Preparing Military Personnel for Post-service Life

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Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, which is saddled with the task of integrating military retirees into civil life, recently retired 256 soldiers, while preparing 76 officers for post-service life

With a vision to be a world class training institution capable of repositioning not only ex servicemen but retirees of other paramilitary/security agencies and organisations in order to cope with the challenges of post service life, the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre (NAFRC) was established to provide military personnel with relevant vocational and entrepreneurial training, in preparation for living a productive and fulfilling life in retirement.

The centre was first established as an idea by the British Colonial Government’s as a Vocational Resettlement Centre (VRC) for the West African Frontier Force (WAFF) that fought on the side of the Allied Forces in the Second World War in 1945.

The center was mandated to impact relevant skills to meet the resettlement needs of the ex-combatants of the war in Nigeria and Ghana. However, by the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, the mandate was redefined to meet the urgent need of rehabilitating the disabled soldiers of the civil war. Thus, the centre became an army establishment and was accordingly renamed the Nigerian Army Rehabilitation Centre to rehabilitate the disabled soldiers of the Nigerian Civil War.

In the early 1980s, it became necessary to review the mandate of the centre when virtually all the disabled soldiers had been rehabilitated. Accordingly, with the introduction of the concept of Defence Headquarters, in the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre in 1982 with a renewed mandate.

The centre is currently headed by NAFRC Commandant, Air Vice Marshal Kinglsey Lar; with other principal officers like the Director of Administration, Air Commodore T Oladega; Director of Training, Brig Gen AY Bwala; Director of Coordination, Commodore EB Duke; Director of Logistics, Commodore I Dam; Director of Finance, Brigadier General JE Osifo; and the centre’s Information Officer, Lieutenant Commander CID Yohanna.

Historic Combined Graduation

Just recently, after 35 years of service to the nation, 256 Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) of the military were retired in a colourful celebration. Their retirement followed several months of courses on reintegration to civil life, entrepreneurship and other kills acquisition programmes at NAFRC.

The retirees, who were drawn from the Nigerian Army (NA), Nigerian Navy (NN) and Nigerian Air Force (NAF), were hosted to a combined passing out ceremony with 26 generals and 47 mid-level officers who underwent management and entrepreneurship courses also at NAFRC.

These 76 officers, it was gathered, were penciled for the courses they took to prepare them for retirement since they do not have much years in the civil service. Under the management courses, skills like general management, security and safety practice management and entrepreneurship and general studies were taught.

Also, for the first time ever, participants were drawn from the paramilitary and they were enrolled in various entrepreneurship and vocational studies. The participants were drawn from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Department of State Services (DSS), National Intelligence Agency(NIA) and Defence Intelligence Agencies (DIA).

Special guests at the ceremony were former CDS, Gen. Alexander Ogomudia (rtd.); Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson; General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Godwin Umelo and Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Logistics Command, AVM Lawal Alao, among others.

New Vista

For the 256 recent retirees, it was new vista to transition into civil life after their 35 years sojourn into the military. For 35 years, they went through series of military trainings to ensure they turned out to be professional soldiers in their various units and fields. Suffice to say that their entire process were wired in those years in a military pattern, which is often with precision, regimentation, dedication to duty and discipline.

Throughout those years, they recited the soldiers creed, and were solely dedicated to the actualisation of the Armed Forces core responsibilities whatever the cost or odds. However, after those 35 years, it was time to reformat their thinking process back to the civilian life they were used to before their sojourn into military life.

Thus to ensure a smooth and seamless transition back to civil life, NAFRC was borne. At the centre located at Oshodi, Lagos, the retirees undergo six months training and re-training to ease their transition. They are also equipped with relevant civilian skills that would ensure they are kept busy.

For the current graduates, they were equipped with relevant trades and vocational skills. For the fashion wing, courses like shoe making, barring, tailoring, laundry and weaving were taught, while the fine arts and printing training had courses like fine arts, ceramics making, photography and printing as its core base. While the soap and cosmetics department had courses like soap and cosmetics making and domestic products, the agricultural section had general agric/food/cash crop, poultry, piggery, fishery, rabbitary, ruminants and snailery.

Also, the wood work sections boasts of carpentry and joinery, furniture design and construction, as well as the machine wood work, while the building and civil works section has bricklaying and concreting, plumbing and pipe lifting, painting and spraying.

For the electrical and electronics section, courses like refrigeration and air conditioning, electrical installation and maintenance practice, as well as radio and television. The auto mechanics wing boasts of mechanical engineering, battery charging, vulcanising and car wash.

Other departments like fabrication and welding have the fabrication, welding, machining and fitting, as well as foundry, while the music department deals with instrument learning and entertainment, even as the food and beverages department deals with bakery and the information technology department takes care of computer appreciation, hardware maintenance, networking and internet, as well as systems development and design.

FG’s Commitment

While reiterating the commitment of the federal government to provide the needed support to enable this institution build capacity and optimally run these courses at the centre,the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, urged the retirees to be unrelenting in their support to security agencies particularly in the area of community intelligence gathering.

Reminding them of the recently approved enhanced welfare packages for retiring members of the Armed Forces by President Muhammadu Buhari, Olonisakin charged them to stay loyal and dedicated to the nation.

He further commended NAFRC Commandant, Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar and other staff for ensuring that Armed Forces personnel were exposed to the latest trends in global entrepreneurship and management training.

Acknowledging the challenge of integrating into the civil life amongst others, he however, said the training received at the centre has adequately equipped them to easily adapt to post-service life.

Also speaking afterwards in an interview, the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Istifanus Gyang, said his assessment of the centre was in a positive light, adding that the projects commissioned were the testament of effective leadership shown by AVM Lar. He further commended the commandant for judiciously using the funds provided in upgrading the facilities in the centre.

Re-engineering People, Processes, Systems

In his welcome remarks, NAFRC Commandant, Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar, said the retirees were the stream one of the second batch for this year. Lar who led dignitaries at the event round the centre for inauguration of some of the projects executed since his assumption of office in January, said he was glad to have officials of the NCS, DSS, NIA and DIA participate in the courses for the first time ever.

He said: “The Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, the home of Hope and Courage, is a centre of scenic beauty and splendour. Let me hasten to say that the beautiful ambience of the NAFRC environment is the result of the visionary thinking of our founding fathers, the resolute commitment of past leaders of our armed forces (like Gen Alexander Ogomudia who has honoured us with his distinguished presence today), as well as the commitment of the past commandants, officers and men who served in the centre. I therefore want to specially salute the vision of all our founders and forebears for the strategic thoughts and vision behind NAFRC.

“When l assumed command of this centre in January this year, my first impression was that this is a well-positioned centre with capacity to optimally deliver on its core mandate of vocational training not just for retiring personnel of the Armed Forces of Nigeria but also for all Nigerians as well as the West African sub region.

“Pursuant to this objective, I immediately developed my vision of command which is to harness the available human and infrastructural capital to transform NAFRC into a word class centre of excellence for international best practice in vocational training.

“The implementation of this vision was anchored on a three-pronged approach of reengineering the people, processes and systems. Towards achieving this objective, my first emphasis was to develop and improve different aspects of our human capital resource. Next step was to update the training curricula of the various workshops in line with contemporary practices. As a corollary to this, several of the workshops had to be upgraded and equipped with modern and upto date equipment for training.

“To compliment the already existing vocational workshops, l approved the introduction of new vocational workshops in paint making, communications equipment repairs and floriculture. My emphasis was also on maintaining and improving the physical and social infrastructure of the centre.

“On completion of the three anchors of my vision, l thereafter sought and obtained Defence Headquarters authorisation to admit members of para-military agencies as well as government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to carry out training in NAFRC.

“Suffice to add that in line with my firm belief that NAFRC is adequately poised to train all Nigerians with vocational skills, the centre in conjunction with the Mushin Local Government Council has successfully conducted various vocational training for citizens in the local government as well as youths in different military barracks across Nigeria.

“Specifically, the centre’s Agric Wing has conducted training and cultivated several economic trees and vegetable farms in Nigerian Army Cantonment Ojo, NAF Base Ikeja while that of the Navy Town Ojo is being finalised. This same gesture has also been extended to several other military formations in Abuja, Bauchi, Kaduna, Makurdi and Kerang in Plateau State.

“Under my watch, NAFRC remains committed to the vision of being a world class center of excellence for the training of vocational skills not only for disengaging military personnel but also to members of security and para military agencies and the entire Nigerian citizens.”

Given the important role the centre is saddled with it, it is therefore expected that consistency in providing quality training, geared towards preparing the retirees to face the challenges of re-integrating into civil life, is sacrosanct.