President Muhammadu Buhari has ratified the National Defence Policy 2017 (Revised); Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service Officers 2017 which is set to end the admission of female cadets into the combatant course of the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA.
BuzzNigeria learnt that the recommendation to end the programme which reads, “Phase out the training of female regular combatant cadets,” was made by the Armed Forces Council which was inaugurated by Mr Buhari last week.
Recalled that a set of 20 females, nicknamed Jonathan Queens, were first admitted into the course in Nigeria’s premier military officer training institution during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2011.
According to a serving general in the Nigerian Army who spoke anonymously, the military took the decision due to complaints from some unnamed northern Muslim leaders.
The general explained that there were various types of commissions in the Armed Forces namely: Regular Combatant Commission, Short Service Combatant Commission, Direct Regular Commission, Direct Short Service and Executive Commission.
“It is only the Regular Combatant Commission that can give an officer the opportunity to aspire to head any of the services or rise to become the Chief of Defence Staff, while the others have limited career path. If the military is able to scrap this programme, women will never be able to head any of the arms of the Nigerian military,” he said.
“The northern Muslim leaders want to prevent a situation where one day, a woman will lead the army and give orders to men.”
He also disclosed that those pushing for the scrapping of the programme had convinced the President that women were not doing well in the programme.
In contradiction to this, the general said,
“When we started the training of female cadets in 2011, we never thought it would be successful. When the first set of women cadets graduated from the academy last year, women won three awards, including the best award in the navy category.
“A female cadet, C. Lord-Mallam, won the Navy Gold award which is the highest in the navy category. The Army Silver award, which is the second highest in the army, went to a female cadet, K. O Dayo-Karim. The Air Force Silver award was also won by a female cadet, O. S Ijelu.
“However, some northern conservatives were not happy about it because most of the female cadets are either Christians from the South and northern minority groups or Muslims from the South and Middle Belt.
“Dissatisfied with how things are turning out, the northern Muslim leaders lobbied the military authorities to stop the programme for women.”
The general described the recommendation as an attempt to reverse the gains of the past, adding that it was a setback in the push for gender equality.
He revealed that many of the female cadets were outperforming their male colleagues, adding that their achievements were being suppressed by the military hierarchy.
“I was informed that the women were trained just like the men were trained. They were not given any preferential treatment. Two of these female cadets beat their male counterparts to win a placement at the United States Military Academy in West Point and they are doing well.
“It is unfortunate that while the western world and even other African nations are progressing, Nigeria is going backwards,” he said.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had in 2010 ordered the military to allow females interested in becoming combatant officers of the Nigerian armed forces to be admitted into the NDA for the first time ever.
Adetokunbo Kayode who was the Minister of Defence, and said other countries in Africa were “already doing it and they are not better than us.”
He had reported that the country now have female armoured tank drivers, female Para-troopers, jumpers, and others. “We want to have strong, virile armed forces devoid of discrimination,” Kayode had stated.
Mr Kayode expatiated on the new directive saying,
“As you are all aware, the Nigerian Armed forces have always had openings for female officers. However, these have always been limited to non- combat duties, thereby limiting their career path irrespective of their competence or skill.
While the Director of Information, Maj. Gen. John Enenche and Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman are yet to comment on the development, a military source said the revised harmonised structure, if validated, would not affect the NDA admission for 2018.
“The NDA has already begun receiving applications for the 70th regular course since October 20, 2017. The application, which will run until February 2018, is open to both male and female Nigerians.
“So, there is no going back on what the NDA has started. It will be a public disaffection if the military reneges on what it has advertised and we are a professional arm and cannot do that,’’ the source said.