Continued from yesterday
Welfare of the Nigerian Army
The Nigerian Army should place welfare of its personnel as a top priority. However, we are not unaware that it has over time introduced and still introducing various welfare packages in order to meet its morale boosting component strategy which would produce well-focused and well-motivated troops. Among these packages should include sponsoring soldiers to acquire more academic and professional qualifications and competences to improve on their positions in life.
I remember when as the Adjutant General, I introduced what was known as the Nigerian Army Welfare Insurance Scheme (NAWIS). Then it was a pro-rated contributory fund for troops welfare. It was meant to pay families of deceased officers and soldiers ten –times their annual salaries pending when the Army will work out their Death Benefits. It was also meant to provide scholarships for children of serving soldiers. It was further meant to provide housing loans to serving soldiers such that they can own homes anywhere they wish in the country. I hope this welfare scheme is still operating.
As I speak many of our retirees are dying off from penury. The pensions and gratuities paid them are so minuscule that none can start a new life on them nor live a fairly decent life in retirement. It is time to review these so that officers and men under the army may live their lives in retirement not regretting their service to country. A look at the severance pays and pensions paid to our civilian counterparts tell the story better. There should be an upward review of the army pension and gratuity to make it attractive so that service men and women are not tempted to illegally enrich themselves while in service.
Therefore, it is saddening to see some Military officers and soldiers being paraded in civil courts for crimes from corruption and abuse of office. During our time the military had established procedures according to military norms and values where such cases were tried and appropriate sanctions made that may include death sentencing and in some cases life jail terms.
Nowadays, young officers and soldiers show up in the Barracks in very expensive vehicles without the unit commanders being aware of them. Such acts could result in indiscipline and insubordination within the Barracks. Back in our days, an officer drove into the barracks in a Citroen Palace car way beyond his means of livelihood. Our Battalion Commander in the 5th Battalion, Bukavu Barracks, Kano, Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu impounded the vehicle and kept it in the Mechanical and Transport (MT) Yard. The officer was denied access to the vehicle until he was able to explain how he could afford such an expensive vehicle at that time. It took the officer three months before he gained access to his car, having convinced the Commanding Officer that he was able to save some money to buy the car when he was serving in Congo with the UN flag. May I ask, how many of you here will or have challenged officers and men under you for living beyond their legitimate means?
I must recall, with nostalgia, how Lt. Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd.) our then Chief of Army Staff, was able to stamp out cultism among officers and men at the 2nd Division of the Nigerian Army. He and such officers like Lt. Gen. Julius Ipoola Akinrinade and the bulk of officers never tolerated such at that time. Collectively, we stopped the spread of cultism in the Nigerian Army.
To achieve spirit of oneness
It is my belief, therefore, that to achieve the spirit of oneness, and to safeguard Nigeria´s unity and sovereignty, the Army needs a mind-set which allows for tolerance, accommodation and better understanding to remove, in large measure, the trust deficit among our people towards it. It must work to remove any inclination that will lead to the perception that some have undue advantages over the others.
The role of the Army is imperative in safeguarding our territorial integrity, our democracy, ethics and values. In doing so, it must be an apolitical organization holding itself at a great distance from political parties and avoid commenting on political issues. It must deny political parties or leaders access to military bases/barracks. The Army should not be used by the political class as agents to destabilise the polity especially before, during and after elections in Nigeria. As I mentioned earlier, in the course of this lecture, the Nigerian Army since inception has fought and defended the unity and sovereignty of the Nigerian State. In all of its operations, it tried to maintain high level of professionalism. It distinguished itself in international operations as an effective fighting and peace making force, in the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), etc.
The Nigerian Army should adhere to the international operational procedure that modern Armies should be devoid of ethnicism, religionism, sexism, and should continue to resist any temptation to disrupt democracy. It should be citizen friendly, respect human rights, Rule of Law, and the Nigerian Constitution.
Finally, the Civil Military relations should be nurtured and encouraged. This should reduce the misperception about the role of Nigerian Army in building a united, just, equitable and fair country. Nigerian citizens should recognize that the military is made up of Nigerians while the members of the Armed Forces, indeed the Nigerian Army, themselves must recognize the right of the citizens as the sovereign whose fundamental human rights and entity they have sworn to protect.
There is the need therefore to embark on a major exercise to have Nigerians and all its institutions to accept their responsibilities in being part of the national defence architecture.
The Nigerian Army should maintain its distance from political parties, commenting on political issues, and, not allow political parties or leaders access to its personnel or military bases.
The political class in Nigeria should embrace good governance and international best practices.
? Mechanisms be put in place to inculcate national values, ethics, statehood and the spirit of nationalism in our Military, particularly, the Army to strengthen our unity and sovereignty.
The Army must act strictly in accordance with the rules of engagement and the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It should not act of its own volition nor independent of the directive of the President, Commander- in- Chief.
It is imperative for the Nigerian Military, particularly the Army to review the system of recruitment, training, commissioning, promotion and appointment in order to reflect our multi-ethnic and religious diversities, but that should not undermine the quality and operational capability of the Army.
Recruitments into the Army should be based on proportional representations among the multi-ethnic diversities and should be managed to become a source of national stability and motivation.
The Army should consider adopting the regimental system as in the Indian Army.
The Army should review her pension and gratuity packages to provide a decent living conditions for retirees.
The media should be used to enlighten the public about Army activities and its role in society.
The Army should be integrated into the national development process, such as specialists in corps like signals, engineers, medical, finance, electrical and mechanical engineering could put their technical expertise and facilities at the service of the public thus building the necessary partnership for the development and survival of the nation.