By Kingsley Nwezeh
The wide pay disparity of retired military Major Generals and Brigadier-Generals, as well as security debarment allowance were among other burning issues discussed at a meeting held at the weekend by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd); the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, and officials of military pensioners.
Military veterans under the aegis of Coalition of Concerned Veterans (CCV) had threatened to shut down the country in protest to press home its demands with effect from the first week of August.
The group in a statement said if the authorities refused to dialogue with them in their offices, they shall meet in the streets of Abuja and other state capitals and in the full glare of the international community.
At a meeting attended by Magashi, Olonisakin, Chief of Defence Account and Budget, Maj. Gen. Jahadi Ezra Jakko; Chairman, Military Pensions Board (MPB), Major Gen A.B Adamu, and the Director, Veteran Affairs Defence Headquarters, the military veterans agreed to suspend their planned nationwide protest.
The issues raised by the leaders of the Nigerian Legion, Veterans Federation of Nigeria (VFN) Coalition of Concerned Veterans (CCV) and the Retired Army, Navy and Airforce Officers (RANAO) included their unjustifiable exclusion from the payment of the Security Debarment Allowance (SDA) aimed at preventing retired personnel from using the knowledge and skills acquired while in the service against the state.
The veterans argued that they met the required criteria to be paid having acquired knowledge and skills while in service.
Other issues raised by the military pensioners included the need to address the wide gap between the pensions of the Brigadier Generals and the Major Generals, as well as incremental issue as a result of the increase in minimum wage.
The parties deliberated on the restricted National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for the veterans and the need to institute burial support for the veterans.
The Minister of Defence, who is also a military veteran, said the issue of SDA should not be a reason to protest, pointing out that the provision in the manual of the financial administration for the armed forces was clear.
While briefing the meeting, the Chief of Account and Budget, Defence Headquarters, Major General Jakko, recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari signed and approved SDA on the February 24, 2018, but backdated the policy to take effect from November 9, 2017, payable to all personnel on retirement, pointing out that the policy does not cover the agitating veterans who retired before this date.
The minister, therefore, directed the Chief of Defence Staff, Olonisakin, to take a look at the issues presented by the veterans with a view to addressing their concerns.
Moving forward, a five-point resolution was endorsed by all the representatives of the veteran groups.
“The veterans appreciated President Buhari, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff for their concern in improving the welfare of retirees, especially the harmonisation of the pensioners.
“The meeting decried the result by some veteran bodies to the use of social media, threat to protest and to channel their grievances through it instead of following the laid down procedures.
“More importantly, it also resolved to finding creative ways of addressing the expressed concerns of the veterans with regards to the issues of Security Debarment Allowance (SDA) and other welfare issues to which the Chairman, Military Pensions Board, Major General A.B Adamu; the General Secretary of Nigerian Legion, Group Captain Kayode Abe (rtd), and the spokesperson for the Coalition of the Concerned Veterans, Abiodun Durowaye Albert, confirmed in an interview with journalists,” a statement issued by the minister’s office, said.