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Nigeria’s defence minister highlights challenges facing military

By Adekunle Adebayo, Abuja

Minister of Defence, General Bashir Salihi Magashi(Rtd) has listed multiple challenges facing the Nigerian military even as he hailed the undaunting candour of servicemen in defence of the fatherland.

He spoke at length on the state of the military at a  press briefing on the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration, held at the Abacha Hall of the  National Defence College Abuj

“As earlier mentioned, in the exercise of their mandate of protecting the territorial integrity of the country against internal and external aggression, officers and men of the Armed Forces face daunting challenges.

“Many lay down their lives, others survive with varying degrees of incapacitation. This notwithstanding, they have continued to dedicate themselves to this onerous and patriotic duty,” he said.

He said that the Armed Forces Remembrance Day or Veterans Day as it is called in some countries is a very important event celebrated globally.

Magashi’s speech is published below: 

“The Commonwealth member countries observe this event on 11 November yearly. For Nigeria, the date was changed to 15 January annually to accommodate the remembrance of the end of the Nigerian Civil War.

“In a similar vein, members of the Armed Forces have paid the supreme sacrifice and sustained varying degrees of injuries in the fight against Boko Haram in the North East as well as tackling other internal security problems in the North West and other parts of the country.

“In the North East in particular, their sacrifices have led to the return of normalcy and relative peace in the North East with the return of civil institutions and most of the Internally Displaced Persons to their ancestral homes.

“The Federal and State Governments are also involved in rebuilding public institutions and communities affected by the long-drawn war on insurgency.

“It is observed in commemoration of the end of the Second World War which happened at the Eleventh hour of the Eleventh day of the Eleventh month in 1945,” he explained.

Magashi said that annually, the country through the Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices of fallen heroes, veterans and the Armed Forces.

” It is the desire of Government that this act of remembrance be implanted in the hearts of all Nigerians so that we can on daily basis act in ways that show our appreciation. We owe it a duty to give consideration to the plight of the widows and orphans of the fallen heroes.

“We appreciate the works of some Non-Governmental Organisations that have catered for these categories of citizens. It is expected that more of such organisations will rise to the challenge of addressing the needs of these special Nigerians.

“Thankfully, some corporate organizations whose contribution we sincerely appreciate have lent their support in concrete terms to the rebuilding/resettlement process of the war-affected citizens.

“We wish to appreciate and applaud these organisations and call on other well-meaning corporate bodies and citizens to also contribute their quota to ease the burden of our affected compatriots,” he stressed.

Speaking further, he said that the efforts of the services at providing scholarship for the eligible children of their personnel who died in active service up to tertiary level can be augmented by corporate organisations operating in Nigeria to capture dependants outside the official coverage net.

“This can be considered as a worthy Corporate Social Responsibility initiative.

“This Press Briefing heralds the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration. Activities marking the Celebration will include:

a. Emblem Launch by Mr President. The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari, will Launch the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Emblem on Wednesday 16 October 2019. The event will take place at the Council Chambers, State House, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
b. The Nigerian Legion Humanitarian Day. This is scheduled to hold on Friday 18 October 2019 at the Legion House, Area 3 Garki Abuja and Legion offices in all States of the Federation. The event will involve community service by the veterans as well as empowerment of widows and orphans of fallen heroes.

c. Religious Services. The Jumma’at Service will hold on Friday 10 January 2020 at the National Mosque. This will be followed by Interdenominational Service at the National Christian Centre, Abuja on Sunday 12 January 2020. These events will take place simultaneously in all the States of the Federation. All Nigerians and visitors are invited to attend and pray for the departed, injured veterans and their families.
d. Wreath Laying Ceremony. The peak of the Celebration will be the laying of wreath by Mr President and other dignitaries at the National Cenotaph Abuja on Wednesday 15 January 2020. This is carried out simultaneously by Governors in their respective States.”

The minister used the opportunity to relay some of the activities the Ministry has embarked on for the improvement of the welfare of veterans.

“a. Review of the Nigerian Legion Act. The Ministry of Defence has forwarded a bill for the review of the Nigerian Legion Act to a Veterans Federation of Nigeria Act. The bill has provision for institutionalising the provision for welfare needs of the Veterans in line with International best practices. We urge the 9th National Assembly to assist in the expeditious passage of the Bill.

b. Pension Administration. At the root of catering for the welfare of our veterans is the payment of monthly pensions. To this end, the Military Pensions Board continues to deliver on regular pensions. Periodic Verification Exercises are carried out by the Board to ensure that sharp practices are reduced to the barest minimum.

c. Defence Health Insurance Scheme. The Defence Health Maintenance Limited has continued to provide health insurance service for veterans, widows and eligible dependants of our fallen heroes. The Ministry of Defence will continue to empower the company for the effective discharge of her responsibilities. Zonal offices are being established in all the zones of the Federation to increase access to the Company’s services.

d. Collaboration between Nigerian Legion and National Personal Asset Acquisition Scheme. In 2016, a collaboration between the Nigerian Legion and a private sector driven National Personal Asset Acquisition Scheme was endorsed. The scheme was to afford the Legionnaires (veterans) the ability to purchase both household and agricultural commodities at affordable, discounted prices within a flexible and structured repayment plan across the country. 

“I am happy to announce that the programme has taken off with the distribution at Jos in July 2018 of 400 motorcycles to the Legionnaires and food items to widows of fallen heroes. The gesture was replicated with the distribution of 2,000 motorcycles and 10,000 bags of rice in Abuja in October 2018.

“The collaboration has programmes in housing, agriculture, provision of free medical services, skill acquisition, transportation, education and humanitarian services. All these are in a bid to improve upon the welfare and living conditions of our veterans and their families.”

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