President Muhammadu Buhari had on February 4, 2021, appointed the retired service chiefs as non-career ambassadors.
The nominees are General Abayomi Olonisakin (Rtd) – Ekiti; Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (Rtd) – Borno; Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas (Rtd) – Cross River; Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (Rtd) – Bauchi; and Air Vice Marshal Muhammad S. Usman (Rtd) – Kano.
Gen Olonisakin had served as Chief of Defense Staff (CDS); Buratai as Chief of Army Staff (COAS); Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff (CNS); Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff (CAS) and Usman as Chief of Defense Intelligence (CDI).
President Buhari, in a letter addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said their nomination as non-career ambassadors designate was in accordance with Section 171 (1), (2) (c) and Sub-Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The president appointed the ex-service chiefs in 2015 and refused to bow to the pressure of relieving them of their duties until they “voluntarily” resigned.
Before their “retirement,” there had been widespread calls for their removal over failure to contain the security challenges facing the country, which critics said became exacerbated under their watch. So, their appointments as ambassadors sparked public outrage, with calls on the senate to reject their nominations.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the appointments was a plot to shield them from investigation over alleged killing of Nigerians “and crimes against humanity under their inglorious watch.”
In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP charged the senate to eschew all partisan considerations and stand on the side of the people.
Reacting to PDP’s stand, a presidential spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, defended their nominations, saying the ex-service chiefs failed only in the eyes of those who did not know what success was.
Despite the outrage, the senate, on February 23, 2021, confirmed their nominations.
Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which screened the nominees, in a report, said “their experiences as service chiefs and in the military where they rose to the highest ranks in their careers have made them eminently qualified; and the nominees were very knowledgeable and articulate in their responses to questions directed at them by the committee.”
Sen Bulkachuwa, however, disclosed that, “The committee received petitions against their nominations as non-career ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but the petitions were dismissed.”
The Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, demanded explanation as to the rationale behind the dismissal of the petitions against the nominees by the committee, particularly against the backdrop of the senate’s resolutions in the past calling for their removal as service chiefs.
However, the Senate President, Lawan, pointed out that the senate’s resolution demanding their removal was in no way related to President Buhari’s request for it to confirm them as ambassadors-designate, adding that “these are two separate roles.”
Sen Lawan further said, “Without prejudice to what the executive will do, where we need to fight the Boko Haram insurgency and banditry, because of their experience in the field, they should be able to interact very closely and sufficiently to advice and create the atmosphere for working together for partnership and cooperation between Nigeria and those countries.
“So, I think on that scope the nominations cannot be nullified because we said they should be changed.”
In diplomatic practice, ambassadors-designate are deployed to foreign missions only when agreemos have been sought and obtained from prospective countries. The period differs from country to country.
An agreemo is a memorandum from one country to another agreeing to the appointment of an ambassador or envoy.
After obtaining an agreemo and an envoy-designate briefed on their mandate, they will be issued Letter of Credence signed by the president or head of state, which will be presented to the president or head of state of the host country.
Sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Daily Trust Saturday that all necessary procedures for the deployment of the retired service chiefs were yet to be completed.
It was further gathered that the former military chiefs had undergone an induction (orientation) course, assigned portfolios and would resume duty when agreemos are received from the host countries.
It is not yet clear where the ex-service chiefs would serve, but sources said they are assigned to Nigeria’s neighbouring countries.
The source further said, “When the career and non-career ambassadors-designate (screened before the nomination of the former service chiefs) were assigned portfolios, neighbouring countries were left vacant. But we don’t know who will be posted there.
“You know they only make postings public when agreemos are signed by the host countries to avoid negative stories in case an ambassador is rejected.
“So we don’t know whether they have gotten the agreemos or not. That is the stage it’s right now.”
It was further gathered that a good number of agreemos had been obtained from foreign governments and the affected envoys had been presented Letters of Credence and deployed to their places of assignment.
Deployment process on course – Ministry
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the procedure for the deployment of the former service chiefs to diplomatic posts overseas was on course.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, told Daily Trust that, “I don’t think anything is delaying their deployment. Things have to go according to procedure; an agreemo has to be sent and the receiving country has to respond because they are just like any other non-career ambassadors.”
Mr Nwoye added that, “I don’t know why there should be so much emphasis on them. They are going there to do the job just like other non-career ambassadors will.”
President Buhari had since January approved the posting of career and non-career ambassadors to foreign missions.
In a statement in January, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, announced the presidential approval.
Amb Aduda said in the statement that, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the posting of ambassadors-designate to Nigerian missions abroad. The list includes 43 career ambassadors and 52 non-career ambassadors.
“With this development, the process of requesting agreement from the prospective host countries has commenced.”
A breakdown of the postings showed that Dr Uzoma Emenike, a career diplomat, was posted to the United States, while M.I. Bashir serves as his deputy; Sarafat Ishola will serve as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; Demola Seriki will resume in Spain; Omah Djebah in Thailand and Debo Adesina in Togo.
Tijani Muhammmad-Bande serves as Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York; Adeyinka as High Commissioner to Canada; Mohammed Rimi (United Arab Emirates); Ahmad Baba Jidda (China); Gani Bura (Lebanon); Yusuf Tuggar (Germany); Baba Madugu (Switzerland); Deborah Illiya (Congo); Modupe Irele (Hungary) and Eniola Ajayi (Netherlands).
Others are Ijeoma Chineyerem (Ireland); Abdulahi Shehu (Russia); Haruna Manta (South Africa); Kayode Laro (France); Paul Adikwu (The Vatican); Abubakar Moriki (Japan); Mrs Opunimi Akinkugbe (Greece) and Ali Magashi (South Korea).
M.O. Abam is posted to Italy; N.A. Kolo (Israel); A. Sule (India); G.Y. Hamza (Ghana); A.N. Madubike (Australia) and O.C Onowu (Belgium).
The remaining appointees are to serve as deputy ambassadors or heads of mission. They include A.E. Alleboy (France); G.E. Edokpa (United Nations), Ben Okoyen (Cuba); G.M. Okeke (Switzerland); S. Sani (UK); I.A Iwejuo (Ethiopia), A. Alatishe (Russia) and I.R. Ocheni (Germany).