By Kennedy Emetulu
I have just read about the recruitment of 250 former Civilian JTF members into the Nigerian Army. This should worry all peace-loving and law-abiding citizens, home and abroad.
First, let me make one thing clear. The members of the Civilian JTF are patriots and national heroes who must be compensated for the gallant work they’ve done and are still doing with the Nigerian Armed Forces to combat Boko Haram. But whatever the form the reward must take, it must not and should not have included a special recruitment into the Nigerian Army in the manner it has been done. The membership of the Nigerian Army is not a reward to anybody for whatever they have done for Nigeria. The Nigerian Armed Forces are collectively the greatest symbol of our national unity and recruitment into their ranks is constitutionally and lawfully determined.
Section 217(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) states: “The composition of the officer corps and other ranks of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria”. In giving effect to the above, section 219(b) of the Constitution states that the National Assembly shall “establish a body which shall comprise such members as the National Assembly may determine, and which shall have the power to ensure that the composition of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in section 217 of this Constitution”.
So, clearly, the drafters of the Constitution, being very much aware of the volatile history of our Armed Forces and the fragility of our ethnic relations, envisioned and sought to create a truly national institution. They did this not only by specifying in the Constitution the character of the composition of the Armed Forces, but they also mandated the National Assembly to ensure that this is so at all times. These constitutional mandates for composition and active oversight by the National Assembly do not give any room for derogation.
The Armed Forces also very much aware of this have traditionally followed the principle in practice by ensuring that its recruitment is done nationally through a national recruitment process that requires equal quotas from all states of the federation and a mix of recruits, officers and other ranks in units. This recruitment of the Civilian JTF members is the first time the Army will recruit only from one area/region/state. This is a bad precedence. It must not be allowed to stand.
Of course, as I stated earlier, I fully understand that the state must show gratitude to the Civilian JTF members, but should recruitment into the Army be the answer? I mean, it’s obvious that all those who joined did so, because they simply needed a job, not because they set out to choose the military as a career. They did not take up arms to fight Boko Haram because they wanted to join the military; they did primarily to protect themselves, their families and their communities. Naturally, in the harsh economic situation and in the state of unemployment in the country, it would have been unconscionable to throw back these guys into their neighbourhoods without proper compensation, but the compensation should not be joining the Army.
What the authorities should have done was sit down with them to first find out what they really want to do. I’m sure there are many of them who would have wanted to further their education. Those should have been given scholarships to pursue education. Then there would be those who possibly want to learn a trade or pursue a business. Those too should have been supported along those lines. Then those who choose to join the military should have been prepared for the next national recruitment into the army as part of the process already in place in line with the federal character mandate in the Constitution. They should not have been given any special recruitment dispensation to join the Army against the law. If the above policy I suggested had been followed, we would have had a better programme of reward and compensation for the boys, something more meaningful than just dumping them in the army as recruits. They would have been more useful to Nigeria with such a diversified reward system that would have likely guaranteed them a brighter future than throwing them in as recruits of the army, irrespective of their individual talents and dreams.
In all I state above, I have not dealt with the danger this poses to the nation communally. I mean, there are people murmuring already that these recruits are actually Boko Haram militants being brought into the Army through a backdoor as some kind of settlement. Then there are those who say this is Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai recruiting mostly members of his own ethnic group or people from his region into the Army through the backdoor. While I do not believe the charge of them being Boko Haram militants, we cannot ignore the fact that these are people all from the area that the present Chief of Army Staff hails from.
What kind of Army are we creating if people can be recruited this way in blatant disregard for the Constitution? What happens tomorrow if civilians join to help the army in other sections of the country to contain a similar insurgency in their region? Would we also be recruiting those persons into the Nigerian Army the same way? Where will that lead us?
I think the National Assembly should invoke its constitutional powers immediately and begin to look into this recruitment. It must immediately investigate the present composition of the Nigerian Army along the lines of its mandate under section 219(b) to ensure that the composition of the armed forces of the Federation reflects the federal character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in section 217 of our Constitution. This type of sectional recruitment must be totally discouraged.
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