PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to nominate the four recently-replaced armed service chiefs as ambassadorial candidates has attracted widespread condemnation from political commentators as it is it seen as an attempt to shield them from prosecution.
Last week, President Buhari replaced chief of defence staff General Gabriel Olonisakin, chief of army staff Lt General Tukur Buratai, chief of air staff Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique and chief of naval staff Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas. Yesterday, President Buhari stunned political watchers by forwarding their names to the senate for confirmation as ambassadors.
Under Nigeria’s constitutional provisions, ambassadorial nominees need to be confirmed by the senate and it is believed that President Buhari took the step to shield the generals from prosecution for human rights abuses while they were in office. Article 29 of the Vienna Convention protects diplomats from arrest and grants them immunity against civil and criminal prosecution.
Human rights activist Aisha Yesufu described the decision as showing that the president was clueless and had failed Nigerians, while another civil rights campaigner Deji Adeyanju, said President Buhari was shielding them from war crimes prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC). One legal practitioner and the head of chambers at Akeredolu and Olujimi, noted that the president has the power of appointments and he has duly exercised it but the issue of diplomatic immunity is a different ball game.
Comrade Waheed Lawal, the chairman of Osun Civil Societies Coalition, added: “The news indeed came as a shocker to me personally. I can’t but imagine how the same persons the president sacked are those whose name were forwarded to the National Assembly as non-career ambassadors.
“These are old people that should have retired years ago but they even overstayed their time in public service as stipulated in the country’s constitution. Maybe the president is indeed clueless.”
He maintained that Nigeria had abundance of capable youths who can bring fresh insights into governance and administration in the country. Journalist and a civil right activist, Ayodeji Ologun added that the move proves that the president and the presidency has a lot under the shades.
Mr Ologun said: “It would ordinarily be expected that men who just left service need time to rest and enjoy their retirement but having them almost immediately being appointed as ambassadors to me is an attempt to shield them from investigations and charges that may come against them. Also, there are more than enough hands across the country that could serve as ambassadors.
“Like it has often been speculated, these individuals possibly have some very deep secrets which makes the presidency want to shield them and make it impossible to dispense with them. To me, there is a grand plan and only time will reveal it.”
Waheed Saka, the convener of Dialogue 365, stated that the right to appoint ambassadors is a presidential right subject to confirmation by the National Assembly but maintained that this nomination was a presidential way of rewarding failure. He maintained that the nomination was unmerited and a reward for inefficiency and stand condemned.
Mr Saka called on the National Assembly to reject the nominations in the interest of fairness since it was shameful and condemnable. There have been calls since their retirement last week for the prosecution of the military leaders, especially Lt General Buratai who led the Nigerian Army for about five and a half years.