…say “policy met to eradicate officers who were granted Short Service and Direct Short Service Commission
By: Okosun Dennis
For a very long time, officers of the Nigerian Army have not shown so much discontent against one another as it is been played out now due to compulsory merger of service; a policy enunciated in 2019 that tends to run contrary to the Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) Officers 2017 (Revised).
This unpalatable emerging scenario is making some officers to be singing discordant battle song arising from the policy enuciation in 2019.
This is contained in a letter some aggrieved officers of the Nigerian Army have written to the Chief of Staff to the President,
Presidential Villa, Professor Agboola Ibrahim Gambari seeking his intervention to compel the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Tukur Buratai to rescind the policy that is capable of truncating their career in the service.
The letter titled “NEED TO STOP THE ONGOING FEELING OF ANIMOSITY AMONG COMMISSIONED OFFICERS OF THE NIGERIAN ARMY RESULTING FROM PREMATURE RETIREMENT OF SOME CATEGORY OF OFFICERS,” explicitly pointed out the different types of commissioning in the Army and vehemently kicked against the policy targeted at ruining their careers in the service.
Investigations revealed that the design is met to ensure that the condition set by HTACOS was obliterated thereby making some career Officers to be prematurely retired from the service. They frowned at such practice which doesn’t take into consideration or respect the oath of alliegence sworn to on commission.
Describing the policy as “ill-conceived” they explained that the policy meant to eradicate officers who were granted Short Service Commission (SSC) and Direct Short Service Commission (DSSC) and who later converted to Regular Combatant Commission and Direct Regular Commission respectively.
They averred that the present policy has resulted to premature or untimely retirement of these categories of officers to the detriment of the Nigerian Army and by extension doesn’t help the system to grow and achieve optimal result from affected officers.
However, it was revealed that around October 2019, the present administration of the Nigerian Army came up with the policy of compulsory merger of service.
By this policy, the years which officers who were granted Short Service Commission (SSC) and Direct Short Service Commission (DSSC) and who later converted to Regular Combatant Commission and Direct Regular commission respectively spent in training at the Nigerian Military School (NMS), the unit and in the University are compulsorily merged with their years of service as Commissioned Officers.
This “obnoxious policy”, it was learnt led to the retirement of some senior officers in the rank brackets of Brigadier Generals and some Colonels in 2019.
“Why changing the goal post when the match has begun? A concerned officer observed anonymously. He added, “In this same Army, there are officers that have served between 36 to 41 years and still counting. No one has forcefully retired them. Why targeting young, vibrant officers who are ready to put more years into the service just because of the type of commission he or she was granted? This is discriminatory and against common sense.”
According to the letter, “Paragraph 03.10 sub paragraph g of the HTACOS Officers 2017 (Revised) clearly stated as follows, “On the grant of Regular Combatant Commission, a serving Soldier/Rating/Civilian shall be discharged to commission in which case his length of service shall commence from the date of commission.
It further stated that, “His previous service would, therefore, cease to be reckonable”. Sub paragraph h of paragraph 03.10 went further to state as follows, “However, a soldier/rating/airman/civilian who served in the public service before enlistment into the service, may if he so desires, apply for merger of his previous public service not later than three years from date of commission (for the purpose of pension and gratuity/emolument). If approved, the length of service shall include the period of public service”.
It was gathered that at the moment, different categories of Commissioned officers in the Nigerian Army (NA) such as Regular, Combatant, Short Service, Direct Regular, Direct Short Service, Executive and Concessional Commissioned officers abound in the force.
However, they argued that the Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) Officers 2017 (Revised) is the current law which regulates the terms and conditions of service for all the category of Commissioned officers in the Nigerian Army.
And as such, “For a person to be granted a particular type of Commission in the NA, he/she needs to satisfy some conditions as provided in the HTACOS Officers 2017 (Revised).
It stipulates that “The HTACOS Officers 2017 provided that a person can be granted Regular Combatant Commission through two ways, which are by undergoing five years Cadet training at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) or by conversion from Short Service Combatant Commission to Regular Combatant Commission.
“The HTACOS also stated the criteria which a Short Service Combatant Commissioned Officer must satisfy before he can be granted Regular Combatant Commission. Upon the grant of Regular Combatant Commission, the Short Service Combatant Commissioned Officer shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges which the other categories of Regular Combatant Officers are entitled to.
Interestingly, the anonymous petitioners (for avoidance of victimisation) maintained that “Paragraph 03.10 sub paragraph g of the HTACOS Officers 2017 (Revised) clearly stated as follows, “On the grant of Regular Combatant Commission, a serving soldier/rating/civilian shall be discharged to commission in which case his length of service shall commence from the date of commission. His previous service will therefore cease to be reckonable”.
Unfortunately, however, the present policy has set aside all these conditions and provisions that regulates the years an officer could serve, thereby forcing him/her to embark on Compulsory retirement against his wish and commission.
Explaining the import of their angst and anger against what has been termed, “an attempt to force some officers out of the service without constituted authority, review of the provisions of HTACOS,” the letter alluded to the fact that “It did not in any manner exclude officers who were granted Regular Combatant Commission by reason of conversion.
“Since the formation of the NA, paragraph 03.10 sub paragraphs g and h has been interpreted to capture both officers who were granted Regular Combatant Commission after five years training at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and those who were granted Regular Combatant Commission by virtue of conversion from Short Service Combatant Commission.
“This present policy has resulted to premature or untimely retirement of these categories of officers to the detriment of the NA. These categories of officers have the impression that this policy is targeted towards retiring them prematurely from the system.
Butressing their argument with cogent reasons on the need to set aside the policy which might bring some measure of retrogression as large chunk of some of the best trained career officers, professionals would be sent out from the service; a senior officer who frowned at the policy, said it was “discriminatory, segregatory and would noxiously pitch some officers against the other.”
He further explained that “If two officers that passed out from the Nigerian Military School (NMS) and were posted to serve in a unit for some years before they gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy and Civil institution respectively, why would one be considered as inferior before the other in the same service?
He added, “The years both of them served in the unit are not counted for the officer who gained admission into NDA where as such years are counted for the officer who went to Civil institution including the period/years of study.
“The irony of this policy is that it is designed to treat these set of officers who didn’t go to NDA for five years as “slaves” in the army and in their own country. Worst still, there are appointments such an officer cannot hold in the Nigerian Army, for example, they cannot be posted to work at the Military Secretary’s Office.
“They are looked upon as inferior commissioned officers. Fortunately, these officers that are discriminated against are more in number and are deployed in all the theatres of war fighting terrorists, banditary and other organised crimes while the so-called “angelic superior commissioned officers” hide in various offices in Abuja and in the Niger Delta.
“The implication of this is that the officer who gained Regular Commission by reason of conversion is retired early while the other officer will serve longer. This has resulted to premature retirement of officers who gained Regular Commission by conversion.
Some officers, who, inadvertently had such commission have condemned the policy intoto saying that “This current policy of compulsory merger contravenes the provision of paragraph 03.10 sub paragraphs g and h of HTACOS which made merger of service optional for every Regular Combatant Officer.
“Every right thinking person would understand that this policy is aimed at securing the premature retirement of a particular group of officers. The policy is already generating ill-feelings and acrimony among officers in the NA,” they stated.
Reiterating, averred that the development is not good for the nation and the Nigerian Army, especially during this period the force is battling with numerous security challenges in the North East and engaged in one form of operation or the other.
Based on this facts it was further gathered, and as a result of these developments, they are seeking the assistance of the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Mohammadu Buhari, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; the Secretary to the Federal Government of the Federation, the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on the Army, the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Agboola Ibrahim Gambari, to compel the COAS, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai to retracts and rescinds the policy.
“Sir, we are encouraged by your patriotic nature and character of uprightness in appealing to you to please compel the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai to discard this policy of compulsory merger of service in order to prevent the untimely retirement of officers from the NA.
“More so, this policy of compulsory merger of service is breeding hatred, animosity and ill-feeling among officers in the same force. This development is not healthy for espirit de corp.
“Many of the officers affected by this obnoxious policy are fighting in the front lines. How can they now put in their best when they know that their service has been merged compulsorily against their wish and could be thrown out of the force prematuredly,” they concluded.
When contacted on phone, the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sagir Musa to respond on the alleged policy that has led to some premature retirement in the army and what the force is doing to address the imbalances and complaints arising from the letter, he failed to respond to the call as well as message sent to his Whatapps line despite reading the message.