A group of civil rights advocates concerned about national unity, peace-building and protection of human rights has written an open letter to the National Assembly faulting the composition of new service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari.
To this end, the group under the aegis of Conference of Nigeria Civil Rights Defenders (CNCRD), in the letter, appealed to the legislature to seek a review of the composition from the president to reflect the nation’s existing federal character principles.
It specifically said the exclusion of the Igbos which it noted, was the third-largest ethnic group in the country from the security management team for the second time during this administration leaves much to be desired, hence the need for the alleged wrongs to be corrected before screening by the lawmakers.
In the letter, dated Monday, February 15, 2021, and titled: ‘Open Letter to the National Assembly on the Screening of the New Service Chiefs,’ the Conference of Nigeria Civil Rights Defenders, expressed its total support to the position of Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, for a review of the service chiefs’ composition, saying its position was for equity and fairness.
The coalition, in the letter signed by its National Coordinator, Dr Hassan Muhammad, and National Secretary, Barr. (Mrs) Ibinabo Pere Jaja, called “on the National Assembly as the representative of the people to prevail on Mr President to correct this gross injustice by reviewing the appointments in the interest of justice and national unity.”
The letter read in part: “We are a coalition of civil society organizations whose thematic area of intervention is mainly on national unity, peacebuilding and protection of human rights. This is what we have been doing for several years of our existence.
“We write to throw our weight behind the Igbo apex socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on the exclusion of Igbo from South East in the composition of the new service chiefs which to us, is a gross violation of the federal character principles and a clear bias against the Igbos.
We call on the National Assembly as the representative of the people to prevail on Mr President to correct this gross injustice by reviewing the appointments in the interest of justice and national unity.”
The group said while it believed that besides competence, the president reserved the right to appoint military officers of his choice into the security management team, leaving out officers of Igbo origin in two straight appointments into the position was a clear case of bias against the Igbo nation.
“While it is true that competency should be the criteria for appointment of this nature and not ethnic considerations, we must say that only when there are justice and equity that genuine peace and reconciliation can be achieved,” it noted.
According to the group,” Igbo is the third largest tribe with qualified, competent, and tested officers in all the branches of the Armed Force of Nigeria.”
“We wonder why the Presidency did not look inward and pick one of them in two consecutive times that he made service chiefs’ appointments! What is really the sin of the Igbos? Or are other tribes more Nigeria than others? It asked.
The rights group explained: “Our position is premised on justice, fairness and equity and not personal or sectional sentiments.”
It expressed fears that “If nothing is done to address the several injustices being perpetrated against the Igbo and other regions, our corporate existence in Nigeria will have some question marks.”
“As a people and group who believe in the unity of Nigeria, we have to speak out.
“South East has consistently been marginalized in key appointments over time and there is an urgent need to address it now.
“The National Assembly must prevail on the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, to review the appointments of the new service chiefs to reflect national unity by including an officer from the Southeast in the composition.
“Appointing an Igbo person as one of the service chiefs will naturally give a large section of this country not just Igbos alone a complete sense of justice and a hope of a better Nigeria,” the group noted.
The group hailed patriotic Nigerians for rising in defence of the review, saying the development was an indication that many Nigerians had risen above selfish interests.
“We wish to strongly commend other patriotic Nigerians who have risen in support of this call for a review in the composition of service chiefs. Patriotic Nigerians across the entire regions of our country have come in defence of this noble call. This really shows that we have honest and just Nigerians from all parts of the country. We believe that we are better together this way,” the group added.