The Nigerian Army on Wednesday shocked the court when it attributed the compulsory retirement of some top officers in 2016 to their failure to renew their appointments.
About 37 officers, including Generals, were summarily dismissed via a letter on June 9, 2016.
In the statement announcing their retirement, the Army said that the officers were sacked by the Army Council for alleged electoral and contract-related fraud.
The development was controversial, as most of the officers did not face any panel or probe before their retirement.
This triggered widespread condemnation and was followed by suits filed by the retired officers at the National Industrial Court, Abuja.
At the hearing of a suit filed by Col. D. R. Hassan, one the affected officers, a lawyer working with the Nigerian Army’s Legal Department, said that the soldiers were dismissed “for failing to renew their appointments after 18 years.”
The lawyer, who introduced herself as Captain N. Okorie, said that based on the oath of allegiance sworn by the military officers during their first appointment, their contract was due for renewal after 18 years.
Okorie said that the failure of the officers to write their superiors for the renewal of their appointments amounted to a “serious offence.”
“He took an oath of allegiance to be employed for 18 years, after which he would renew his employment. He failed to comply with the provisions. That is a serious offence,” Okorie said when she answered questions from Hassan’s lawyer, Samuel Zibiri
Premium Times reported that Okorie added that from her knowledge, the necessary disciplinary measure for such an action was for the Army to “issue the sacked officers with the summary dismissal letter.”
“The disciplinary measure is to write the letter which is what the Army has done,” Okorie said.
After her submissions, the defence lawyer asked Okorie to read through Section 123 of the Army Act, Cap 20, Laws of Nigeria.
The section explains that before a disciplinary measure will be taken against an army officer, the allegation shall first be reported in a charge sheet to the commanding officer of the accused who will act based on the charge.
After reading through the Army Act, Okorie objected to its requirement in the issue. She said that although the Act stipulates the given procedure for the punishment of erring officers, the matter in question did not require referral to the Act.
Shortly after Hassan’s case was adjourned, the court began a similar matter involving another retired Colonel, Mohammed Suleiman.
Suleiman was called into the dock as a witness and asked why he did not write a letter renewing his appointment after 18 years in the Army.
He however explained that as a regular staff, he knew there was no need for him to have written such a letter.
“A regular officer is supposed to serve for 35 years,” Suleiman sad.
The case was adjourned till October 8, 2018 for continuation of hearing.