In what appears to be an obvious response to the security challenges facing Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday night sacked General Andrew Owoeye Azazi, his National Security Adviser and Haliru Mohammed, the Minister of Defence.
The sack of the two security chiefs came after a national security meeting convened by the President on the deteriorating security situation in the country immediately he returned from Brazil this afternoon, amidst criticisms that his journey was ill-timed, coinciding with religious violence in Kaduna state and Damaturu in Yobe state.
Over 150 people have been killed, according to very conservative estimates.
Ironically, Owoeye and Haliru were part of the meeting, but it was not clear if they were informed that they will be sacked during the meeting.
President Jonathan has appointed Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) to replace General Andrew Owoye Azazi as the new National Security Adviser (NSA).
After the meeting, Police Affairs Minister Caleb Olubolade said Jonathan “believes that we need to talk. We need to ensure that we do what is right to ensure that we calm down the nerves and these incessant bombings are minimised.”
Azazi had told State House Correspondents that the meeting reviewed the security situation in the country, saying, “the security situation is under control”.
Olubolade also said that the security Chiefs “comprehensively’’ briefed the President on the security situation.
“It was a useful discussion; certain areas where we have problems, we have to tackle them. We want to see how the security agencies will be more effective and the role the citizens have to play.
“We have been there for about one-and-a-half hour; it was very useful,’’ Olubolade had said.
Others at the meeting were: the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin, Chief of Army Staff, Gen Azubuie Ihejiria, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admira Ola Ibrahim, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Dikko Umar.
Acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar and the Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Ita Epeyong, were also at the meeting.
Officials have already said dialogue was being arranged with religious figures to address the violence.
Several days of unrest in parts of northern Nigeria began Sunday in Kaduna state, with suicide attacks at three churches that killed at least 16 people and sparked reprisals by Christian mobs, who burned mosques and killing dozens of Muslims.
More rioting broke out in Kaduna later in the week, while on Monday and Tuesday, shootouts between security forces and suspected Islamists in the northeastern city of Damaturu left at least 40 people dead. Some estimates put the death toll at close to 200.
The initial suicide bombings were claimed by Islamist group Boko Haram, whose insurgency concentrated in the north has killed hundreds.
On Thursday, Nigerian troops arrested a suspect in Christmas Day bombings that killed at least 44 people. But the suspect, alleged Boko Haram member Habibu Bama, was shot in the operation and later died, a security source said on Friday.
The United States on Thursday said it had designated the head of the main branch of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, a “global terrorist” along with two others tied to both Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda’s north African branch.
The new security adviser is a scion of the Sokoto caliphate and cousin to the Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria’s highest Muslim spiritual figure. He also served as ADC to a former Nigerian military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida.
Dasuki was implicated in a 1995 coup attempt against the government of former dictator Sani Abacha and went into exile in the United States at the time.
It was not yet clear who would replace defence minister Bello Mohammed.