Abuja – President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday in Abuja, inaugurated a newly formed 176 Special Forces Battalion, adding to the existing 177 and 7 battalions of the presidential guards brigade.

The guards brigade is a special unit of the military specifically charged with the responsibility of the security of the president and the seat of government.

The ceremony which took place at the fore-court of the Presidential Villa, was part of the activities lined up for the 52nd independence anniversary.

The Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada explained that the newly established battalion was to strengthen the guards brigade and to make it more effective in response to security challenges in and around the Federal Capital Territory.

Obada said the ceremonial presentation of colours to the battalion was symbolic and could only be done by the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Speaking in the same vein, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, said the ceremony was special and grand in marking the independence of a nation.

Abati said the 52nd independence anniversary like that of 2011, was low-keyed to save costs and adequately  prepare for the big event of 2014, when the nation would mark 100 years of existence from the amalgamation of 1914.

He debunked the claim that the event was moved to the villa for security reasons.

`The anniversary is also low-keyed this year taking place within the precincts of the State House.

“`President Jonathan has personally responded to the allegation that the event is being held within the State House by making it clear that in 2014, we will have a big event; the centenary of Nigeria since amalgamation.

“Few years ago, we have the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence and that was a big event.

“The President’s take on this is that between that 50-year anniversary and the centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation, we should have low-keyed celebrations.

“Those who are looking for celebration on a grand scale should wait till 2014 when we will have the 100 years of Nigeria’s amalgamation,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Monday’s celebration was marked with a ceremonial change of guards by the outgoing and incoming quarter guards and guards brigade.

There were also parade and military display Brigade of Guards, inspection of fitness and weapons, a symbolic colour-parade as well as band parade in different military tones and melodies.

NAN reports that the president, assisted by the Service Chiefs and heads of other para-military agencies, released  pigeons, signifying the unfettered peace and harmony of the nation.

The president also signed the anniversary register and cut the cake decked in national colours.

The event was witnessed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark his deputy, Mr Ike Ekweremadu and the deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Emeka Ihedioha.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar led other justices and heads of court to the event.

Also in attendance were former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, ministers, presidential aides, members of the diplomatic corps, the business community, representatives of religious leaders and traditional rulers. (NAN)

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