…Identify denial of promotions, punitive postings, not just apathy
Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia with Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
In this special report, relevant stakeholders from the South-East geo-political zones, bared their minds on why youths from the South-East geo-political zone, allegedly show lack of interest in police recruitment in the recent years.
The alleged apathy is, however, more pronounced in the low cadre commonly referred to as rank and file.
According to statistics from a civic organisation, SBM Intelligence, between 2017 and 2021, the South-East zone had the lowest representation in recruitment into the Nigerian Police among the six geo-political zones in Nigeria.
In 2017, among the 5,253 candidates shortlisted for Police recruitment, the North-West had the highest figure of 1,300, the North-Central had 823, the North-East produced 759, and the South-East had the lowest representation with 651. South-South and South-West had 799 and 921 respectively.
Similarly in 2018, about 314,877 shortlisted candidates were confirmed. As usual, the South-East got the least figure of 16,774, the South-South had 32,404, and the South-West had 33,359. The North-Central got 78,700, the North-East produced 68,077, and the North-West had 85,563.
Statistics showed that in 2021, 124,485 candidates were shortlisted, out of which 28,290 were from the North-Central. The North-East had the highest number of shortlisted candidates with 37,522, the North-West 35,585, and the South-South 10,778. South-West had the second lowest with 9,378, while South-East had the lowest with 2,932 candidates.
Available data from the PSC, show that in the 2023 Police recruitment Kaduna State had recorded 20,259 online applications.
This was closely followed by another Northern State, Adamawa State, with 18,933 applications.
In the same vein, Borno recorded 18,305, Bauchi had 16,554, Katsina – 16,232 while Kano had 15,888.
As usual, South-East States trailed behind with Anambra State recording 732. Ebonyi came next with 737; Abia, 966; Imo had 999; while Enugu had 1,036, the highest so far from the zone.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Solomon Arase, recently expressed concern over the apparent reluctance of South-East youths in joining the police.
The former Inspector General of Police, in a statement by the Head of Press and Public Relations, PSC, Mr Ikechukwu Ani, urged leaders of South-East to persuade their youths to show more interest in police recruitment.
According to the PSC boss, the negative implication of the sad development is that the South-East will be grossly under represented in the Police Force in years to come.
He argued that ordinarily, South-East youths should have been more enthusiastic about joining the police considering the rising insecurity in the region.
But Ikengaonline investigation has revealed certain causative factors to the apparent reluctance of youths in joining the police.
The investigation further revealed that the endemic marginalisation against Ndigbo had unfortunately, resulted into loss of confidence and nonchalance among the people.
Speaking with our Correspondent, the President General of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, Comrade Goodluck Ibem, blamed the apathy on nepotism and injustice of the Nigerian State against the South-East over the years.
He said that many applicants from the zone were unsuccessful in previous recruitments, hence their unwillingness to participate in the process they think is already biased against them.
“Part of the causes are the issues of nepotism, favouritism and tribalism within the police system. There is high level of corruption in the employment process.
“Most people don’t see any chance of getting employed after going through the rigorous process of online registration and other expenditures. That’s why most times, a lot of people from South-East lose interest in this kind of exercise.
“It’s an accumulation of the painful experiences of the people in the past years. They are frustrated and have completely lost interest in the Nigeria State.
“So, they don’t want to waste their time again when they know that at the end of the day they won’t be considered.
“There is a deliberate policy to marginalise and shortchange Ndigbo particularly those from the South-East in virtually every federal recruitment, Ministries, Agencies and Department. Go and check in all these MDAs including the security agencies, the South-East is usually having the least number. It’s a deliberate policy to keep the zone down irrespective of the excuses Government is trying to give now.
“South-East is not treated as part of this country, and it’s very painful.”
On the way forward, the COSEYL helmsman said the Federal Government should reserve the quota for South-East for them the same way educational quota for the North is being reserved for them.
He argued that there is no way the zone will not fill its quota if it is convinced that the recruitment process will be transparent.
“That quota system which the Federal Government has been using when it comes to educationally-disadvantaged states in the North should also apply in this one. They should leave South-East quota for them and I bet them, our youths will fill the quota if they are transparent.”
Ibem further argued that states should be treated on equal basis in the recruitment.
“If they give 10 slots to Katsina, let them come to Abia and also give 10 slots. The fact is that they have been giving our quota to other states. Let them stop it and see if our youths will not shock them.”
He, therefore, challenged South-East Governors and National Assembly members from the zone, to take up the challenge and advance the cause of Ndigbo.
“It’s very unfortunate that our Governors are not doing anything to correct the anomaly. The Governors and NASS members from the zone are the ones we are looking up to to defend our interest.
“They should come in and intervene because Northern Governors are heavily involved.”
A retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG Nwobodo, also shares similar view, believing that South-East Governors have not done enough to resist the ugly trend.
He also believes that contrary to apathy as being insinuated in some quarters, there is a subtle but deliberate action plan to keep the South-East perpetually shortchanged in the country’s scheme of affairs.
“It’s a lie to say that our people are not showing interest. Rather, I think the problem is that there is a deliberate policy to marginalise the South-East by basing recruitments on Local Government Areas.
“You know that the South-East has the least number of LGAs. Besides, LGAs are not federating units. States are the federating units. So, why are they recruiting based on LGAs when they know we are already shortchanged by number of LGAs?
“My thought is against South-East Governors especially those in power before now because they showed no interest when they ought to have spoken out. The Governors should protest to the Inspector General of Police, and also to the President. They should unite against this and not shy away from it.”
But when contacted, Gov. Alex Otti of Abia State, said he had made deliberate efforts to sensitise Abia youths to participate in the recruitment exercise.
The Governor, however, expressed surprise that despite his efforts to sensitise the people, the number of applications from the state was still very low.
Otti who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Homeland Security, Mr Chukwunenye Alajemba, promised that further efforts would be taken to address some of the causes of the apparent reluctance.
He said: “Abia State Governor directed that I should sensitise our people on this and I sent out message immediately. My personal number was contained in the viral message that we sent out, and over 5000 contacted me personally for inquiries.
“We went step further to visit churches in different communities and LGAs to sensitise the people. I’m surprised that Abians didn’t take that seriously. The Governor made a lot of efforts to create the necessary awareness.
“But we cannot force people to get recruitment against their wish. Hopefully, there will be another opportunity for the police to hire, and we will look at the pitfalls and the causes of the observed unwillingness.
“I don’t think any other Governor in the South-East showed the kind of interest Gov. Alex Otti has shown to see that Abians were part of the exercise.”
Enugu yet to receive number of indigenes that applied
Meanwhile, Enugu State Government said it was yet to receive the total number of applicants from the state after the deadline for the exercise Nationwide.
The Commissioner for Information, Aka Eze Aka, said this in an interview with Ikengaonline in Enugu.
“We have not gotten the final number of applicants from the state,” he said.
It would be recalled that, following the lukewarm attitude of the youths of the state in joining the Police force, Ikengaonline reported that the state issued a statement on the situation, urging the youth to join the force.
As a follow-up to the call by the state government, the information commissioner visited all the local government areas across the state to sensitise the youths.
“I went round the 17 local government areas to sensitize the youths and I think it has helped in increasing the number but for now we are yet to receive the final number,” he said.
In Anambra State, some residents who spoke with Ikengaonline blamed it on the discriminatory practices in the police system, while others believe the apathy is caused by the insecurity in the country as well as the fear of being killed.
A popular human rights activist, Ugochi Freeman, said “Nigeria is not a country where you do security work.”
She said “youths now view joining police as a death trap for them. She also said ‘EndSARS protests, poor on-the-job attitude and practices of corruption hinder youths from identifying with the Police job in the South-East.
“Number one cause is the insecurity in the country. People are afraid of joining the police for the fear of being killed. Since the unknown gunmen activities started in the south-East, youths of the region have seen it as a death trap.
“Again, Igbo youths do not value police jobs again because of the hatred coming from the attitude and corruption in the system. The Police are insulted because of their suspected involvement in criminal activities,” Ugochi said.
Chinedu Okoye, an ex-officer turned businessman, argued that discrimination, not corruption and bad name, are the only contributing factors to youths’ lack of interest in police work.
“Discrimination is the major factor. There is denial of positions. Officers from South-East are not given equal opportunities like their fellows from other regions.
“They keep Igbo officers that are better qualified on one rank for years while somebody that has an ordinary school certificate from other parts of the country enjoys accelerated promotion.
“There is discrimination in the system. Where Igbos are majorly posted is where there is insurgency and insecurity such that Igbos will be killed. Again, Igbo officers are not given equal opportunity, like their counterparts, to go for promotional courses. If you check well, no Igbo man has attained the rank of IGP since the time of Ogbonnaya Onovo.”
A public analyst, Joseph Egbeocha, said: “Igbo youths don’t like police work. Personally, I don’t like police work from the foundation because of the image and the impression they had before which they are trying to rebuild now.
Egbeocha further said Anambra people by nature are business-oriented, and see not much attraction from being an officer of the law than being free on their own.
“It boils down to Anambra being more like business-minded people. An average Anambra man doesn’t like police job. Even those that applied for the work did so out of the fact they just want to hold on to something while looking for something else to do.”
Egbeocha, however, insists that there is need to properly re-orientate the people and tell them that the low interest will keep hampering the position of the South-East in the scheme of things.
“In the next 10-20 years, we’ll start seeing the repercussions of the apathy, and the Northerners will continue to be at the helm of affairs in the security architecture of the country.”
When contacted via his telephone line, Press Secretary to Anambra State Governor, Christian Aburime, said “there is already an ongoing campaign and sensitisation by Anambra State Government to encourage the youths who are eligible to enroll.”
The Spokesperson of Police in Anambra, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, said the Command had been doing campaigns to encourage eligible youths of Anambra to join the police.
“Police as an institution is looking not for persons that will fill the quota, it is all about interest. So far so good; there is improvement in application and interest unlike before though we are not there yet.
“The command through my Office, shall sustain the campaign and the current leadership of the Government led by His Excellency Charles Soludo has been intentionally engaging the youths in this regard.”
Similarly, the PPRO Abia State, Maureen Chinaka, also said she had been creating enough awareness about the police recruitment via various media platforms.
She encouraged eligible and youths with credible character to get recruited into the Force and help serve their fatherland.