As Nigeria prepares for 2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, TARKAA DAVID writes on the plight of ex-service men and the need to support their families.

It has become a national ritual every January 15 nationwide, military personnel including the Army, Navy, Air force and Nigerian Legion converge in different centres across the nation to celebrate the Armed Forces Remembrance Day and give honour to the fallen and living heroes who hazarded and continue to hazard their lives for territorial integrity of the nation and for peace to reign worldwide. The event is held at the federal, state and local levels where either serving military officers reside or where living ex-service men occupy in commemoration of the end of the Second World War in 1945.

Beyond the release of pigeons to symbolise peace, placing of wreaths, religious service, playing of the last post, parade, shooting of guns, diverse colours of attires typical of their fields be it Navy, Air force, Army, the plights of the family members of Fallen Heroes is a matter of serious concern.

As a country, Nigeria has been surrounded by diverse internal security problems, these challenges which threaten the corporate existence of the country have necessitated the drafting of members of the Armed Forces to restore normalcy to the issue of non-conventional warfare waged on Northeastern part of the country by the Boko Haram Terrorist group, the challenge posed by the herdsmen/farmers clashes in the North-Central parts of the country as well as bandits, cattle rustlers in Zamfara State have led to the men of Nigerian Armed Forces to pay the supreme sacrifice of losing their lives for the unity of the nation. These sacrifices have led to the return of normalcy and relative peace in the Northeast with the return of civil institutions and return of most of the Internally Displaced Persons to their ancestral homes. But families of the fallen heroes continue to live in deplorable conditions despite such huge sacrificial national service others even paying the ultimate price.

During the 26th remembrance of C-130 plane crash, families of fallen heroes appealed to the Nigerian Armed Forces to make good its promises and improve on the welfare of widows and children of the fallen heroes.

Speaking during the interdenominational service at the National Cemetery in Abuja, the President C-130 Armed Forces Widows Foundation International said many states have not fulfilled the promises made to the families in terms of welfare and provision of accommodation.

The wife of late Maj Markus Pinda, Mrs Hadiza, lamented that some of the children who were born immediately after the unfortunate incident are not captured in the plan and called on the military to include children of women who were pregnant during the incident. She added that some states are yet to provide accommodation to the widows as earlier promised.

Speaking further, Hadiza called on the military to reduce collateral damage on soldiers as no soldier wants to go to war and die but rather to return home to his families.

“The country has been ravaging in conflict so there are many widows now, we don’t want the younger widow to go through the stress we went through. The army should try and reduce collateral damage on the military, nobody wants to go to war and die. Everybody wants to go to war and return to his family,” she said.

Mrs Stella Onabolu commended the Navy for taking responsibility of the children school fees.

Mrs Onabolu, however, lamented that other benefits such as housing, car and other entitlements are yet to be given to them.

As Nigeria prepares for the 2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, the minister of Defence, Brig Gen Mansur Dan-Ali (Rtd) tasked Nigerians and corporate organisations to give considerations to the plight of widows and orphans of fallen heroes.

He said Nigeria has faced a lot of internal security that threatened the corporate existence of the country but the Armed Forces stoods their ground and restored peace.

He added that 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.

Mansur noted that many lay down their lives, others survive with varying degrees of incapacitation but notwithstanding, they have continued to dedicate themselves to this onerous and patriotic duty for their fatherland.

“We owe it a duty to give consideration to the plight of the widows and orphans of our fallen heroes,” he said.

He called relevant stakeholders and other well-meaning corporate bodies and citizens to contribute their quota to ease the burden of the families left behind.

The minister further averred 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 dependents outside the official coverage net.

The federal and state governments are now involved in rebuilding public institutions and communities affected by the long-drawn war on insurgency.He commended corporate organisations like the Dangote Foundation who have lent their support in concrete terms to the rebuilding/resettlement process of the war-affected citizens.

This can be considered as a worthy Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Defence, will continue to implement policies that would help the defence sector achieve its constitutional mandate.

The minister, giving a break schedule of the programmes said the event will begin with the Nigerian Legion Humanitarian Day. This is scheduled to hold on Friday 19 October, 2018 at the Legion House, Area 3, Garki, Abuja and Legion offices in all states of the Federation.

This involves community service by the veterans as well as empowerment of widows and orphans of fallen heroes. It will be followed by Emblem Launch by Mr President.

The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, will launch the 2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Emblem on Wednesday 31st October, 2018. This is expected to take place at the Council Chambers, State House, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

It will be followed by religious services. The Jumma’at Service will hold on Friday, 11 January, 2018 at the National Mosque.Then it will be followed by Inter-denominational Service at the National Christian Centre, Abuja on Sunday, 13 January, 2018.

These events, he said, will take place simultaneously in all the states of the federation.

The minister enjoined all Nigerians and visitors to attend and pray for the departed, injured veterans and their families.

The programme will come to an end with the wreath-laying ceremony by Mr President and other dignitaries at the National Cenotaph Abuja on Tuesday 15th January, 2018.

This is carried out simultaneously by governors in their respective states.To ensure welfare of retirees, the ministry of defence has embarked on review of the Nigerian Legion Act.The bill has provision for institutionalising the provision for welfare needs of the Veterans in line with International best practices.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.

The Defence Health Maintenance Limited has continued to provide health insurance service for veterans, widows and eligible dependants of our fallen heroes.

In 2016, the Nigerian Legion and a private sector driven National Personal Asset Acquisition Scheme (NAPAAS) signed a partnership agreement.

The pack is 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.

All these are in a bid to improve upon the welfare and living conditions of our veterans and their families but more still needs to be done following the deplorable condition of the families of fallen heroes and the legionnaires.

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Of Wreaths, Fallen Heroes And Plights Of Their Families — Leadership Newspaper