A report by civic organisation, SBM Intelligence, has shown how the South-East region maintains a relatively low profile with regards to recruitment into Nigeria's various security agencies from 2016 to 2021.
The report which cited data from the Nigerian Police, Air Force, Navy, Army, and Department of State Service showed statistics of applicants from the Southern region of the country particularly those from the South-East.
According to the data analyses, the Police Service Commission, in 2016 shortlisted a total of 6,226 candidates into the tank of ASPs, Inspectors, Cadet Inspectors and Constables, the South-East got a total of 1,099 slots with the greater portion, 830 being for the position of Constable, the lowest rank in the force.
In 2017, according to the data captured, the force shortlisted 5,253 persons into various base ranks. Among the persons short-listed, the North-West region had the highest figure at 1300. North-Central had 823, North-East had 759.
The South-East maintained a low figure with 651 candidates, South-South 799 and South-West 921.
In 2018, about 314,877 shortlisted candidates were confirmed. While 78, 700 were from the North Central, 68, 077 are from the North East, North West got 85, 563 shortlisted. South-East got only 16,774 while 32,404 were from South-South and South-West got 33,359 on the short-listed list.
In 2021, available data showed that 124,485 persons were shortlisted for police recruitment, with 2,932 from South-East and North-East had the highest number of candidates at 37,522.
The same trend is observed in recruitment into the Nigerian Air Force. In 2016, 4000 candidates were shortlisted and only 560 were recruited from the South-East.
In its 2017 recruitment through Direct Short Service Course (DSSC), the air force shortlisted a total of 479 candidates and the lowest number was recorded in the Southern region with 44 from South-East, and 42 from South-South while South-West had 57 candidates.
The air force recruited a total of 183 candidates through its DSSC in 2018. It recruited only 15 from the South-East.
In 2021, the air force recruited 122 candidates, with only 16 from the South-East compared to the 22 candidates recruited from both the North Central and North-West.
The same could be said of the Army in the years under review while the disparity is more conspicuous in recruitment into the Department of State Services.
The DSS is a domestic intelligence agency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Its primary role is to gather information and intelligence within the country, particularly for the [protection of senior government officials such as the president and governors of the states.
In 2017, the agency shortlisted 479 candidates; of this number, only 44 were from the South-East while 42 came from the South-South.
In 2021, out of a total of 1,136 candidates from all six geopolitical regions in the country, the South-East produced 155 candidates.
The report added, “A critical look at the DSS’ recruitment process showed that while only the minimum of five cadets stipulated per state finally entered the Service from Akwa-Ibom, Nigeria’s largest oil-producing state; more than times that number, 51, found their way in from Katsina State, the home state of both President Muhammadu Buhari and the then Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Daura.
"The anomaly in the exercise was further evident in the disparity between intakes from the two most populous states in Nigeria, Kano and Lagos, which had 25 and 7 respectively, indicating that the size of the pool of applicants from each state was not a factor in the recruitment.
“The pattern appeared to have been corrected in 2021 as all states in the country had 31 cadets each except for FCT, which had 20, but the damage had already been done earlier, and there are no public sources to corroborate the 2017 statement by the FG which claimed that in earlier years, more people from the South had been recruited into the service.”
SaharaReporters, in 2020 reported how Yusuf Bichi, Director-General of the Department of State Services activated a lopsided hiring process to overfill the security agency with personnel from the Northern part of Nigeria.
Official documents and contributions of senior intelligence officials showed that the North had a massive share of the roughly 1,300 Nigerians who were, at the time, undergoing cadet training at two different camps of the secret police in Lagos and Bauchi.
Findings also showed that at least 71 of those currently undergoing cadet training hailed from Bichi Local Government Area, Kano State, the Director-General’s home local government area.
Going further, the report notes that for a country deeply divided across ethnicity and religion, conducting recruitment into security agencies with bias, will only fuel distrust and fears of domination by one ethnic group.
It added, “A lopsided security service recruitment which overwhelmingly favours the North where the Fulanis are mostly found has, and will continue to be viewed with mistrust. This mistrust is further not helped by the many intelligence and security failures that have manifested in worsening insecurity in the northern part of the country, while comparable groups in the southern part of the country are dealt with heavy-handedly.
“For example, not a few eyebrows were raised when a leaked DSS memo blamed a bomb threat in Abuja, which never manifested, on the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra, a group which has not operated outside its Igbo heartland.
“This memo was leaked in the days after the intelligence services had multiple public failures that showed in the terrorist attacks on airport and rail infrastructure in Kaduna State.
“Such lopsided, and sectional behaviours severely reduce the incentive for best performance within the services. Recruitment done with clannish sentiments and not with the aim of getting the best possible candidates pose a grave danger to national security because they emphasise ethnic supremacy over competence.
“As such, new recruits who do not have the skills they are supposedly recruited for, nor the passion or knowledge to do the job, end up becoming a danger to the country on account of their inability to effectively carry out their job.
“The direct fallout of such is poor national security and a reduced, if not non-existent ability to respond to security threats. Basically, it makes the country unsafe, with the cost of personal and business security borne by the average taxpayer despite paying taxes to the government for the provision of security.”