At a time that Nigeria is facing intractable security challenges, there cannot be a better time than now to boost manpower in the Nigerian armed forces. Thus, it is cheering news that the Federal Government has approved mass recruitment into the armed forces and the nation’s other security agencies. With the unrelenting onslaught of the Boko Haram sect and the rising general insecurity in the country, increasing the manpower of our security agencies is certainly a step in the right direction.
Not only will the coming massive recruitment give fillip to the war against terrorism in the country, it will also decongest our labour market that is already bursting at the seams. We definitely need more men to contain and curtail civil disturbances, ethnic tension, terrorism, insurgency and the attendant bloodshed threatening to eclipse the nation. Now, recruitment into the nation’s armed forces will now hold twice a year, unlike in the past when it was done once.
However, the best way to guarantee a successful and effective recruitment exercise is to put in place structures that will accommodate the expected number of recruits. Requisite facilities for training should be upgraded to meet up with international 21st century standards for the training of military and security personnel. Soldiers are not manufactured on factory assembly lines and civilians cannot become fully trained soldiers overnight. We are aware that the process takes a certain amount of time, but this is certainly an emergency. To increase the number of those to be recruited, there is need to increase the structures for recruitment because recruitment and training will be simultaneous.
We want to emphasise, however, that this coming recruitment must be treated with all sense of seriousness. It must be done transparently and with integrity. This is no time to politicize the selection of candidates. This is also not the time to accept lists from politicians, or deny fit and able Nigerians the opportunity to serve their fatherland, just to please some people on the corridors of power.
This is not an opportunity for serving or retired military brass to bring in their “boys” at the detriment of merit. The quality of the men we recruit today into our security agencies will definitely impact on our future and the security of the nation.
There must be proper screening to avoid recruiting those who will undermine our security system and apparatus. With the way things are in the country, we cannot be too careful in ensuring that this exercise is not infiltrated by insurgents and those who have sympathy for them. Those in charge of the recruitment must know that Boko Haram elements within and outside our borders, as well as people with other criminal tendencies, will attempt to infiltrate and compromise our security at this time. This is a sensitive exercise and the trainers must keep their eyes on the ball and stay focussed throughout the exercise.
We also use this opportunity to caution the military to learn from the mistakes and the tragedy of the last recruitment exercise of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). Recruitment into our security agencies, we believe, is about manning our security posts, and not a money-making venture.
We must, therefore, not outsource the exercise to any organisation outside of the security agencies. This is not a business venture, and any attempt to swindle unemployed Nigerians who want to join the security agencies should be severely punished.
Applicants for positions in the military and the other security agencies should be treated with dignity. They are Nigerians and should not be subjected to any belittling arrangement like the NIS one that left many dead and scores injured. The exercise should be well coordinated and managed within the limits of what is acceptable in the more developed countries.
Still, as we put more men on the job to bring back peace to our land and force terror back, we must never lose sight of the place of intelligence gathering in this war against terrorism. Brawn is good but a combination of brain and brawn is a more effective strategy in any battle.
And, when all is said and done and new officers graduate from training, we urge that they be deployed judiciously. Situations where soldiers are deployed for duties meant for other security agencies have gone on long enough. It is time we started doing things the way they should be done both in conflict and peace times.