Full Biography of Lt Gen. Kenneth Minimah: Nigeria’s 28th Chief of Army Staff

Lieutenant General (LT GEN) Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah CMH GSS psc(+) fwc MSc, is the 28th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Nigerian Army and the 19thindigenous COAS .


He was born on the 27th July, 1959 at Opobo Kingdom of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State. He is Ijaw by tribe.


For his education, he was at the following institutions:

-Township Primary School, Port Harcourt, Rivers State (1965 – 1971)

-Baptist High School, Port Harcourt, Rivers State (1972 – 1977)

-College of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.


He is married to Mrs. Felly Elimabha Minimah and the marriage is blessed with children.


His foray into the military stated on the 3rd of January 1979 when he was enlisted as a member of the 25 Regular Combatant Course (Regular Cadet Course 25) of the Nigerian Defence Academy. On the 18th of December, 1981, he was commissioned into the Infantry Corps. While climbing the ladder in the military, he attended the following courses:

  • Jungle Warfare and Combat Survival Course
  • Young Officers Course Infantry
  • Basic and Advanced Airborne Courses
  • Junior and Senior Staff Courses

He was also at the National Defence College (formerly the National War College) and the University of Ibadan where he bagged a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and International Relations and Advanced Diploma in Public Administration.

Minimah held the following appointments:

  • Commanding Officer, 149 Infantry Battalion
  • Directing Staff, Armed Forces Command and Staff College
  • Colonel Administration, 82 Division
  • Commanding Officer, Nigerian Battalion 2, United Nations Missions in Sierra Leone.
  • Commandant, Depot, Nigeria Army.
  • Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Infantry
  • Commander, 1 Brigade, Sokoto
  • Director of Standards and Combat Readiness
  • Military Coordinator, Operation Sweep, Lagos State, 1998.
  • General Officer Commanding, GOC, 81 Division with his office at Victoria Island, Lagos: At this time, he was a brigadier-general and while on a familiarization visit to the Ikeja Cantonment, Headquarters of the 9 Brigade of the Nigerian Army in October 2010, he said: “We must be loyal and seen to be loyal as we build up to the 2011 elections. Our impartiality must be seen, and if you want to participate in the elections, you must not wear your uniform. If you are in uniform, your presence will be misinterpreted; we must preserve ourselves for the utmost task coming ahead. You have the responsibility to report anything you perceive as irresponsible to the relevant authorities. You should apprehend any unknown face in the barracks and do not be distracted by mischief makers, Don’t indulge in ‘okada’ (commercial motorcycle) riding while on duty. If you are caught, you will be dismissed from the army.”
  • In December 2010, Minimah was promoted to the rank of a major-general. The announcement of the promotion of the 2-star generals was made by the Nigerian Army came after a marathon meeting by the Army Council headed by President Goodluck Jonathan who was represented by the Defence minister, Adetokunbo Kayode.
  • In May 2011, Minimah, the AIG Zone 2 and Suleiman Fakai led other senior military and police officers to commiserate with the families affected by the Badagry massacre in which a soldier and police officers (in total, a soldier a DPO, DCO and six other people) were killed. In May 2012, when Minimah was contacted about the outcome of the board of inquiry set up by the Army to fish out the culprits, he said it was best to let sleeping dogs lie instead of re-opening old wounds.
  • In July 2012, he lashed out at the soldiers (Colonel K. I. Yusuf and a staff Sergeant A. J. Adeomi, both were later fined N25,000 by the Nigerian Army for violating the Lagos State Bus Route Transport Law on July 17, 2012) caught by Governor Babatunde Fashola on a BRT lane. Minimah said: “Nigerian and, of course, the military are not outlaws. We make the laws and we should be able to obey the laws. Nobody is above the law. In Lagos State, the laws including the one governing the BRT lane are made for the good of Lagosians and we are Lagosians because we reside in Lagos. If we get it right, it will be good for us, but if we get it wrong, it will be bad for all of us. We all have a responsibility to obey the laws. These laws are designed for our good. The BRT lane should be avoided because it is meant to be used by BRT buses and so anybody caught using it will have to face the full wrath of the law. And in the case of the officer, he would have to pay the fine whether he apologised to the governor or not; that is the law. We shall, therefore, as a military, continue to do our best to assist the state government in its pursuit of good governance for the people.”
  • Commander, Infantry Corps and Centre, Jaji, January 2013 after he was redeployed from his GOC position in Lagos. In Jaji, Minimah replaced Major-General Mohammed D. Isah who was forcefully retired shortly after the twin blasts at Jaji cantonment in 2012.
  • On the 14th of January, 2014, he was appointed the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by President Goodluck Jonathan. Minimah’s appointment came with all sorts of intrigues.LEADERSHIP reported that Jonathan skipped 31 generals to appoint Minimah, 15 of which were to be retired soon and 16 who may have to work with Minimah as the new COAS. Some claimed that Major-General MD Isa was swiftly removed as the Commandant in Jaji after the bomb blasts without any board of inquiry so as to pave way for Minimah and same was said with the removal of General Joseph Soboiki of the 1 Mechanized Division. However, the Army spokesperson, Major-General Mobolaji Koleoso denied any undertones in the retirement of 51 officers saying it was all done in line with the law citing compulsory retirement enforced under the ‘Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Nigeria Armed Forces Officers 2007 (Revised)’, based on which major generals have to go at age 56, brigadier generals at age 54 and colonels 52.
  • A press statement by Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to the President
    (Media & Publicity) on the 16th of January 2014 announced Minimah’s appointment:


President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria approved the following changes in the nation’s Military High Command:

Air Marshal Alex Badeh takes over from Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim as Chief of Defence Staff;

Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah takes over from Lt.-General Azubike O. Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff;



Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin takes over from Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu takes over from Air Marshal Badeh as Chief of Air Staff.

All the changes are with immediate effect.

The new Chief of Defence Staff and former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Badeh was born on January 10, 1957 and joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 21 Regular Course while the new Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Minimah was born on July 27, 1959 and joined the Army as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 25 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, Major-General Minimah was the Commander of the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps, Jaji.

The new Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin was born on September 16, 1959 and joined the Navy as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 24 Regular Course. Until his appointment as Chief of Naval Staff, he was Director of Training at Defence Headquarters.

The new Chief of Air Staff and immediate past Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet, Air Vice Marshal Amosu was born on August 1, 1958 and joined the Air Force as a member of the Nigerian Defence Academy’s 25 Regular Course. Until his new appointment, Air Vice Marshal Amosu was the Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air Command, Makurdi.

President Jonathan has briefed the leadership of the National Assembly on the appointment of the new service chiefs and will, in keeping with the provisions of the law, request the National Assembly to formally confirm the appointments when it reconvenes.


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On the 14th of January, 2014, he was appointed the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by President Goodluck Jonathan and the following is a recap of the events under him so far as the COAS.

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  • Minimah is the first COAS from Rivers State after taking over from Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika from Abia State. Also because Minimah is Ijaw, President Jonathan was criticized by some and accused of ethnic chauvinism by appointing Minimah especially since there were many other generals ahead of Minimah. In September 2014, following the directive to Minimah by the National Assembly that he should relocate to the northeast to tackle Boko Haram, the Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), a civil rights organization criticized the directive.
  • Some have derided Minimah as an Igbo-speaking Ijaw.
  • In November 2010, Minimah was made the President of the Nigeria Amateur Boxing Federation (NABA). In November 2010, he spoke of the need for a new blueprint to revive the sport in Nigeria after his inaugural meeting with stakeholders at the Brai Ayonote Boxing Complex in Lagos. He was also the GOC, 81st Division, Lagos. He said: “We all have to work together, the technocrats and the stakeholders to develop the blueprint which will reinvent amateur boxing in Nigeria.” As at August 2013, he was still the president (of the Nigeria Boxing Federation, NBF).
  • Minimah is one of the satellite towns in Opobo with others being Illoma & Epellema, Ekereborikiri, Kalaibiama, Opakalama, Queens Town, Down-Below and Abazibie.
  • One hot Sunday at 1:30 pm, the 22nd of November, 1998, three youths were killed in cold blood in the Ereko/Olowogbowo Community of Lagos State by bullets of Operation Sweep. As a lieutenant colonel, Minimah was the Military Coordinator of Operation Sweep, an anti-crime outfit Minimah and the Lagos Island Local Government Caretaker Committee Chairman, Mr. Tajudeen Ojikutu justified the killing of three youths by the Special Anti-Crime Squad, describing them as robbers. But critics accused Minimah and his men of extrajudicial killings saying the youths were Adeola Ajayi, 26, a 1994 graduate of accountancy from Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, Hakeem Akanbi, 26, a printer and the third was Saheed Dawodu, a plumber. Minimah however insisted they were armed robbers. The leader of the market women in the area, Alhaja (Chief) Adenike Lawal said:

“…those boys that were murdered are not thieves.”

Wale Ajayi, younger brother to the late Ajayi and an eyewitness to the incident, told journalists that his brother was shot as he washed his hands by a tap and the soldier ‘later fired severed rounds at his defenseless body.’

But Minimah was not moved, he threatened to deal decisively with any member(s) of the public who confront his men. He said for the past three weeks, the men ofOperation Sweep had been confronted by people he described as criminals and set two of their patrol vehicles ablaze. Minimah said the anti-crime squad was established by a statutory act of government and its duty was to protect lives and properties of Lagos. He added however that while the soldiers are going about their duties, they were being subjected to all kinds of derogatory treatment by the public and members of the public benefitting from violent crimes and try to blackmail the soldiers by branding the criminals as innocent citizens.

Referring to the Ereko incident in which one of the squad’s jeeps was burnt, Minimah said that would be the last time such an incident would happen in Lagos. He thundered that if the incident occurs in the neighborhood again:

“We will deal decisively with whoever is involved, whether groups, neighbourhood or community. We will not succumb to the antics of criminals and their sponsors, we have the capability to deal with them. Whoever confronts or provokes Operation Sweep will have himself to blame. That I promise. Don’t confront Operation Sweep for whatever reason.”

Minimah also told parents and guardians of the ‘so-called innocent citizens’ to warn their ‘so-called innocent children.’ Later, the military administrator of the state, Colonel Buba Marwa, echoed Minimah’s warning praising Operation Sweep and saying anyone caught attacking the squad will be responsible for whatever consequences. Marwa said:

“So if there are people who are encouraged to provoke Operation Sweep, they must be familiar with the fact that the personnel are armed and have the capacity to defend themselves. Do not think that the entire Lagosians are against you because that is not true. They are appreciative. They knew the situation of the state before you were revamped and that if you were to be pulled out of the street for even one week especially in this season, we all know the response that we will get. But we have a responsibility to keep you on your job”.

In October 2010, Minimah (then the GOC 81 Division, Nigerian Army, Lagos ) and the late National Security Adviser (NSA), Lt.-Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd), the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Oluseyi Petinrin, and Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Marvel Akpoyibo, the Commissioner of Police, Bomb Disposal Unit Chris Olape and Commander Mopol 2, Patrick Ejedawe were at Apapa Port to inspect a massive cache of illegal arms intercepted by the Nigeria Customs Service on a vessel full of bombs, mortars, grenades and rocket launchers. Azazi and others refused to say whether the weapons had anything to do with the oncoming 2011 elections. Azazi simply said investigations were ongoing and no one should jump into conclusions.


Minimah is a recipient of various honours and awards, these include:

  • Forces Service Star (fss) medal.
  • Meritorious Service Star (mss) medal.
  • Distinguished Service Star (dss) medal.
  • Passed Staff College dagger (psc+)

He is also a recipient of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), the third highest national honour in Nigeria. He received the CFR on Monday, 29thSeptember, 2014 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja alongside other service chiefs.


Written by PH

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