Senate approves the appointment of former service chiefs as ambassador designates

NIGERIA'S senate has confirmed the recently-retired four military service chiefs as non-career ambassadors-designate paving the way for them to take over the running of overseas missions after a brief hearing today.


Earlier this month, President Muhammadu Buhari retired Nigeria's four service chiefs in chief of defence staff General Abayomi Olonisakin, chief of army staff  Lt General Tukur Buratai, chief of naval staff Vice Admiral Ibok Ette-Ibas and chief of air staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar. They were all immediately nominated for ambassadorial positions, amid speculation that this was protect them from human rights legal challenges.


International law protects diplomats from international criminal court prosecution and there had been suggestions that the four men could be indicted for the way Nigeria has conducted the war against terror in the northeast. Some political commentators had suggested that it was too early to offer the retired service chief new appointments but Presi9dent Buhari defied the critics and submitted their names to the senate.


Under Nigeria's constitutional provisions, the senate has to confirm all ambassadorial appointments and today, all four men was given the green light. Senator Mohammed Bulkachuwa, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs submitted his report clearing all the generals to the general house and his recommendations were accepted.


On February 10, senate president Senator Ahmad Lawan, had directed the committee to confirm General Olonisakin (Ekiti), Lt General Buratai (Borno), Vice Admiral Ette-Ibas (Cross River), Air Marshal Abubakar (Bauchi) and Air Vice Marshal Muhammad Usman (Kano) as non-career ambassadors. An attempt by the minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, to draw the attention of his colleagues to a petition against their confirmation was stopped by Senator Lawan.


Senator Abaribe had asked Senator Bulkachuwa, to explain why the petition against them was dismissed but the senate president said the petition lacked merit. In his presentation today, Senator Bulkachuwa said their appointments were made in line with section 171(40) of the 1999 constitution as amended.


Senator Bulkachuwa added: “Their experiences as service chiefs and in the military where they rose to the highest ranks in their careers have made them eminently qualified. The nominees were very knowledgeable and articulate in their response to questions directed at them by the committee."


He acknowledged in his report that the committee received petitions against their nominations but the petitions were dismissed. Senator Lawan then pointed out that the senate resolution demanding their removal as service chiefs last year was in no way related to President Buhari’s request for the senate to confirm them as ambassadors-designate, adding that they are two separate roles.


They were then confirmed after a motion moved by the senate majority leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, to that effect was passed. It was seconded by Senator Abaribe and as soon as it was passed, Senator Lawan advised the executive arm of government to deploy them to countries where their experiences as former military officers would be required.