One of the highlights of the National Security Summit organised by the Nigeria Police under Solomon Arase, in conjunction with The Sun Publishing Limited, in Abuja last year, was President Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement that 10, 000 policemen would be recruited, as part of efforts to beef up that security agency. Despite the fact that the number of the proposed new police recruits was considered a token, in a country that needs police personnel running into millions, this proposal had elicited public interest. This was so, in the main, since the government said the exercise would be transparent.
When applications, therefore, opened for the 10, 000 slots, many young Nigerians showed interest and did apply. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians applied for the limited positions, which showed the rate of unemployment in the land. The process of recruitment went well until it came to the quota system to be used to pick the 10, 000 policemen. The Police Service Commission (PSC), whose duty it is to recruit policemen, recommend promotion and disciplinary actions, wanted to use the universal state quota system, as applied in recruitment into the armed forces, while some people in government proposed the adoption of local government areas quota system. It turned out that the few elements at the Executive arm of government penetrated the National Assembly, causing an express order to the PSC to adopt the local government areas quota system in the recruitment of the 10, 000 policemen.
To be sure, the Senate Committee on Police had objected to the earlier proposal for the use of state quota system to recruit new policemen. It first suspended the process and, thereafter, prevailed on the PSC to use local government areas quota system in the exercise. With pressure from the Senate and a few people in the Presidency, the PSC had no choice than to comply.
On Tuesday, when the conclusion of the recruitment exercise was announced and names of the successful candidates released, the reality stared everybody in the face: There was a mix of local government areas quota system and state quota system in the exercise. While local government areas quota system was adopted in the recruitment of constables, state quota system was used for posts of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and Inspector. Each local government area got nine constables, with the Federal Capital Territory’s councils getting five each. For ASP and Inspector cadres, each state got 13.
The police recruitment exercise may have been concluded, but there is a problem in the quota system adopted in picking constables. Using local government areas to recruit police constables, against the Federal Capital principles, is a deliberate ploy to ensure that states with bogus local government areas, irrespective of population, got more policemen than others. It is a system, which amplifies the North’s dominance of the police. Indeed, an analysis of police constables intakes showed an annoying lopsidedness. For the avoidance of doubt, the North Central got 1, 035 constables; North East, 1, 008 and North West, 1, 683. When this is summed up, the 19 states in the North have produced 3, 726 new police constables. And if the 30 constables FCT got is added, it brings the total to 3, 756. The South West, with 139 LGAs has 1,251 constables. South East, with 97 local councils got 873 constables, while South South, with 124 councils, got 1,116. Therefore, 17 states in the South have 3, 240.
Indeed, when this is broken down to states, Kano, with 44 local councils, Katsina, with 34 councils and Borno, with 27 local government areas, have 396, 306 and 243 (total of 105), which is greater than all the five South East states put together. South East has only 864 police constables, from 97 local government areas, with Abia getting 171; Imo, 234; Enugu, 153; Ebonyi, 117 and Anambra, 189. If, therefore, the South East says that the adoption of local government areas quota system was a deliberate ploy for it to get the least allocation of policemen, just as the zone gets in financial allocation, would anybody say it is talking nonsense? This is the kind of practice that makes some part of the country to feel alienated, deprived and shortchanged.
Federal Character presupposes equal treatment of states, being the federating units. This has always been a cardinal principles in Nigeria. Recruitment into the armed forces had always been done on states basis, not local government areas. Why would the Senate, with a Bukola Saraki as its President, elevate local government areas quota system in the police recruitment of police constables above the state quota system? Those who manipulated the police recruitment exercise, by imposing an admixture of local government areas and state quota systems may think they are smart, but what they have done is to further cause a division in the country, at a time when some sections of the country are feeling marginalised under an All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government.
We all understand the politics of the police recruitment. By ensuring that local government areas quota system was used in picking the new constables, those who made this possible favoured the North, which has the highest number of local government areas. The reality, therefore, is that the North has more constables, who do the real job in the police, than the rest of the country.
I wonder how the Senate, with equal representation from states (three senators from each state) could be involved in a process that sets aside Federal Character and makes a ridicule of its composition, would be involved in the travesty of justice. I wonder how Southern senators sat down in that assembly and were so timid that they allowed their colleagues from North cheat them in the sharing of the commonwealth, as it were. Some people would say that imputing North-South sentiment is not necessary. Well! But the reality is that there is a North-South divide. It is, indeed, amazing that the South East senators, whose zone has the least number of local government areas and, therefore, the least number of new police constables, never raised a whimper over this. I am equally shocked that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other groups said nothing, even when they were aware of what was coming. Also, I am appalled that the South East governors kept quiet and the “coup” in police recruitment came to pass. It is also unbelievable that South South, despite the fact that one of its states (Bayelsa), with only eight local government areas, is the worst loser in the police recruitment exercise, said nothing. However, kudos should be given to the Yoruba group, Afenifere, which, dissatisfied with the system adopted, is challenging it.
The Federal Government should look at the police recruitment again. Leaving a process that would make some states feel cheated is one of the things that encourage the agitation for state police, wherein states would establish, control and fund their own police department. Also, there is the need to leave whatever government agency so given a responsibility to do its job, according to the dictates of the enabling laws and principles, instead of employing extraneous forces to change the rule midway. I am persuaded that if the PSC were allowed to do its job, as it knows best, there would have been a different story about the police recruitment. In the police recruitment, Nigeria lost, while a few selfish people won.