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Nigerian Army - Personnel

The Nigerian Army always has a pool of fresh young soldiers coming up through the ranks, and recruitment appears to be continuous. The age requirement for voluntary military service is 18 years.

The Nigerian Army invites applications from suitable qualified Nigerians for the grant of Short Service Combatant Commission (SSC) as officers into the Nigerian Army. The Short Service Combatant Commission offers an excellent opportunity to young Nigerians who want to have an experience in the Nigerian Army without necessarily having to spend their entire career life in it. The SSC is open to male civilians or serving male military personnel. Short Service Combatant Commission is granted for 10 years. 6 years will be on active list renewable thereafter for a period up to 3 years. No extension is admitted after the 9th year of commission except on conversion to regular combatant where applicable.

Cadet officer who successfully complete the Military training shall be granted the rank of Second Lieutenant. Conversion to regular commission is not automatic. It is based on availability of vacancy and other criteria that are or will be in force. All graduating cadet officers must sign an acceptance of the terms and conditions governing the Short Service Combatant Commission before they are granted commission into the Nigerian Army.

In the 1970s most officers and men received higher pay than they could hope to earn in civilian jobs. Most had at least a rudimentary national consciousness, having fought for "One Nigeria", and many officers were personally loyal to Gowon, who ruled until 1975. Moreover, army units were tribally mixed and few officers would be able quickly to assemble and utilize for coup purposes a large contingent of fellow tribesmen.

A key concern is "Federal Character" in the recruiting pool, ensuring that the Army does not take on a regional imbalance. The recruitment process was full of opportunities for corruption as each potential recruit had to get a series of signatures on a form -- and each signature requires a bribe. The total amount of bribes can be significant and the young recruit certainly won't have that amount of money (If he did, he wouldn't be enlisting). One "system" set up to work around this problem: A potential recruit will find a serving soldier and "rent" his weapon. The recruit will then use the weapon to commit enough armed robberies to collect the funds necessary to pay all of the necessary bribes and the rental fee for the weapon. Once the soldier is in the Army, he will then rent his weapon out to future recruits, and the system lives on.

Once in, recruits are integrated into units with soldiers from every state and region of Nigeria, and receive indoctrination training meant to impart a Nigerian national identity on the soldier. This national identity is one of the features the Army is most proud of, and makes the Army one of the only institutions that truly identifies with Nigeria rather than an ethnic group. It also makes the Army function more as a "tribe" separate from the various Nigerian groups, with a similar level of identification and loyalty.

This indoctrination begins failing at the upper reached of the officer corps largely because promotions at that level are politically influenced, which in Nigeria more often than not takes on ethnic and religious meaning. Officers who are not promoted often seek to find a religious or ethnic reason for their failure to advance. Whether this is or is not true has been difficult to assess, but the perception of discrimination, if widely accepted, could have a destabilizing influence on the Army's officer corps, and on the nation.

Promotions are political at Colonel-level and above, and are completely within the purview of the COAS. Officers need to start worrying about politics as Majors and Lieutenant Colonels to position themselves for future promotions and assignments. Command of the Ikeja Cantonment (Lagos) and of the 3rd Armored Division (Jos) are key positions given to loyal officers, because of the significance of these commands in the event of a national emergency, particularly regime instability (Ikeja can control Lagos, and the Armored Division has tanks that are reasonably close to Abuja).

Chief of the Army Staff, Lt General Luka Yusuf, warned 12 December 2007 that from January 1, 2008, which is the take-off of Transformation of the Army into a clearly and purely professional force," any Commanding Officer who uses his position for selfish ends will be severely dealt with. Yusuf said this while decorating 18 newly-promoted generals with their new ranks, said under the Armys new regime of discipline, commanders are going to be held responsible for misbehavior of soldiers under them.

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