After four and a half hours of screening behind closed doors, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed the appointments of the four service chiefs appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 13.
The new service chiefs are 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 the new Chief of Air Staff.
Before the service chiefs were ushered into the Senate chambers at 11.20 am, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, moved a motion that all the Senate’s relevant rules should be suspended to pave the way for their entry and consequent screening and confirmation. The exercise ended at exactly 4.05 pm.
Efforts by journalists to speak with the confirmed chiefs proved abortive as they declined to entertain questions from the media.
However, the Senate President Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, congratulated them, saying he had no doubt that the service chiefs would live up to their responsibilities.
He tasked them to thrash out corruption embedded in the procurement process of the armed forces, adding that widespread graft in the military had hampered its effective service delivery over the years.
Saraki also called on the service chiefs to justify the confidence reposed in them by the federal government by carrying out their responsibilities effectively.
He said: “On behalf of my colleagues, I hereby congratulate the service chiefs on their confirmation as service chiefs of the Republic of Nigeria. The appointment, as we all see, is coming at a very crucial time with a lot of challenges, particularly with insurgency in North-east and some of the other security issues – for example, the issue of oil theft.
“We need to observe also that they were all born in the 60s, so there are a lot of responsibilities as new generation officers to provide new direction and new leadership to our armed forces.
“We are all keen to restore the image and reputation of the armed forces. I believe that their confirmation is the beginning of the journey to restore the glory of the armed forces of our great nation.
“It is very important also that we emphasise the issue of the procurement procedure in the armed forces. It is an area that they must work hard to root out corruption.”
Also, Saraki asked the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to lead a delegation to Adamawa State today in continuation of the upper chamber’s visit to the war-torn North-east, which was kick-started on Monday by Saraki.
The Senate President had on Monday visited Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to see for himself the negative impact of insurgency in the area and consequently ascertain the state of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Members of the delegation included Senator Ahmad Lawan, Saraki’s rival and the three senators from Adamawa State. It would be Lawan’s first official assignment since he lost the bid for Senate presidency on June 9.
After their confirmation by the Senate, the service chiefs proceeded to the House of Representatives where they were grilled by members on security matters, oil theft and piracy, militancy and other issues.
The screening exercise, which lasted for three hours, was conducted on behalf of the lower chamber by the ad hoc Committee on Screening of Service Chiefs, behind closed doors.
Speaking at the end of the exercise, the committee Chairman, Hon. Datti Garba Muhammed, said the outcome would be disclosed during plenary today.
In his opening address before the closed-door session, Muhammed listed the contemporary security challenges in Nigeria, particularly the activities of the terror sect Boko Haram in the North-east, as being of paramount importance.
“The continued quest for total air surveillance of our air space and the securing of our nation’s territorial boundaries with the neighbouring countries of Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger, the menace of oil theft in the Niger Delta with its colossal and collateral damage to the country’s revenue earnings, coupled with its socio-economic consequences will be addressed,” he said.
“Also, the rampant activities of militancy in the Niger Delta, along with cases of smuggling and piracy on our water ways, which will equally require constant policing to curtail the menace will be raised,” Muhammed added.
He said the screening was meant to ascertain the competence of the nominees and for them to show cause why the president’s confidence in them was deserved.
The nominees were screened as a prelude to their final confirmation by the House in compliance with the provisions of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A. 20 Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, Muhammed said.