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Buhari defends his choice of new service chief

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President Muhammadu Buhari (left); Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor and Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Farouk Yahaya during their visit to the president in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: NAN

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has defended his choice of newly appointed service chiefs, stating they earned their appointments.

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“They trained in Zaria or Abeokuta, they come through the ranks and because they served under all the circumstances…the crises and everything and they gradually rise to the status,” Buhari said during an interview with Arise TV on Thursday.

“These positions have to be earned.”

The president has been criticised for allegedly appointing more northerners in strategic positions. In the interview, the Nigerian leader said he cannot jettison seniority and merit for balance and federal character.

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Buhari, however, said he will not neglect those who have passed through training and ranks to pick somebody “just to balance up.”

He said each appointee earned their positions and some of them have been “there for 10 to 15 years.”

The Nigerian Constitution states that major appointments and other privileges should be shared in such a way that it reflects Federal Character, that is balanced across the 36 states.

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The recent appointment of the Chief of Army Staff, Yahaya Faruk, however, contradicts the claim by the President.

Yahaya was picked over many of his seniors who have more years in service and may now be forced into retirement. Yahaya is a Northerner like President Buhari.

He was the general officer commanding 1 Division of the Nigerian Army and the incumbent theatre commander of the counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency outfit in the northeast.

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About 10 Major-Generals will be retired from the service following the emergence of Yahaya, a member of the 37 Regular Course as the 22nd COAS, as serving members of Regular Course 35, 36 and 37 in the army, airforce and navy may be forced out of service.

This is in line with military tradition since the affected Generals cannot serve under a junior officer.

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