The Federal Government has given the armed forces and other security agencies the nod to embark on mass recruitment.
The PUNCH gathered in Abuja on Sunday that the directive was to give fillip to the war against terrorism in the country.
It was also learnt that those who attended the expanded National Security Council meeting in Abuja on Thursday emphasised the need for the recruitment.
A highly placed military source said that President Goodluck Jonathan issued the directive for more recruitment into the army in March after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Kenneth Minimah, had briefed him about the operations of the army.
The source, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the army did not begin the recruitment immediately because of the need to expand training facilities in parts of the country.
It was learnt that the army would commence the recruitment in May 2014.
Our source said, “We have in the pipeline, the plan to recruit. We are holding it because we want to upgrade our facilities.
“The presidential directive to us to recruit was given in March when the COAS briefed the President. But the excercise would start next month (May)”
The source added that because of Boko Haram and other security challenges, the recruitment would now hold twice a year unlike in the past when it was done once.
Another source said, “It is true that recruitment has to be beefed up. The Federal Government has granted that request but recruitment is not just the number.
“You must note that you cannot produce a soldier in three days or weeks; this is a serious business involving the requisite facilities for training.
“If you want to raise your recruitment for instance, from 1,000 recruits to 2, 000 per annum, you must increase the facilities for their training.
“And I can tell you that it takes time for you to increase such facilities. You see, the issue is that the country has neglected the Army for so long; several public commentators have questioned why public funds should be spent to maintain a large army when there is no war.
“But is it wise for you to start screaming where are the soldiers when you did not make arrangement for training just because there is a threat now?
“For you to increase the number of those being recruited, you have to increase the structures for recruitment because as you are recruiting, you are training.
According to him, the structures on the ground can only accommodate a particular number of recruits.
He said that the best the army did last year was to increase the timing for recruitment.
“It used to be annual but it is now going to be twice a year,” the source added.
He said that the recruitment issue was being taken more seriously because the about 150,000 men and officers of the army had come under stress due to the involvement of some of them in internal security operations.
The source explained that the army had assumed some traditional responsibilities of the Nigerian Police Force, especially in the North –East where many police facilities had been destroyed by insurgents.
The National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, had at a recent international seminar on the Observance of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in Internal Security Operations on February 25, 2014 said that the Nigerian Armed Forces were engaged in internal operations in 32 states.
Dasuki had said, “As you are well aware, our great country has been grappling with a plethora of security challenges occasioning the loss of lives and property.
“These civil disturbances, ethnic tensions and recently, terrorism and insurgency in the North-East have engaged the attention of the government and security agencies as concerted efforts are being made to contain the situation and restore normalcy to the affected parts of the country.”
It was further gathered that the expanded National Security Council meeting on Thursday discussed extensively, the need to boost the capacity of other security agencies like the police, the State Security Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
The council was said to have expressed concern that the “army was being unnecessary overstreched,” through its involvement in internal security operations.
When our correspondent contacted the Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen Chris Olukolade, he replied , “I am sorry I can’t speak on that without contacting the relevant authorities .”
He however promised to speak with one of our correspondents on the issue on Monday (today).
But a security consultant, Ben Okezie, criticised the planned recruitment, saying it was late in coming.
He noted that the process might be hijacked by politicians who were always waiting with a list of candidates.
Okezie said the government should rather recruit ex-service men and other retired security officers into the army, stressing that the nation could not afford to wait for the time it would take to train the fresh recruit while the insurgency rages on.
He said, “This government is like a patient in the hospital whose psyche is disturbed by the drugs given to him. How can government recruit civilians into the Army? How long will it take to train them with many northern youths willing to join Boko Haram?
“Whenever there is recruitment, politicians will bring a long list of thugs and those they want to use during elections. Is this not what happened in the Niger Delta during the Amnesty programme?
“Recruiting civilians into the Army now is like going to the World Cup and you are now going to the village to recruit footballers. Boko Haram has trained its fighters long ago.”
Okezie advised the government to constitute a special operation task force made up of serving and retired security personnel who are indigenes of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states to provide intelligence on Boko Haram, since they are conversant with their states of origin.
According to him, the task force members should be well paid and should be made to know that their mission was to save their states.
Another security expert, Max Gbanite, observed that increasing the numbers of soldiers would not help to win the war against terrorism.
He argued that what the government needed to do was to declare that the nation was at war and to assess what it would take to prosecute it.
Gbanite also advised the government to mobilise the vigilante groups and consider the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle known as drones in the campaign against the insurgents.
He said, “The government must consider the use of human and electronic equipment for intelligence gathering. We must localise the war by using vigilance groups or civilian JTF. There is also a need for geo-spatial intelligence. We need to know whether Boko Haram has underground tunnels like Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“If they have underground tunnels, drones can’t see them;so we will need human intelligence. I am disturbed that the sect is mimicking The Lord Resistance Army of Uganda by kidnapping children.”
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters said on Sunday that the military was satisfied with the ongoing operations against insurgents in Borno. State.
Its spokesman, Olukolade made this known during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of a media tour of military operations in Maiduguri, that the troops had been able to sustain momentum in terms of the offensive against the terrorists.
He said,” The bases we visited are part of the responses to the terrorist offensive and that is an achievement; the military had moved close to where the insurgents are.‘’
The defence spokesman added that the morale of the soldiers was high, adding that ‘’we are expecting to see more successes from the troops’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the journalists visited military camps in and around Maiduguri.
The journalists were also taken on night patrols by the troops which lasted from 9pm to 12.30am . around Maiduguri and its environs.
The essence of the tour, according to Olukolade, is to have a first-hand information on the operations of the troops.