the Army forcefully retired him in June 2016 without explanation after 22 years of service.
The public hearing started at about 3.30 p.m. with the petitioner tendering additional evidence to the committee for consideration.
At the expiration of his speech, the chairman of the committee, Samuel Anyanwu, called out the name of Mr. Buratai to hear the Nigerian Army’s side of the story.
However, instead of his intended respondent, an Army officer who introduced himself as Major Daniel from the Legal Services Department spoke as representative of Mr. Buratai.
This incurred the fury of the lawmakers who branded Mr. Buratai as ‘disrespectful’ and ‘insulting.’
Mr. Anyanwu expressed disappointment that despite his efforts and ‘due respect’ to the Chief of Army Staff, he decided to ignore the invitation.
“I was called last week by my clerk that the Chief of Army Staff said I should personally sign the invitation letter before he can attend to us and I did. I find it difficult to believe that he didn’t honour our invitation. We also have a General as member of this committee and he deemed it fit not to come here to listen to us.
“The last time we invited the Chief of Air Force, he was here in person. The same thing with Navy. I respect you and your position as a major, but tell whoever sent you that we are not going to listen to you.”
Lending his voice, another member of the committee, Ovie Omo Agege, said that Mr. Buratai’s act was an insult to the Senate.
“If you like, you can be anything, sending you here instead of appearing is insulting. He is insulting us by this act,” he said.
Another member, Binta Garba, said that the COAS belittled the Senate by sending “not even the head of a department but an ordinary major.
“Even if they will send someone from the legal department, it should be the head and not a major,” she said.
Mr. Anyanwu declared the public hearing closed while sending a verbal invitation to Mr. Buratai.
“Go and tell your Chief of Army Staff that this committee takes exception to this kind of insult and would not take it. Tell him that we didn’t attend to you and in the next sitting, we expect him to appear in person,” he said.
The army had in June 2016 announced the compulsory retirement of the 38 officers on different ranks on the grounds of alleged professional misconduct during the 2015 general elections, as well as involvement in the $2.1 billion arms procurement scandal.
However, investigations revealed that the Army breached its own rule by retiring most of the officers without query or indictment by any panel, thereby raising question of arbitrariness.
Many of the officers, like Mr. Mohammed, had their careers abruptly cut short for reasons that smack of high-level arbitrariness by authorities of the Army, according to our findings.
Nothing has come of the efforts of the officers to get justice and be reinstated using several windows afforded them by law.
At least thrice, they have petitioned the Presidency. But at no time has any of them been replied.
The petition to the Senate is the latest of their efforts at seeking reinstatement.