Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Retired military generals and senior members of the armed forces at the weekend called on the federal government to consider the establishment of a Ministry of Veteran Affairs in the country.
In a communique issued at the end of a three-day retreat at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, Abuja, at the weekend aimed at unifying the various associations of retired veterans in the country, the group called on the government to consider upgrading the Veterans Affairs Division to a ministry or parastatal. “We demand that the federal government considers and upgrades the Veterans Affairs Division to a full-fledged ministry or parastatal.
“The veteran agreed to come together under one umbrella to be henceforth known as the Veteran Federation of Nigeria under a steering committee to be chaired by Major General Abdulmalik Jibrin (rtd),” it said.
The military veterans also called on “the Minister of Defence to facilitate the expeditious passage of the Veteran Federation of Nigeria Bill as amended by the ninth National Assembly when represented,” and called on the Ministry of Defence and Defence Headquarters to develop a data base for all veterans in Nigeria, detailing their strengths and areas of specialisation and experiences for cases of re-engagement.
While appreciating the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Service Chiefs for organising the retreat, the group restated their loyalty and support to the federal government, and expressed readiness to continue to contribute to the national security and development.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, who was represented by the Director of Plans, Defence Headquarters, Major General Atolagbe, expressed concern that many retired personnel were unable to contribute optimally to contemporary national issues despite a huge reservoir of knowledge, training and experience gained while in active service.
“Rather, they grapple with adjustment to civil life and personal welfare issues for extended periods of retirement. These challenges are further compounded by the presence of a community that has varied perceptions of the military ranging from love to distrust and largely unfounded suspicion,” he said.
He said it was “based on the foregoing that I convened this retreat for us to look at ways to kick-start the process of bringing to fruition the Veteran Federation of Nigeria to serve as veritable platform of synergy for veterans associations.”