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Yusuf Bichi, Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), has activated a lopsided hiring process that could overfill the security agency with personnel from the Northern part of Nigeria.
According to an online tabloid, Peoples Gazette, official documents and contributions of senior intelligence officials showed that the North had a massive share of the roughly 1,300 Nigerians currently undergoing cadet training at two different camps of the secret police in Lagos and Bauch.
Of the total 628 cadet trainees, who had resumed at the Bauchi facility as of September 23, 535 identified themselves as trainees joining the service from either the North-East or the North-West.
Only 93 were from either the South-East, South-South, South-West or North-Central, according to recruitment filings sighted by the newspaper.
Findings also showed that at least 71 of those currently undergoing cadet training hailed from Bichi Local Government Area, Kano State, the Director-General’s home local government area.
Officials said the number was more but the newspaper could not independently confirm the higher figures as well as a slew of other disturbing allegations of bigotry against Bichi prior to this publication.
In Lagos, multiple participants including senior officials, said Bichi disregarded the federal character concept and skewed the process for Nigerians from the North. A top official estimated 708 trainees were at the Lagos training facility as of September 26.
Officials were unsure how many people were taken as cadet trainees in total because some were still arriving three weeks into the six-month exercise.
Senior intelligence officials said even though the sectional disparity mirrors Nigeria’s reality under President Muhammadu Buhari, they are nonetheless worried that the development could potentially tip the ethnic and religious balance of national security in favour of a section of the country for decades.
“Some of us are worried less about the audacity of focusing on one part of the country to bring in new cadets than we are about its long-term implications,” a senior SSS official told the Gazette via a secure video channel last week.
“We know he might find it difficult, but the DG would leave a better legacy if he sees himself first as a Nigerian.”
In July, the Yellow House sent out a memo to all state and FCT commands, informing them that Bichi had ordered a fresh round of recruitment for the agency’s next generation of intelligence officers.
He directed that each state command should conduct a rigorous selection process and forward four successful candidates to the headquarters for possible admission into the service.
All commands were said to have complied with the directive, conducted a thorough selection of four candidates and sent the results to the headquarters.
But shortly after the candidates were cleared and sent to the headquarters before the July 15 deadline contained in the memo, Bichi seized the moment and initiated a recruitment process of his own.
On September 1, Bichi told a few officials at the Yellow House to call people from a prepared list and offer them a role at the SSS.
Those, who were called, were immediately asked to go to the Lagos or Bauchi training school, officials said.
Starting September 8, cadet candidates reported for training in Lagos and Bauchi, in some cases without the awareness of the director of state security in the state they applied from, documents and officials said.
Bichi kept the list of those he had been sending to the training school secret, officials said.
It was unclear how many people he intended to recruit but they kept showing up.
He also kept the process largely to himself, making it difficult for insiders to access his list or the criteria with which he was selecting cadet candidates.
Bichi’s regional recruitment agenda came three years after his predecessor implemented a similar hiring process that failed to reflect Nigeria’s diversity.