By: Okosun Dennis
A Coalition of Concerned Veterans (CCV) and other affliliate groups, including the Retired Army, Navy and Airforce Officers (RANAO) and Retired Members of Nigerian Armed Forces (REMENAF) are to embark on nationwide protest over the non-payment of their pension arrears, and general neglect of ex-servicemen welfare.
After several months of consultations with Ministry of Defence, Directorate of Veteran Affairs, Military Pensions Board (MPB) and the Honourable Minister of Defence to pay the balance of 2017/18 arrears, and other allowances, it was met with ignominy, Nationalwire learnt.
The protest scheduled to hold on the 13th August, 2020 in Abuja and across the states of the federation, is to address contentious issues among others the non-payment of
Consequential Adjustment of Minimum Wage and its arrears from April 2019 to date and failure to pay Debarment Allowance to some retirees as contained in the Manual of Financial Administration for Armed Forces of Nigeria 2012 and Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) for the Nigerian Armed Forces.
It was learnt that the balance of three months pension arrears was part of the 14 months salary adjustment approved by the late President Musa Yardua. After two tranches of six and five months were paid in 2019 and April 2020, the Ministry of Defence and Military Pensions Board (MPB) have refused to pay them the balance.
According to the spokesperson of CCV, Comrade Sedisyne Abiodun Durowaiye-Herberts, and the National Secretary and Media Coordinator of Retired Members of Nigeria Armed Forces (REMENAF) Amb. (Dr) Oamien Roy Okhidievbie, who spoke separately averred that after several months of consultations, they have come to the conclusion that the Federal government and military authorities are not committed to assuaging their pains with a view to alleviating the financial borden of veterans.
Durowaiye-Herberts explained that it was regrettable that despite having written two letters to the Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD), Maj Gen Bashir Magashi (Retd) within a space of six weeks, he ignored them and never responded to their letters.
He further stated that after weeks of extensive appraisal and discussions by the CCV leaders, “We have sadly come to the point, where we must take our destiny into our own hands,” Durowaiye-Herberts averred.
He added, “It is unfortunate that the HMOD, who incidentally is also one of us, is obviously working at a cross-road and against the good intention of Mr. President.
“We wish to ask, whose interest is the HMOD serving if he cannot dialogue with representatives of Veteran groups who are part of his primary constituency as the Minister of Defence?
“It is also regrettable that a simple administrative norms of responding to letters have been disregarded by the office of the HMOD, giving the impression that we mean little or nothing to him,” he reiterated.
As a result he observed, “We, as representatives of these highly respected Senior citizens are saying, this is unacceptable to us and we are going ahead to mobilize our members at both State levels and FCT for a sustained peaceful protest to press home our legitimate demand from government on the 13th August, 2020.”
Speaking in the capacity of the Director Media of Coalition of Concerned Veterans (CCV), Amb. Roy Okhidievbie explained that this is the time to take our destiny into our hands and fight for our legitimate right.
“We can’t go cap in hands begging Ministry of Defence and Military Pensions Board (MPB) for what belongs to us. No force can stop us: no police deployment and the use of tear gas can hinder us.
“We want to warn any policeman that might be deployed against us to watch and behave themselves. The only weapon that can stop us now is alert, alert and alert,” Okhievdiebie thundered in an explosive speech.
He further stated that, “If the authority have refused to dialogue with us in their offices, we shall meet on the street of Abuja and other State capitals and in the full glare of the International community.
“COVID or not, we are not afraid 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.
On possible options that the peaceful protest could be suspended, Okhievdiebie reiterated that the only thing that stop them from locking down the country was “Bank Alerts” for the outstanding payments of our arrears and a review cum implementation of the Debarment Allowance to favour all instead of paying it to segment of pensioners.
Expressing his angst against the ill-treatment melted out on retired personnel, a serving soldier said this is a fight worthy of supporting because very soon, we shall join the league of pensioners’ and we wouldn’t let such maltreatment to continue.
The soldier who is still nursing an injury he suffered during the Liberian internecine Civil War but spoke anonymously with our correspondent described government’s attitude to veterans as “wicked and callous.”
According to him, “The way our government / Leaders in Nigeria are maltreating retired soldiers is unassumingly wicked. These are people the government had sapped all their youthful energies defending Nigeria. They retired and intentionally wants them to die without enjoying the labour of their hands. What kind of country is Nigeria?
Investigation, however, revealed that most retired officers are living in penury and debilitating health conditions. As subscribers to the Defence Health Insurance Scheme, to cover treatment of Service-related injuries and disabilities, it was learnt they are hardly given required drugs at different military hospitals.
Some pensioners spoken to who visited hospitals recently revealed that they are often asked to buy most of the drugs outside claiming that they are not available at their pharmacy despite having Nigerian Army Drug Manufacturing Company Limited in Bonny Cantonment, Victoria Island, Lagos where some of those drugs are manufactured.
In other to have a seamless protest and in consonance with Covid-19 regulations on physical distancing, Okhidievbie explained that veterans have been sufficiently educated at various state chapters adding that every veteran is expected to wear a facemask during the protest.
As the day draws nearer and time ticks away, military pensioners are desirous to see that day to enable them express their disappointment with the government over the neglect of their welfare and other entitlements denied them.
When contacted why the Ministry of Defence hasn’t respond to the Pensioner’s letters, the Senior Adviser, Media to the Honourable Minister of Defence, Mr Abdulkarim Mohammed said that the Minister would respond to the letters appropriately.