A civil society group, Coalition of Civil Society on Integrity in Nigeria, CCSIN, has criticized the conferment of national awards on some service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying “the action devalues and lowers the esteem, integrity, and prestige of the honours.”
President Buhari, on Tuesday, at the International Conference Centre, ICC, in Abuja, conferred national honours awards on a total of 449 distinguished Nigerians, and some foreign nationals.
Among those bestowed with the national honours awards, were the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Lucky Irabor and the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt-Gen. Faruk Yahaya.
Irabor, Yahaya, and others were conferred with the award of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), the third highest after the Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR), which is exclusive to President’s/Heads of State, and the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
While recognising the importance of national honours, and the need to appreciate individuals for their distinguished services to the nation, the coalition noted that it was an abuse of discretion and privilege to have considered, and consequently bestowed such a prestigious award on the current CDS, and Service Chiefs.
In a statement signed by Dr Mohammed Dandume. National Coordinator, and Engr. Gabriel kolawale National Secretary, the group expressed worries over the rising spate of insecurity across the country which, it noted, was occasioned by the failure of the military high command to deploy new ideas and perspectives.
“As a coalition, we hasten to condemn, in strong terms, the conferment of an honours award on Service Chiefs, as this development suggests a reward for failure to bring the growing insecurity in the country to a halt.
“We dare say that the recent release of the remaining twenty-three (23) Abuja/Kaduna train passengers abducted by suspected bandits/terrorists, could not be a veritable ground for the honours award.
“Our argument is founded on the fact, that the selection process for the awards pre-dated the important ceremony, which held in Abuja on Tuesday, barely a week after the release of the abductees from their captives”, the coalition said.
In their estimation, the action defeats, to a very large extent, the intent and purpose of the honours award, which is to recognise contributions of personalities to the course of nation-building and development.
Consequently, the group has called on the international community to mount pressure on President Buhari to, in the spirit of national interest, withdraw the award from the two service chiefs.
The statement reads in full: “We are by this statement, urging the international community, especially the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), the United Nations’ (UN), to advise President Buhari on the urgent and compelling need to withdraw the award of CFR bestowed on the Service Chiefs.
“We are surprised how people, who should be sacked for failing the country and her people, are being bestowed with a national award.
“We insist that failure to withdraw such a prestigious award to the Service Chiefs, in the face of rising insecurity, will give validity to ineptitude, incapacity, and outright failure.
“Indeed, we have no quarrel with the honours award, and the fact that it is the prerogative of the President to confer same on distinguished Nigerians, but we maintain that the Service Chiefs are not deserving of such privilege.
“It is our considered view – and we are certain that most Nigerians will agree with us – that rather than do the military heads the honours, our gallant troops, who risk their lives, amidst inadequate’ equipment, would have been so decorated.
“It is, however, not too late in the day for Mr. President to review the decision, with a view to withdrawing the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) on men that have demonstrated over time, that they have reached their wits’ end.
“Anything otherwise will amount to utter devaluation of the national honours, as well as a vote of no confidence in the process of nomination,and consideration respectively.
“We call on other well-meaning groups, and individuals to join in this clarion call for the withdrawal of the CFR Award bestowed on the Service Chiefs, to reclaim the prestige that accompanies same.
“Bestowing awards on service chiefs is an insult on the sensibilities of Nigerians, especially deceased families of those consumed by the unabating insecurity, and victims too.
“For the umpteenth time, therefore, we call for the immediate replacement of the Service Chiefs with committed senior officers, who understand the dynamics of modern warfare, and the deployment of technology.
“We, nonetheless, congratulate other award recipients, many of whom were deserving of the honours, against the backdrop of their contributions to the growth and sustainability of the Nigerian State”.