When Senators bickered over army recruitment

Last week Tuesday, disagreement ensued among members of the Senate Committee on Army over alleged lopsided recruitment by the Nigerian Army. TAIYE ODEWALE reports

Recruitment process in the Army

The Nigerian Army like other military outfits, on yearly basis, due to realities on ground and need for additional manpower, carries out recruitment of soldiers for required prosecution of ongoing  wars against insurgents and armed bandits in affected areas of the country.
While such recruitment exercise for 2021 which started on the 18th of last month is still ongoing, that of 2020 is still causing ripples among members of the Senate Committee on Army over alleged lopsidedness. 

Explosion of bottled anger 
In what looked like explosion of bottled anger among some members of the Senate Committee on Army over alleged lopsidedness in the 2020 recruitment exercise, an interactive session meant for update on training modalities in the Nigerian Army, was turned into an interrogative session on the recruitment.
Trouble started at the interactive session the committee had with Commander Training and Doctrine Command of the Nigerian Army, Major General S.O Olabanji, Tuesday last week when a member of the Committee who doubles as Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, Senator Abdullahi Ibrahim Danbaba (PDP Sokoto South), took up Major General Olabanji on alleged lopsided nature of recruitment carried out by the army last year.
But the acting Chairman of the Committee, Senator Abba Moro ( PDP Benue South) who presided over the session, ruled Danbaba out of order, saying “this meeting is not for such enquiry.” 
Apparently irked by the development, another member of the Committee, Senator Barinada Mpigi (PDP Rivers South East), raised the issue again, saying “lopsidedeness in recruitment is not an issue to be put aside or ruled against.” 
But Senator Moro again ruled against the enquiry insisting that the session was not for review of recruitment made by the army but on tactical training and doctrine of men and officers .
“The questions being raised by my colleagues on alleged lopsided recruitments, are being thrown to the wrong person. The  Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Farouk Yahaya is the one who can do justice to such allegation or enquiry”, he said. 
Angered by the insistence of Abba Moro that questions on recruitment should not be entertained at the session, Senators Danbaba and Mpigi stormed out of the meeting in anger.
Expressing his anger to journalists on what transpired at the session, Senator Danbaba said  he walked out from the meeting with Senator Mpigi based on dictatorial action of Senator Moro.
“He shouldn’t have ruled us out of order since the Military man the question was directed to, did not complain.
“The issue of marginalisation in recruitment has never been responded to, it is part of the oversight process of the committee to ensure that whatever is to be done should be done to ensure Justice, the Nigerian Army like any institution of government in Nigeria is supposed to comply with provisions of the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and that constitution has made it very clear that the issue of federal character and representation is paramount as a constitutional issue.
 “I’m not blaming the army, the army have been performing very well, but at the same time the issue of recruitment is very very important.
“I left the meeting, I stormed out with Mpigi  because we were angry”, he said.

Moro ‘s counter offensive 
Defending his action, Abba Moro in a counter interview with journalists, said he had no any regret for ruling Danbaba out of order as far as the issue of alleged lopsided recruitment was concerned.
“Danbaba and Mpigi questions were directed to a wrong person. What explanation were they expecting from Commander, Training and Doctrine Command on recruitment?
“Besides, the committee had tabled the  issue before the Chief of Army Staff few months ago with response bordering on physical and medical reasons for those recruited and those who failed in the exercise.
“For  the said recruitment exercise, I forwarded six names as Vice Chairman of the Committee and none was honoured. 
*When I had the opportunity to meet the Chief of Army Staff over it , he gave me convincing explanations which dwell on Physical and Medical fitness of applicants.
“The army and by extension, security outfits are not like the other MDAs where based on paper qualifications, anybody can easily be fixed up . Those to join the army must be physically and medically fit as insisted by the Army Chief when the issue was raised before him.
“Perhaps, candidates of my colleagues like those of mine, didn’t meet up with these basic requirements and by extension, many of those who applied from some states.
“The army is for Nigeria and Nigerians and not for a particular region or state, making the allegation of recruitment lopsidedness, unfounded “, he said.
Ironically, the three Senators who bickered over the recruitment exercise belong to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but in different camps within the party, which may be the basis for the bickering.
Strong indications, however, emerged that leadership of the Senate will address the matter as Danbaba was seen taking the matter to the Leader of the Senate, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North).