By Kingsley Nwezeh
Military pensioners under the aegis of Coalition of Concerned Veterans (CCV) yesterday threatened to shut down the country in protest with effect from the first week of August to press home their demands.The military veterans stated that as responsible leaders, their members had shown appreciable level of regard for the office of the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) in order not to wash their dirty linen in public, stressing that they expected same treatment in return.
The pensioners said that the minister had persistently shown lack of interest in the suffering of its members since his assumption of office as minister.
The group, in a statement, said that if the authorities refuse to dialogue with them, they shall meet on the streets of Abuja and other state capitals and in the full glare of the international community.
The pensioners said COVID-19 or not, they were not scared of death.“We have been there before in the face of obvious threat to our lives. We are ready to once again lay down our lives for others to live,” it said.
The group also queried whose interest the defence minister served if he could not dialogue with representatives of veterans groups, who are part of his primary constituency as the minister of defence
The statement which was titled “We have Reached the End of the Road,” and signed by its spokesperson, Sedisyne Abiodun Durowaiye-Herberts, the group said it was regrettable that the situation had degenerated.
The statement disclosed that two letters the veterans wrote to the minister in a space of six weeks seeking his audience were not responded to.
“After weeks of extensive appraisal and discussion by the CCV leaders, we have sadly come to that point, where we must take our destiny in our own hands.
“It is unfortunate that the HMOD (Honourable Minister of Defence), who incidentally is also one of us, is obviously working at a cross-road and against the good intention of Mr. President”, it said.
Lamenting the situation, the pensioners said : “our membership cuts across the ranks, which include his juniors, course mates and indeed his seniors. We, are representatives of these highly respected senior citizens, and we are saying, this is unacceptable to us and we are going ahead to mobilise our members at both state levels and FCT for a sustained peaceful protest to press home our legitimate demand from government in the first week of August, 2020”.
The pensioners maintained that it was regrettable that simple administrative norms of responding to letters were disregarded by the office of the minister, giving the impression that “we mean little or nothing to him”.
Reacting to the threat by the pensioners, the, Special Assistant to the Minister on Media, Alhaji Mohammed Abdulkadir, said the minister was responding appropriately and adequately to their request.
“We acknowledge the receipt of their letter and the minister has put in place all necessary machinery on ground to be able to look into their demands and to that effect he has also been in touch with all military arms and all the relevant military agencies concerned,” he said.
The minister’s media aide said the minister “has decided to fix a date to meet with them next week and that will be communicated to them.
“That the minister is insensitive to their request is not true. That the minister is not willing to meet them is also not true. The minister is one of their members and cannot be insensitive to what concerns them”.
The Military Pensions Board (MPB) said recently that there was no fixed date yet for the payment of arrears of pension owed retired military personnel.
The board had urged pensioners to disregard rumours making the rounds that a date was fixed by the board for payment of the three months areas of salary.
A statement issued by the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the board, Flight Lieutenant Olayinka Lawal, had said the Major General Ahmadu Bala Adamu-led board was working conscientiously to ensure that the balance of the areas was made”.