Monday, 21 December 2015

To Serve Nigeria is Hard… (?)

To Serve Nigeria is Hard… (?)
Two days ago, on a radio programme House of Justice, which airs on Liberty Radio in Kaduna, Barr Gloria Balason, the presenter, had some quite unusual guests. They were five or so young Nigerians who got recruited into the Nigerian Army but were “dismissed” a little over four months into their training at the Nigerian Army Depot in Zaria. From their own accounts, the reason, to the best of their knowledge, for their dismissal was that they sustained injuries during the course of the training. This piece is basically a rehash of the proceeding on the programme and the reading of the situation by both the guest commentator, my good friend Barr Maxwell Kyon, and the programme presenter herself. For, is the press not the first draft of history as it unfolds?
According to all of the dismissed recruits – from Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, and Kogi respectively – they were duly recruited into the Nigerian Army and they reported for training accordingly. However, they variously sustained different degrees of injury in the process. All of them claimed that they were simply dump at the Depot’s health facility without any care given to them by the Nigerian. They respectively had to fend for themselves through the intervention of their family members, friends and good spirited people around. Because of how bad the situation was at the facility, one of them mentioned that his family attempted to remove him to a better hospital where adequate care might be given him but the Depot’s authorities declined the request. At the end of the day, some were told that they were withdrawn and others dismissed. Ultimately when their colleagues passed out at the end of the training, all of them saw their names on the list of dismissed recruits. One of them in fact came into the studio on crutches; he mentioned that his relative had to scrounge to be able to make part payment of the total sum of two hundred and fifty thousand naira charged by doctors for his surgery. They are still in debt.
Apparently, these young men have tried to see that the authorities of the Nigerian Army Depot revisit their case in the light of the fact that they were never found wanting or in violation of any of the guiding rules except that they picked up injuries while undergoing legitimate training exercises, for which they were fit and healthy when they embarked upon. Their one anguish was that they were treated like common criminals and marched out of the Depot without even any means to find their respective ways home, thus, stigmatizing them before the Nigerian state and foreclosing any possibility of reapplying into the Nigerian Army. It must be noted that in the books of the Nigerian Army, any recruit who, as a result of any injury or incapacity, is not able to continue training for a period of two weeks stands withdrawn. But then again, such a one may reapply upon recovering full fitness.
The guest commentator, Barr Kyon, wondered, as many who listened to the ordeal of these young men, how it is that the Nigerian state can afford treat young men who have committed to lay down their lives for the country with such ignominy. Indeed in other climes, while it is received that military training is by its very nature a tough affair in order to instill the needed steel and grit to enable soldiers be adequately prepared for the demands of the job, their ultimate sense of pride and dignity is so nurtured that they never are able to look back when called upon to die for country.
Another point the barrister raised was that of professionalism. It is professionalism that will make the soldiers in authority treat other soldiers, and of course recruits, as comrades-in-arms and, therefore, deserving of respect. What in the world would make those recruits be treated in the way and manner they reported to have been treated? This surely amounts to leaving an injured comrade behind enemy lines. The implication of this is that the nation is left with men of the armed forces whose commitment is grossly flawed. The tales that have come out of the Boko-Haram warfront are a testament to this reality.
Add to all of this is the question of the integrity of the system. There have been claims of corruption even in the recruitment processes, though unsubstantiated. As with other uniformed corps in Nigeria, it has been said that applicants have paid as much as three hundred thousand naira as bribe for recruitment. It is therefore easy to understand why the instructors would treat them carelessly in the belief that they are doing them a favour by keeping them in the service.
Still on the issue of corruption, as Barr Kyon wondered, what could have happened to the budgeted fund to cater to the accidents and other health challenges that are sure to happen? Surely, that provision was made. Why would recruits be left to fend for themselves when they are already “government property”?
The entire couching of the discussion on the programme was on the allegation by Amnesty International of gross human rights violation by the Nigerian Army in its prosecution of the war on the insurgency in the North-East. Though the Army has denied the damning report, Barr Kyon raised a pertinent question: if the Army can treat its own in the manner these young men claim to have been treated, how much more an enemy?
How issues such as this are handled will determine how many people will be set to die for Nigeria.

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