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Nigerian President Appoints New Military Chiefs

Nigeria's President Umaru Yar' Adua has replaced the chief of defense staff and heads of the army, navy and air force. Gilbert da Costa has more for VOA in this report from Abuja.

Presidential spokesman Segun Adeniyi, who made the announcement, gave no reasons for the changes.

"President Umaru YarAdua has approved the appointment of Air Marshall Paul Dike as the new chief of defense staff. Air Marshall Dike is to take over from General Andrew Azazi who is retiring from service. President Yar' Adua has also approved the appointment of Major General Major-General A.B. Dambazau as the chief of army staff," said Adeniyi. "Other changes approved by President Yar' Adua, in the command structure of the armed forces, include Rear Admiral Iko Ibrahim as chief of naval staff. President Yar' Adua also approved the appointment of Air Marshall Okuseyi Reti as chief of air staff. All the appointments are with immediate effect."

Local media reports suggest the changes, the first since Yar' Adua took office more than a year ago, were made because of disputes between the military chiefs.

The military hierarchy has also come in for some criticism for their role in the spiraling theft of crude in the restive Niger Delta. Senior military officers have been implicated in what is widely known in Nigeria as oil bunkering.

The president made the changes before leaving on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and two days after he abolished the offices of chief of staff and deputy chief of staff in the presidency.

Mr. Yar' Adua has been under intense pressure to stem the campaign of violent sabotage in the Niger Delta, the heart of the oil industry in the world's eighth biggest exporter.

Armed groups, who claim to be fighting for a greater share of the region's wealth, have cut oil output from Nigeria by more than a fifth since early 2006.