Siding With Lawmakers, 8 In 10 Nigerians Want Service Chiefs Replaced

As they spend five years in office and against the backdrop of unending insecurity across the country, eight in 10 Nigerians who responded to a survey conducted by HumAngle have passed a vote of no confidence on Nigeria’s current crop of service chiefs.

The survey, which was conducted between Monday and Wednesday on Twitter, a microblogging platform, gathered a total of 2,655 votes.

84.4 per cent of the respondents said they believe the service chiefs are not doing a good job and “should go”, 5.3 per cent replied that they are “doing a great job”, and 10.3 per cent were indifferent.

“I think one needs to measure the overall impact of the service chiefs in Nigeria, taking into consideration the number of lives lost, including those of the Nigerian soldiers and civilians, general security issues, and the total number of terrorists who have been freed instead,” one Twitter user suggested in response to the poll.

“They are incompetent and overdue; they’re not ready to end this terrorism. Let them go,” Muhammad Lawan tweeted more emphatically.

The appointment of the service chiefs was announced by Muhammadu Buhari in July 2015 shortly after rising to become president on the back of a campaign that promised three key things: fixing the economy, fighting corruption, and ending insecurity. His background as a former military leader improved his chances as many Nigerians saw him as having the relevant experience to end insurgency that had ravaged the country for half a decade.

He appointed Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin as Chief of Defence 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.

He also made Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan the Chief of Defence Intelligence and Retired Major-General Babagana Monguno the National Security Adviser.

Nigerians’ demands for their removal or resignation are made against the background of frequent killings, especially in the northern region, as a result of the activities of terrorists, bandits, and other armed groups.

President Buhari himself said in a closed meeting with the chiefs in June that he was “extremely unhappy” about the security situation and that their best was not good enough. But Nigerians wondered why he was still leaving them in the positions despite his dissatisfaction.

Nigeria’s federal lawmakers have taken a step beyond expressing concern about the service chiefs’ performance. On Tuesday, the Senate in a motion asked the chiefs to “step aside” and asked security agencies to investigate why officers were withdrawing from service.

Earlier, in January, the senators had likewise urged President Buhari to appoint new service chiefs.

“They have done their bits and their tenure has expired. They are illegally occupying the seat. It will be good for the government to allow the security chiefs to go and bring in new people to add vigour to the fight against security,” said Betty Apiafi, lawmaker representing Rivers West Senatorial District.

“We are complaining about the police not being enough. I think all of us and Nigerians should actually stop using police as private security. Let the police people go out and do their jobs.”

Around the same period, members of the House of Representatives made a similar call over incessant attacks in the Northeast by terrorist groups.

“As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the buck stops on the president’s desk. We should pressure the service chiefs,” Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house, said as he read the resolution. “They need to go. Let them come [for a meeting]. We will hand them the resignation ourselves in case they said they did not hear.”

The presidency does not, however, seem moved by the various calls. Reacting to the Senate’s recent resolution, presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, insisted on Tuesday that the government will do what it thinks is in the national interest.

“The presidency notes the resolution, and reiterates that appointment or sack of service chiefs is a presidential prerogative, and President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, will do what is in the best interest of the country at all times,” he said.

Meanwhile, insecurity in Nigeria appears to be worsening. Data from the Nigeria Security Tracker shows that, as of Friday, July, 6,667 people have lost their lives across the country as a result of insecurity. Out of this number, over 1,500 were civilians and 595 were security personnel, over 350 of whom recently resigned from the force due to “loss of interest”.

Over 1,100 people have also been victims of kidnapping in the period of less than seven months. The rates of violence particularly increased as Nigeria went into lockdown towards the end of March.

During an interview with Channels TV on Wednesday, Shehu Mahdi, a human rights activist, called on the government to right the wrongs by bringing an end to the bloodbath.

“People are being killed by the minute, by the hour, by the day, by the week, by the month, all year through, and we say we have government in power, and we say we have elected representatives in power, and we say we have an assembly in the state in power, and we have people of conscience all folding their arms, keeping silent as if they could be called cowards,” he said.

“If anybody claims he is doing his best, then his best is not enough,” he added.

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'Kunle Adebajo

Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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