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Nigerian Army: Emulating General Buratai’s Accountability Aura – By Yemi Itodo

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I have followed the operations of the Nigerian Army keenly since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed leadership of Nigeria. My interest in the activities of the Nigerian Army stems from two factors. One is the promise made by President Buhari on assumption of office, to tackle insecurity headlong and two, my childhood ambition to join the Nigerian Army.

I must state that I haven’t been disappointed so far with the leadership strides of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, who has indeed displayed that burning passion in repositioning the Nigerian Army for greater exploits. The various innovations introduced indeed buttress this point.

The achievements of Lt Gen Tukur Buratai did not come to me as a surprise because as one who has held various commands and positions in the Nigerian Army before his appointment, he has understood the importance of accountability as a panacea for service delivery in public service.

The Nigerian Army of today is such that has elicited commendations from and far and near. The Nigerian Army of today is that which is involved in counter-insurgency operations, as well as internal security operations across the country simultaneously and still achieving results. All of these were made possible because of the regime of accountability that has characterized the operations of the Nigerian Army with Lt. Gen. Tukur Buaratai at the helm of affairs.

I recall some years back when some civil society organizations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT issued a joint Freedom of Information request, requesting the Chief of Army Staff to use his “good office and leadership position to provide information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.”

This was indeed the first time such a request would be made to a military institution in Nigeria and as usual, social commentators debated extensively on the merits and demerits of such request. It was even speculated in some quarters that the Nigerian Army was not going to honour the request due to precedence and the likes. But guess what?

The country was stunned when the Nigerian Army responded to the request not just to the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations; it indeed went public in a rare display that elicited commendation from all and sundry in the country. I recall that in response to the gesture of the Chief of Army Staff, one of the Civil Society Organizations, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a rare act of endorsement of public institution accountability, was profuse in eulogising the Nigerian and only stopped short of condemning others public institutions for not being so transparent.

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It stated thus: “While we ascertain the level of compliance of the information provided, we welcome Mr Buratai’s demonstrated commitment to the Freedom of Information Act by responding to our request, especially at a time when high-ranking government officials including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh and Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola continue to exhibit a blatant disregard for FOI requests by refusing even to acknowledge several of such requests.”

“The National Assembly, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ministries, agencies and departments should also learn from the good example shown by Mr Buratai by at least honouring and responding to FOI requests from Nigerians, NGOs and others if they are ever to contribute to the efforts to achieve a greater level of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.”

“A quick look at the documentation shows a list of several projects reportedly implemented by the Nigerian Army. Among those listed and displayed, which appeared to show specific projects the Nigerian Army carried out with budgeted funds, include places where operations were carried out; renovation of barracks and military hospitals, spending to honour late soldiers; training and workshops; repairs of some old military equipment; and completion of offices and housing projects. Others are feeding of soldiers; the building of new barracks and schools; acquisition of arms and ammunition and vehicles for military operations; as well as the provision of welfare for soldiers. These are indeed commendable.

I can bet that the response of the Nigerian Army indeed shocked quite a number and silenced a majority that had the erroneous impression that in the Nigerian Army, anything goes as in the previous times where a lot indeed went wrong in the operations of the Nigerian Army. But little did they know that it was indeed a new regime that was anchored on nothing less than patriotism, the sincerity of heart and purpose, as well as dedication to duty.

It is my view that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai quickly understood that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari has a covenant with the Nigerian people to lead with transparency and accountability towards attaining our developmental goals. The Chief of Army Staff was also aware that President Muhammadu Buhari took an oath to defend the Nigerian state. He is fully aware that the Army which he leads must be accountable to the Nigerian public hence the entrenchment of transparency and accountability in its operations.

I can go on nonstop with regards to the transformation of the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. However, I must not fail to mention that some of the projects implemented by the Nigerian Army in the past five years were indeed phenomenal.

Taking the example of the establishment of the Nigerian Army University Biu, a unique university in all standards and designed to make it a solution provider and a centre of excellence for a variety of technologically related ventures such as generation and armament production as well as the development of counter-insurgency manuals for use by the Nigerian Military.

Another example of the ingenuity of the Chief of Army Staff is the recent commissioning of a 200 bed Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State to cater for the health needs of soldiers who sustained injuries while fighting the counter-insurgency war. The hospital would also attend to the health needs of families of soldiers, civilians and people in the host community. Also, the Nigerian Army inaugurated a water treatment plant in Enugu State capable of treating and supplying one million litres of water daily to the barracks and its environs constructed by Nigerian Army engineers.

This is aside the numerous inventions of the Nigerian Army in projects across the country. I dare to say that without transparency and accountability, the Nigerian Army would not have been able to achieve results, not just in the prosecution of the Boko Haram war, but also inadequately attending to the welfare of officers and soldiers whose morale have been bolstered in recent times.

It is thus my considered opinion that if the Chief of Army Staff decides to invite members of the general public on a tour of its projects, it is not for grandstanding, but to be accountable to the people and that should be commended and emulated by others entrusted with public offices in Nigeria.

It is on this premise that I give a charge to other public institutions in Nigeria to emulate the Nigerian Army regime of accountability. If the Nigerian Army can do it, I do not see why others should not give account of their stewardship.

Itodo is a social critic and public affairs commentator based in Abuja.

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Opinion

Keniebi Okoko: Legacy of Hope for Leadership Deficit in Niger Delta

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The region known as Niger delta in Nigeria comprises nine states with about 31 million people of more than 40 ethnic groups, the region has the highest deposit of mineral resources, but has been entangled in conflicts, political violence and undulating leadership over the years.

The enthronement of democracy in 1999 has not yielded much of the anticipated dividends in the region, as socio-economic developmental benefits have come in crumbs and trickles to the governed, compared to the outlandish self-aggrandisement of some entrusted with the privilege of political stewardship.

It’s such a sad narrative, which could still be reversed, given that the people remain hopeful of finding truly capable leaders via the polls, exemplifying an unflinching faith in democracy.

Indeed it would have been refreshing to witness the emergence of a rare kind of leader from the most recent electoral opportunity in the region, precisely Bayelsa State, in the person of Late Pastor Keniebi Okoko, who took time to evaluate the needs of his people; groom himself; project innovative solutions and finally decided against all odds to vie for the seat of power, to enable him bring about a transformation, that only a visionary can engineer.

Keniebi Okoko, a highly successful Harvard-trained business mogul, not only lost out in the primaries to politicians with more established bases, even though he proved to be a worthy opponent. He later bowed out of the biggest stage of all – life, when he took a chance on science to undergo a medical surgery in a Lagos hospital, which went sideways.

Keniebi dazzled his supporters and opponents by his noble display of gallantry in defeat, when he collapsed his campaign team into that of his opponent who picked the slot ahead of him in the party primary and eventually emerged governor. A man of peace, Keniebi understood the meaning of leadership for the benefit of the people, by not toeing the usual stance of two elephants fighting as long as only the grass suffers.

As a philanthropist, Keniebi donated food items to the old and less privileged people for years and gave relief materials to flood victims in the state.

An astute promoter of wealth creation, he was an advocate of industrialisation and envisioned rapid industrialisation for the state, as he told PDP members of the state’s legislature while highlighting his plans for the state: “Industrialisation has come to stay and not just industrialisation, rapid industrialisation.

“They say your network is your net worth and I bring to bear, apart from the 12 years in the economic sector, I bring to bear my friendship and relationship across the globe, with 154 classmates from Harvard Business Law of which I am the poorest, most of them are owners of industries and have always wanted to come to Africa, because Africa is a gold mine, but they have not had a level playing ground and relationship matters in every business you want to do.”

One of his plans was to position the state as a big player in the $116 billion global glass industry, having identified the competitive and comparative advantage of sand deposits in Brass.

“Being a governor, I can assure you that we can bring these industries into Bayelsa state. A quick example, look at Brass, one of the things that are very synonymous with Brass is beautiful sand, it will interest you to know that the best component for making glass is sand and we have billions of dollars lying down at the beach front of Brass.”

As a successful 41-year-old youth, Keniebi maximised every opportunity to canvass for youth empowerment through purposeful leadership, seeing the best even in people considered as dregs of society.

“I can assure you that if a sea pirate sees a job that is paying him money, no man likes the sound of an AK-47, he will drop it, nobody will reject a half loaf of bread for a full chin-chin.

“Nobody was born an armed robber or a militant, but opportunity has to be created for them to be engaged. And I tell you that the Ijaw man cannot be lazy, if I am lazy, how did I get to where I am, is it by magic? Circumstances and opportunities are created for people to do things, we are smart and we will bring that to bear in the form of rapid industrialisation.

Keniebi also had a clear understanding of the challenges of the education sector and was keen on repositioning the sector as part of his human capital development plan, according to him: “When we talk about education, yes we have universities, but you have to look at the substance of what is in the universities because a building is not a university. The payment scheme for lecturers and teachers is not so good and then people are still using text books that have since lost relevance in current realities.

“So these are the things that we can work on with the executive and legislative arms. I’m a product of a scholarship, I had never been abroad up until 2003 when former governor, late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, thought it wise to sign my scholarship of N11 million and I went to Canada and it was like a dream, but for that opportunity given me, how would I have done it? My father could not afford that from his lecturer salary, so we should be able to give those opportunities to our younger ones too.” he once said in an interview.

Keniebi was loved and trusted by his people and could have easily won at the polls, but for sheer political manoeuvrings of his more experienced opponents.

“When I wanted to contest, some people said I was doing it because I had money, I said it has nothing to do with money but capacity, and that is having a good plan and strategy. Once you have a good strategy, you can overturn things. They didn’t see me coming, they kept undermining me and some will call me a small boy and I’ll say I’m 41 what has that got to do? I was undermined, but I kept pushing, I kept coming and knocking on doors and the doors are wide open now.

“I didn’t lose because of rigging, the election was free and fair, what happened was politics, they were better than I was and I had to accept it, that is what makes a man, when you are tested, to have fortitude. I have learnt one or two things from the winner about how he did it and there are no hard feelings at all.” To the question on why he contested to lead, his answer was: “I have always wanted to help people and I have been doing that on a smaller scale, for you to be able to touch lives the way I want to, you’ll need a bigger platform.”

To be plain, if the current leaders of Niger Delta are driven by what drove Keniebi to aspire to lead his people, the region will become transformed and bear tangible fruits of democratic dividends in no time, which is the actual desire of their people who voted them into power.

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Is Dogara A Coward? “He Left PDP For The Same Reason Akpabio Did” – By Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe

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Who does Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara thinks he is fooling?

His decision to exit the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] for the All Progressive Congress [APC] could not have come at a more convenient time. A time when the current Speaker of the House of Representative Rt. Hon. Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila mandated the Federal Minister of Niger Delta Affair to put his mouth where his money is – and produce the names of the supposed federal lawmakers who were recipients of the Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC] contract bonanza and related fraud.

Just when the Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio responded that the recipients were not the members of the current House of Representatives but the members of the previous House of Representative under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Yabuku Dogara – Dogara woke up and discovered the corrupt nature of PDP in Bauchi State – and the pristineness of the APC. He suddenly came to realization he no longer wants a part of it.

Who does he expect to believe the tale he just discovered after more than one year the Government of Bauchi State is corrupt? After partaking in the unholy communion? Who is fooling who? And, who is gullible enough to believe the fairy tale?

The Cambridge dictionary defines a hypocrite as “someone who says they have particular moral beliefs but behaves in way that shows these are not sincere”. And, defines a coward as “a person who is not brave and is too eager to avoid danger, difficulty, or pain”.

If only the Nigerian public knew the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] was hot on his trail and had pulled his files, it would be clearer to understand the predicament Dogara finds himself.

The EFCC had begun investigating his activities while at the Green Chamber – and had concluded on its findings. To arrest the former Speaker was the next move. Dogara was faced with arrest and prosecution – in the same manner Senator Godswill Akpabio was faced with arrest prior to his shameful exit. Like Akpabio, Dogara flipped the switch and crossed over for the political cleaners where his sins will be forever forgiven – and amnesty granted, at the APC.

In Akpabio’s case, he was rewarded for his crossover, and for the synthetically manufactured battle he waged against the Governor of Akwa Ibom – the PDP Governor who took over the Governor’s seat after his exit. He was awarded a ministerial position in return.

In the case of Dogara, the play cards are the same. Off the bat, following his crossover, he launched his version of a synthetically manufactured battle against the PDP Governor of Bauchi State – detailing what he termed as corruption with the Bala Mohammed administration. An administration that has won accolades beyond the boundaries of Bauchi Stare as worthy of emulation. One that has revamped the educational infrastructure within the span of 12months by adding over 350 classroom blocks across the wards that makeup the State. Has achieved the erection of world standard molecular laboratory for the testing of Covid19 that presently serves four neighboring States at over 300 samples daily. Road construction networks in proportions never witnessed in the history of the State – including water treatment plants to accommodate the increase in population due to migration of IDPs.

The question then becomes what is really Dogara’s agenda? It cannot be Bala Mohammed or his administration.

Apart from freeing himself from the grips of the EFCC. He maybe positioning for the Vice President position against the 2023 presidential elections or a Ministerial position.

As a coward battling out of the fear of possible prosecution, it is evident he has sold his rights and integrity to the drowning APC. A vomit he excreted. With which face will he face his former colleagues whom he lampooned when he defected from the APC to the PDP?

After labelling the APC, the party of corruption, he has returned to the party of corruption. Now, he sees the PDP as the party of corruption. Who is he fooling? And to imagine he was the number four citizen of the country for 4years defines the trouble with governance in Nigeria.

“What happened to the N4.6 billion loan taken from a bank and paid directly into a private company’s account?” – was one of the questions Dogara wanted answered. He claimed it led to his decision to exit the party.

Dogara, himself, knows firsthand the truth behind the non-existent loan. But he is earger to play dirty. He wants to play ostrich. Dogara knows the Bauchi Government never secured any N4.6billion loan.

The supposed N4.6billion concerns a legitimate contract awarded to a contractor for the purchase of vehicles for the government. The Bauchi State government, as most clever state governments do, issued the contractor an Irrevocable Standing Purchase Order [ISPO] – which in layman’s term means the Bauchi State government reached an agreement for the contractor to be paid in monthly installments through automatic deductions from the government’s bank account. Armed with the ISPO, the contractor approached a financial institution and presented the ISPO as a collateral to secure a loan. The contractor was awarded the loan – and the vehicles were delivered.

Dogara puzzlingly called simple transaction a loan in an open letter released to the public.

And to know that Dogara was among the recipients of the vehicles is disheartening and exposes his hypocrisy. He collected a Toyota Land Cruiser. Yes, he even wrote a thank you letter to the State government acknowledging the receipt of the vehicle.

Dogara’s defection back to the APC may not be his last defection. It should be understood Dogara left the PDP for his personal gains and not for the benefit of good governance. The fear of EFCC prosecution and/or persecution propelled his exit [cowardice] – but to author a letter depicting the government of Bauchi as corrupt is weak and unnecessary.

Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe is a Chemical/Environmental Engineer resides in New York

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Senators And Their Sanctimonious Posturing – By Dr. Abubakar Mohammed Sani

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The National Assembly is first and foremost the most critical and most distinguished aspect of a democratic government. It is the legislative arm because it is the only thing that differentiates a democratic government from non- democratic ones. Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, afforded Nigerians the right to elect certain people they consider worthy and credible to represent them in government. This is because there is no way everyone can directly participate in governance. The acceptable practice is for the electorates to elect representatives to represent them at both the State Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. This informs the reason we have some people called Honorable Members and Distinguished Senators, representing 200 million Nigerians in government. They are to make laws for the land, make budgetary appropriations and provide oversight functions where necessary. Therefore, people like Senators Ahmed Lawan, Kabiru Gaya, Oluremi Tinubu, Orji Kalu, Muhammad Ali Ndume, Honorable Femi Gbajamiala, Usman Jaha, Gudaji Kazaure and their colleagues are expected to represent and say the interest of Nigerians in the National Assembly.

Yesterday, some members of the Senate revived their sinister agenda of calling for the resignation of the Service Chiefs, simply because they reckon that the Service Chiefs have underperformed and failed woefully in the discharge of their duties. The Distinguished Senators are of the opinion that the Service Chiefs are responsible for all the myriad of security challenges confronting Nigeria. Whether this is a right step taken by the senators or not, it is for Nigerians to decide. However, I want to clearly state my opinion as a stakeholder and a Nigerian.

Before I proceed to give my reasons, I want to categorically say that members of the National Assembly should know that Nigerians don’t consider them credible representatives, except for the heavy security given to them by the government’s security apparatus. Nigerians would have by this time overrun the entire National Assembly Complex to vent their anger on them. Nigerians are still angry about the 37 billion naira votes for the rehabilitation of the National Assembly complex, which is today a symbol of monumental corruption, greed and nepotism. Their acts of extortion, unexecuted contracts, contract inflation, partying and drinking at the expense of the people they claim to represent, is widely known and viewed with great ridicule by Nigerians and other nationals. The way and manner Nigerians from all walks of life rallied behind Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Labour and Productivity after the senators tried to cajole and harass him, is clear evidence that Nigerians now see them for who they are.

Now sentiments aside, let me tell Nigerians why they should ignore the demand of the senators for the resignation of the Service Chiefs.

1. How did we find ourselves in this quagmire of the cantankerous cacophony of security impediments that are now trying to spread to the once serene North-western region of the country? A lot of you reading this article will agree with me that it is because of the failure of our leaders, especially elected representatives to provide purposeful leadership and quality representation to their people. There is a disconnect between the elected representatives and the electorates, and the authorities in the local government councils. It is the duty of the elected representatives to make the average youth in Batsari or Jere to feel the presence of government, and not service chiefs.

2. If the Service Chiefs agree to disappoint they’re Commander-in-Chief and listen to the sinister demand of the senators and resign today, what workable solution and winning formula does the senators have in place apart from the replacement of the service chiefs? What guarantees do they have that those who will replace the Service Chiefs will perform better than the present Service Chiefs?

3. What is currently happening in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) probe is an indictment on the legislative arm that takes oversight duties to extreme limits. Those embezzled funds were meant to cushion the pains of the people of the Niger Delta, but regrettably, ended up in personal accounts. NDDC is not the only bastion of corruption, because I am sure that, if we beam our searchlight into the affairs of the North-East Development Commission (NEDC), we shall see another can of worms. The North- East Development Commission is one government institution that is saddled with the implementation of the Buhari Plan, which I truly believe if it had been implemented, the causes of insurgency in the Northeast region would have been mitigated. None of the senators is talking about the NEDC with a view to ascertaining how they are discharging their mandate.

4. What did the senators do to put in place a strong deterrence mechanism to prevent insurgency, terrorism and banditry in Nigeria? It is on record that the Nigerian troops have on numerous occasions arrested insurgents, terrorists and bandits, but weak laws made it easy for these criminals to be freed or be rehabilitated with kid gloves. Did the senators make any moves to put in place a strong mechanism by way of making laws that will make the consequences of aiding or collaborating with insurgents and bandits to be very grievous? Is it not one of them that recently submitted a Bill for the rehabilitation of terrorists? How does a Bill like that deter people from joining the ranks of the insurgents and terrorists? Let our very Distinguished Senators take a trip to Egypt and see how legislators there are enacting stiffer laws to deal with insurgency and terrorism. Let them go there and see how legislators are collaborating with the military and President Abdulfatah Al-Sisi to safeguard Egypt.

5. What are the senators doing to help the military to end this insecurity? I still remember the proactive and daring measures Senator John Mccain took to visit Syria and Iraq to engage with troops and other stakeholders on how to achieve peace in those countries. What kind of contribution are the senators making in the areas of intelligence gathering, dialogue and negotiations for the cessation of hostilities, since most of the insurgents and terrorists are known to them? I have it on good record that some of them have relatives who were directly or indirectly involved with the terrorists and bandits?

6. Are our senators and representatives even accessible to Nigerians? They are supposed to represent the masses in government, but I can tell you that none of them is accessible. They don’t reply to SMS or answer calls. Youths in their constituents don’t have access to them. These youths don’t have jobs or start-ups to initiate small businesses. As a result, they are now tools in the hands of terrorists and insurgents.

7. Just recently, I met Senator Ali Ndume in Maiduguri and also at the Maiduguri NAF Base and I heard how he was condemning the Federal Government, especially the Finance Ministry because, according to him, not a single dime was released to the military for capital projects since January 2020. What is exactly his position on issues of national security? His position is that a change of Service Chiefs will not make any difference. In fact, he never raised the motion to call for the sack of the Service Chiefs.

8. Did the senators forget about the National Security Adviser, the DG, State Security Services and the DG National Intelligence Agency? What about the IGP? Why are they not talking about them? If they have any personal grouse with the military, let us know.

Instead of the senators to think proactively and support the President and the Armed Forces with good ideas that will help the government, they are calling for the resignation of Service Chiefs, which to me is a matter of concern, because they are encouraging mutiny in the armed forces. What the senators are doing, in the long run, is going to be counter-productive to the counter-insurgency war, and even the entire democratic government of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is why the President should be commended for refusing to listen to the unfruitful and unproductive grumblings of the senators. The prompt response given by the Commander in Chief yesterday is a step taken in the right direction.

What the senators should do

What I expect the senators to do is to create effective back door channels for dialogue and negotiations with the insurgents and terrorists, who I understand are mostly Nigerians. I expect the senators to advise the government to create a National Counter-Terrorism Agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of addressing internal security challenges like terrorism and banditry. I expect the senators to tell some of the State governments to be more proactive. For example, the Zamfara State Government implement the Security Report of the IGP Abubakar D Mohammed, if it is truly committed to safeguarding the lives and property of its people. I am aware that many notable personalities, including judges, politicians, traditional chiefs and some security personnel were indicted in the report. Is the government trying to hide the report to cover these privileged people?

The senators should listen to Senator Ali Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army because he has a clearer understanding of the matter at hand. In an interview he granted to Channels Television recently, Sen. Ndume said that the Army needed equipment like drones and helicopters, and boost to their numeral strength. He empathized with the Army because of the numerous operations they are conducting across a country of gargantuan landmass with an Army of 200,000.

As for the issue of the resignation or retention of the Service Chiefs, I don’t think it is necessary to lobby or advocate for the retention of the Service Chiefs, because the President knows what he is doing; he knows the sacrifice some of them are making to keep this country safe. While it is true that no man is indispensable in this life, we believe that this is not the time to talk about the resignation of the Service Chiefs. In any case, the Revised Armed Forces of Nigeria’s Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service 2017 (HTACOS) empowers the president to extend the tenure of the security chiefs, irrespective of age or length of service. Part 1 of the HTACOS, Section 11.09 of the document states that “the foregoing notwithstanding, the President/C-in-C reserves the prerogative to extend the tenure of a CDS/Service Chief irrespective of his age or length of service.”

Nigerians are proud of the Military and many of us are ever ready to support and defend them.

Dr. Abubakar Mohammed Sani writes from Maidugurix

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