The Presidency has announced the appointment of the Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim as the new Chief of Defence Staff. A Regular Course 17 officer, Vice Admiral Sa’ad enlisted in the Nigerian Armed Forces in December 1974. Until his appointment, he was Chief of the Naval Staff, a position in which his clear articulation of the equipment needs of the Nigerian Navy has seen the service positioned to receive an unprecedented number of oceangoing vessels and coastal patrol craft.
In a related development which clearly signposts the President’s confidence in his competent handling of the multipronged insurgencies, Lt General Onyeabo Ihejirika has been reappointed Chief of Army Staff. This is an unprecedented development which has not happened since the time between 1985 and 1990 when General Sani Abacha served as COAS.
Ihejirika’s robust reponse to the Boko Haram challenge, particularly the massive retraining of personnel in the intricacies of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in an army which, regardless of having piled on a rich repertoir of experience in counterinsurgency and urban warfare from a string of long-term campaigns in Liberia and Sierra Leone, was ill-prepared for the strange and added dimension of terrorism manifesting as IED blasts and suicide bombings.
Under Lt.General Ihejirika’s watch, the Army has speedily and remarkably readjusted to new realities. This has chiefly been achieved through the 3-4 week Basic CTCOIN Proficiency Training Course centred around hostage rescue, house clearing, Fighting in Built-Up Areas, Close Quarter Combat, ambush defeat, among others. Only last month, and to add to the output from the Jaji and Kachia centres for the training of CTCOIN troops, the Nigerian Army Training Centre at Kontagora was declared open with an initial turnover of 1,952 troops trained in CTCOIN operations for seven weeks.
Entirely new to the board as service chiefs are Rear Admiral Dele Jerome Ezeoba who assumes the position of Chief of the Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh who becomes Chief of the Air Staff.
Ezeoba is a highly competent officer of Delta State origin (an Ibusa native), who has lately served as a branch chief at the Naval and Defence HQs respectively. He once chaired a Presidential Committee on maritime security which produced a blueprint for the response to security challenges such as illegal bunkering and piracy. He is probably the best person other than his predecessor, who can be trusted to steer the ongoing flurry of naval acquisitions to fruition. Ezeoba is known to be a firm believer in the inevitability of platforms’ acquisition as a way out of the maritime security challenges facing the nation and was a guest speaker at the OPV Conference in Singapore last year.
Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh who has been appointed Chief of the Air Staff used to be a branch chief at NAF HQ until mid-year 2012 when he was appointed Air Officer Commanding, Training Command. He oversaw the NAF Air Expo 2012 during his time as a branch chief at NAF HQ.
As is customary, a rash of promotions commensurate to their new command appointments can be expected, with the new Chief of Defence rising to four-star admiralty while the new Chiefs of Naval and Air Staff shall be promoted to the rank of three-star general. It is yet unclear but is most likely that Lt General Ihejirika,a RC 18 officer who enlisted in June 1975, shall also get elevated to the rank of four-star general. That has not been the practice in a Nigerian Army where the sole 3-star general within the regular army structure, going back to 1987, has always been the Chief of Army Staff.
But Ihejirika is a man of many firsts already and as such, his elevation to the rank of four-star general whilst serving as COAS would only represent another first.
Congratulations to the very senior officers. The retention of the duo of Admiral Ibrahim and General Ihejirika represents a very accurate reading of what their performance on the job, as clearly stated on this blog, has been.