The air of uncertainly that has enveloped the military establishment over the tenure of the service chiefs, whose tenure, based on the Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service, would expire on July 13, 2017, it was learnt, is unwarranted since three of the service chiefs got one-year extensions last December.
A senior official in the presidency who provided clarification on the issue, when contacted Thursday, allayed concerns over the expiration of the service chiefs’ tenures, saying they were not expected to step down till December this year.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who is away in the United Kingdom receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment, had on July 13, 2015, appointed General Gabriel Olonisakin as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Vice Admiral Ekwe Ite-Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), and Air Vice Marshal Sadiq Abubakar as the Chief of Air Staff (CAS).
Based on the Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service, their appointments as service chiefs are tenured for two years, but could, at the pleasure of the president, be extended in so far as they have not reached the retirement age of 56 and/or attained the maximum length of service.
However, owing to the absence of Buhari, who also holds the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, concern was beginning to mount in the military over their fate and questions raised as to if Acting President Yemi Osinbajo could appoint new service chiefs to replace them or not.
According to sources in the Armed Forces, some senior military officers have already started positioning themselves as possible replacements, based on the hope that the two-year rule will be enforced.
But the presidency official explained there was no uncertainty over the service chiefs since Buhari had extended the tenures by one year of General Olonisakin, Vice Admiral Ite-Ibas and Air Vice Marshal Abubakar in December last year, while the tenure of General Buratai would not expire till next year.
General Olonisakin, by virtue of his age or length of service in the Nigerian Army was due for retirement last December, but had his tenure extended by Buhari.
The presidency source further revealed that Buhari also extended the tenures of Vice Admiral Ite-Ibas and Air Vice Marshal Abubakar by one year at the same time, as both of them were also due for retirement.
According to him, “Mr. President’s decision to extend their tenure was strategic because he believed that Gen. Olonisakin, as the head of the Armed Forces, could not be retired in the middle of the war against Boko Haram.
“So, Mr. President decided to extend not only Gen. Olonisakin’s tenure, but that of the Chiefs of Air and Naval Staff by one year.
“In the case of Gen. Buratai, he was a member of Course 29 in the Nigerian Army, meaning that he has not attained the retirement age or maximum length of service yet.”