• Defence ministry, service chiefs at war over operation equipment
From UBONG UKPONG, Abuja
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, yesterday in Abuja hosted the leadership of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). His advice: “You inherited a pile of work, let me call it work, some call it pile of mess.
You have to clear it up”. Admiral Ibrahim and the service chiefs received in audience a delegation of the ministry led by the new Permanent Secretary, Aliyu Ismaila, at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ).
The CDS served a notice to his visitors that it was not going to be business as usual with the ministry. Admiral Ibrahim said that the military was fast running out of patience and becoming very intolerable of the kind of system that were operational at the ministry, which was alien to the system.
The CDS had observed that the MOD was very strategic in the country and was specifically there to serve the interests of the military by serving them effectively to facilitate their operations and comfort. However, he told the permanent secretary that what was going on in the ministry could best be described as “a pile of mess”, indicating that his predecessors and staffers of the ministry appeared not to understand the military system.
“You find too many stories about grandstanding, stories about procurement. I hope your tour of duty will focus on these issues. I will close my response by saying that you inherited a pile of work, let me call it work, some call it pile of mess. You have to clear it up”, the CDS warned.
Apparently pointing to alleged insubordination by Ismaila’s predecessors, Admiral Ibrahim, who was pleased and excited at the way the new permanent secretary referred to him repeatedly as “sir”, said, “for you to come here, it means there is something to do, just give your best.”
He reminded him that the seat of the permanent secretary was very strategic to service delivery as the military could do more especially through the ministry.
The permanent secretary, who may have become very uncomfortable, knowing that much was required of him, pleaded with the CDS that he understood why he was sent to the ministry, noting that he was also ready to play along and step on toes to satisfy the military and save his neck.
Ismaila later met with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika, behind closed doors for over half an hour. The COAS emerged from the meeting and said that they have had enough from the ministry interfering in their military operation issues.
He condemned practices where civilians in the ministry presided over the procurement of military logistics and operation vehicles among others, and also procured them and hand the equipment over to the military for use without their input.
General Ihejirika, who said that this was unacceptable, gave an instance where operation vehicles that fell short of military and the United Nations standards, were purchased by the ministry and handed over to them.
The COAS who was unhappy with this practice told Ismaila: “Your appointment has come at a time we require a lot of improvement in defence affairs. Some of our operations are not taken into consideration in the making of the budget. For a nation that has experienced peace for so long, a lot of things are taken for granted.”
He said that presently, the military had dearth of several operation vehicles, accommodation, arms and ammunition, among other equipment, because of the bottleneck activities and meddlesomeness of the ministry. The permanent secretary told the COAS that “the mandate of the Ministry of Defence is to provide services to you and I am here with a sincere heart to provide support to you. There is a challenge and by the responsibility I am carrying, I plead with you for support to carry this responsibility.
“I am coming at a time that there are great challenges, great expectations from you. Yes, there are challenges of friction between the ministry and you, but I assure you that this is a thing of the past. “The Chief of Defence Staff talked about quality of staff. I have briefed all my directors that there is a wind of change. It is no more business as usual.
Whatever needs to be done must be done properly. I came with a name and I want to go back with that name and I will not allow anybody to disrupt my determination”, the permanent secretary pleaded.
Ismaila said that he had also noted the areas of conflict, “finance, procurement and other logistics areas, Sir, immediately after my meeting with you, I intend to hold meetings with directors and set a timeline for all we do. In areas of procurement, these are areas of your needs.
You know what you want and who can do the best for you. Anything that has to do with procurement, I will personally discuss it with you to give you what you want.
There will be no more friction. Should you have any issues, please, sir, feel free to call me and discuss with me”, the Permanent Secretary, Ismaila, pleaded with the COAS, adding that, “my coming is by God’s grace and for the purpose best known to Mr President.”