By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA-THE Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, has attributed Nigeria’s continued unity to the critical roles being played by the Nigerian Armed Forces.
This came as he asked the nation’s ex-servicemen to begin to unite under a single umbrella, regretting that the proliferation of associations of military veterans was hampering their efforts at getting attention of authorities in addressing their needs.
The military chief, who spoke yesterday, in Abuja, in his address at the opening of a three-day workshop on the Unification of Veteran’s Association, insisted that the Armed Forces have been the bastion of unity of the country.
“In Nigeria, the Armed Forces have been the bastion of unity from various divisive tendencies that constantly threaten the unity of the country, “he said, adding that the critical and professional roles being able played by military institution earned it” the pride of the nation.”
He explained that :”As an institution, the Armed Forces do not only concern itself with maintaining the territorial integrity of the nation, it also contributes to the maintenance of international peace and security, and performs other functions in support of civil authority.”
He said the Nigerian Armed Forces “can pride itself as having professional men and women comparable to the best anywhere in the world.”
“This therefore means that given the opportunity, the Armed Forces can also contribute qualified human capital in several areas of human endeavours in addition to its military capabilities.”
Olonisakin while commending retired armed forces personnel for forming various groups with a view to addressing their problems, noted that the development had not allowed for focused efforts for the benefits of retirees across service, ranks and place of abode.
“Veterans have explored the freedom of association as enshrined in our Constitution to form various associations, all in an attempt to address the welfare needs of veterans.
“This has led to the proliferation of veteran associations, all seeking to promote the welfare of veterans. While this is good, it has not allowed for focused efforts for the benefits of all our retirees across service, ranks and place of abode”, he emphasized.
According to him, the workshop “becomes necessary to enable us discuss areas of differences and fashion out ways of concentrating our efforts and uniting into a very formidable and respectable veteran organization.”
“It is our desire to see the emergence of a single unified body for effective management and administration of all our military veterans.
“By putting in place a robust and very effective system for veteran administration, we believe we will be leaving behind a legacy that will be of benefit, not only to us in retirement but also to our families as officers and soldiers who have given a substantial part of our adult life to the service of the nation, “he added.
While noting that veteran administration in the 21st Century had improved tremendously in many nations, General Olonisakin said it was in his effort to improve the administration of veterans in Nigeria that he approved a team to visit Egypt in December 2017 to study the Egyptian model of veteran administration.
“The team made some recommendations, which include proposal for direct budgetary allocations for veterans’ association.
“While this and other recommendations are being considered, the Defence Headquarters has taken the initiative to organise this workshop to discuss issues of veteran administration in Nigeria and fashion out an appropriate model, “he explained.
In his welcome address, Director of Veteran Affairs Division, Defence Headquarters, Major General Edmund Obi, said there was no doubt that those who opted for military service chose to make the greatest sacrifice of self for the peace, security and development of the country.
“Their sense of patriotism is never in doubt and does not end with the termination of active service, “he said.
Obi explained that” the workshop is expected to form the nucleus for the attainment of the standard obtainable in countries where veterans are highly respected and accorded privileges.
“The aggregation of our expectations and their proper articulation in a united and focused manner will no doubt evoke positive responses from the authorities and ultimately raise the profile of our veterans, “he said.