Obasanjo appoints new military commanders

President Olusegun Obasanjo has made changes in Nigeria's military hierarchy, shortly after being sworn in to start a new four-year term as elected head of state.

An official statement read on state-owned Radio Nigeria on Saturday said the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Alexander Ogomudia, had been promoted to Chief of Defence Staff, in charge of all the three arms of the armed forces and the police.

Ogomudia, 53, is known as an Obasanjo loyalist who has spent most of his army career in the signals corps. He joined the army as a cadet from primary school in 1962 and eventually obtained university degrees in telecommunications and strategic studies.

He replaced Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, who voluntarily retired as head of the armed forces after 35 years of service.

Maj-Gen Martin Luther Agwai, a senior peacekeeping official with the United Nations, succeeded Ogomudia as head of the army.

Agwai was deputy commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) for two years until he became Deputy Military Adviser in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at UN headquarters in New York, in November last year.

The head of the navy, Vice-Admiral Samuel Afolayan, and head of the air force, Air Marshal Jonah Wuyep, both retained their positions in the military reshuffle.

Obasanjo's election in 1999 ended more than 15 years of military rule in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with more than 120 million people. Obasanjo was a former military ruler in the 1970s and was reputed to have the influence to bring Nigeria's 80,000-strong military establishment under civilian control.

Nigeria has been prone to coups ever since independence from Britain in 1960. The military have ruled for 29 of its 43 years as an independent state.

Obasanjo appointed new service chiefs and purged the military of hundreds of officers who had held political office in previous military governments when he began his first term as an elected president in 1999.

At that time he appointed Gen. Victor Malu, a respected veteran of regional peacekeeping efforts in Liberia in the 1990s, to head the army. However, Malu was sacked in 2001 after he publicly opposed Obasanjo's plan to have the United States retrain the Nigerian military. He was replaced by Ogomudia.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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