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Recruitment and Conditions of Service

Nigeria's large population and the decreasing size of the armed forces made recruitment relatively easy. More than 15 million men were fit for military service, and each year about 1.2 million reached the military age of eighteen. Military service was voluntary, but Section 200 of Nigeria's 1979 constitution provided for the establishment and maintenance of adequate facilities for carrying out any law requiring compulsory military service or training. Further, until such an act passed, the president was authorized to maintain facilities for military training in any secondary or postsecondary education institution that desired such training. The new draft constitution, promulgated by Decree Number 12 of 1989, to become effective on October 1, 1992, contains identical provisions.

Since 1973 Nigeria has had a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), in which graduates of polytechnic schools and universities at home or abroad were obligated to serve one year in a state other than their native one. The NYSC expanded from about 5,000 men and 1,100 women during 1976-77 to 30,000 men and 13,000 women in 1985. The corps was primarily a technical and education program for national development, and it had no paramilitary functions or relationship to the armed forces.

Military recruitment was highly selective and subject to a constitutional mandate that the composition of both the officer corps and other ranks should reflect Nigeria's "federal character." The minimum educational qualification was a West African School Certificate. Reports that more than 20,000 applicants sought 1,760 places in the army during one recruitment period underscored its selectivity. Nigerian law required the army to recruit equal quotas from among the states and to mix recruits in units. Northerners were overrepresented, however, especially in the infantry, in which soldiers from the states of Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Kano, and Borno predominated. In 1985 it was estimated that 70 percent of senior officers came from the northern or middle belt region, whereas the administrative, technical, and logistic formations were dominated by southerners. The highest ranking women in 1984 were one army colonel, one air force wing commander, and one navy commander, all in the Medical Corps.

In early 1989, the Directorate of Army Recruitment, Resettlement, and Reserve reported that almost 43,000 Nigerians had joined the army during the previous decade: 18,981 between March 1979 and January 1988, and 23,971 between April 1983 and December 1988. Army enrollments were also expected to double from 3,000 to 6,000 as a one-time measure under the revitalization program under which entrants from 1963 or earlier were discharged to make room for younger soldiers who joined in 1979 or later. To meet targeted force reduction levels, in 1990 the army began discharging soldiers who could not read or write after the fouryear literacy campaign (1986-89), strictly enforcing disciplinary codes, and encouraging early retirements. The navy accepted about 500 recruits per year. In 1989 the navy announced that it was suspending recruitment of women, except nurses, until adequate and appropriate conditions of service had been devised, such as accommodations, training, promotions, and authorization for marriages and pregnancies.

Military pay and benefits were generally adequate if not attractive, although their value in real terms eroded during the period of economic austerity in the later 1980s. A new salary and benefits structure for the armed forces was announced in December 1990, to be implemented in January 1991. Benefits included a basic benevolent fund plan that provided immediate but token relief to dependents of deceased service personnel. In 1989 benefits were increased to N4,000 for noncommissioned officers (NCOs), N5,000 for senior NCOs, and N10,000 for commissioned officers; personnel contributed a premium of about N36 yearly. The army introduced an insurance plan in 1988, a benefit soon emulated by the other services. An Air Force Welfare Insurance Scheme was introduced in April 1989 to provide life insurance with death benefits ranging between N10,000 to N80,000 depending on rank. Members' contributions varied by rank, from N10 monthly for airmen to N100 monthly for air commodores. The new plan supplemented the existing benevolent fund and special coverage for pilots and flight technicians. The NAF also announced plans to establish its own bank. In 1989 an impending Nigerian Navy Welfare Insurance Scheme was also announced.

Several problems were apparent, however. During 1986 a census of army personnel and dependents was conducted to determine needs for adequate housing, utilities, and medical care and to identify and eject persons illegally occupying military accommodations. It found uniforms in such short supply that all sorts of irregular attire and accoutrements were in use. Thousands of soldiers and their families lived in bashas, shanty-like structures that the army hoped to replace with suitable housing before October 1992. In late 1988, Babangida expressed deep concern about general social malaise and economic crimes, which were aggravated by the use of sophisticated weapons obtained with the connivance of military personnel. In early 1990, the army chief of staff noted the continued problem of service personnel engaged in smuggling, armed robbery, and other antisocial activities.

The most demanding personnel problem was managing the steady demobilization of the armed forces from about 300,000 in the early 1970s to a scheduled member of perhaps 75,000 by 1993. An Armed Forces Rehabilitation Centre was set up in 1972 to resettle disabled soldiers. It has continued to operate with a broader mission and under various names but has lacked direction. It has pensioned off disabled soldiers, discharged police, reenlisted ex-servicemen, and handled voluntary discharges. Most of the voluntary discharges were skilled technicians retained on active duty until 1980. Discharged service personnel experienced massive administrative problems, such as delays or failure to receive pensions and gratuities, whereas other ex-service personnel received discharges or benefits to which they were not entitled. Finally, in January 1989, the government announced a major resettlement program, including guidance and counseling, job placement, and technical and vocational training. Taken together with the new welfare insurance plans, this program promised to improve conditions of service and release.

In 1989 the army announced it would undertake a review of military laws to correct deficiencies. Among measures contemplated were plans to educate lawyers about military laws and to develop better procedures for trying soldiers accused of violations. Existing laws only stated offenses for which a soldier could be charged but did not prescribe procedures. The army also called for inclusion of military law in the teaching curricula of university law faculties.

Data as of June 1991

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Nigeria Table of Contents