In a major policy reversal, the Nigerian military is set to end the admission of female cadets into the combatant course of the Nigerian Defence Academy, The PUNCH has learnt.
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.
It was learnt that the recommendation to end the programme was made by the Armed Forces Council which was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.
Buhari had also last week ratified the National Defence Policy 2017 (Revised); Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service Officers 2017.
Recommendation 19 of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of the Armed Forces of Nigeria was sighted by one of our correspondents on Sunday.
It read, “Phase out the training of female regular combatant cadets.”
A serving general in the Nigerian Army told our correspondent that the military took the decision due to complaints from some unnamed northern Muslim leaders.
The general, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, 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.
He said, “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.
“The northern Muslim leaders want to prevent a situation where one day, a woman will lead the army and give orders to men.”
Incidentally, it was reported in 2013 that of the first 20 female cadets, only one Muslim, Fatimah Saleh, enlisted. She had also stated that her “Arabic school teacher” had advised her against joining the army.
The general said those pushing for the scrapping of the programme had convinced the President that women were not doing well in the programme.
He 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.”