By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA- RETIRED Nigerian military personnel in the country under the aegis of Veterans Federation of Nigeria,have asked the federal government to establish a full-fledged ministry to handle their issues.
This came as they challenged both federal and state government to exploit their resources in the face of the current challenges the country was facing, saying there have been “untapped resources” from them by governments.
But the group which position was contained in an eight-point communique it issued at the end of its three-day retreat in Abuja,demanded that the government can at least create a parastatal for them if their demand for a full-fledged ministry was too much.
In the communique, signed by the Chairman, Steering Committee of the Veterans Federation of Nigeria, Major General Abdulmalik Jibril,(rtd),the retired military personnel agreed to come together under one umbrella organisation called Veterans Federation of Nigeria.
The retreat, convened at the instance of the Defence Headquarters was against the background of proliferation of associations of the retired military veterans in the country. Fourteen associations of Nigerian military personnel are said to be currently existing.
The communique read:”The veterans restate their loyalty and support to the Federal Government of Nigeria and readiness t continue to contribute to the national security development.
“They demanded that the Federal Government of Nigeria considers and upgrades the Veterans Affairs Division to a full-fledged ministry or at least a parastatal.
“The Veterans agreed to come together under one umbrella organisation to henceforth be known as Veterans Federation of Nigeria, under a steering committee chaired by Major General Abdulmalik Jibril,rtd.
“They called on the Minister of Defence to facilitate the expeditious passage of the Veterans Federation of Nigeria Bill as amended when by the 9th National Assembly when represented.
“They called on governments at all levels to exploit the untapped resources that abound in the Veterans of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“They called on the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Headquarters to develop a database of veterans in Nigeria detailing their strengths,areas of specialization and experience for ease of re-engagement.
“The Veterans resolved that representatives of the Veterans association be assembled at a later date to review the proposed Veterans Federation Act.”
It would be recalled that while declaring the retreat open, Wednesday, in Abuja, the Chief of Defence Staff,General Gabriel Olonisakin, tasked the retired military personnel to contribute their quotas to national security,saying even as they have retired from active services to the nation,their contributions were still needed.
At the retreat,tagged:”Unification of Veteran Associations in Nigeria”, organised for the retired military personnel by the Defence Headquarters in the face of continuing proliferation of associations of military veterans in the country, he insisted that their contributions to national security could assist in arresting the what he referred to as “divisive tendencies that constantly threaten” Nigeria.
Regretting that military veterans in the country had not thought along unity of their members given the proliferation of different veterans’ bodies in existence, the military chief advised the retirees to unite by coming under one umbrella body.
He explained that the two-day retreat was part of efforts aimed at establishing a “Veteran Federation of Nigeria.”
He insisted that the veterans needed a single retirees platform through which they can contribute to nation-building.
According to him,”proliferation of veteran associations have not yielded desired results hence the need to explore platform that could unify such associations.
Olonisakin said:“The Armed Forces of any nation remain a critical institution not only for the defence of territorial integrity from internal and external aggression but also serves as a vanguard of unity.
“Such unity is more imperative for Nigeria now more than ever before. “Consequently, it has become necessary to explore all avenues to checkmate the various divisive tendencies that constantly threaten our corporate existence.
“A unified and vibrant veteran association has the potential to achieve this purpose.’’ The CDS, therefore, charged the retreat to come up with an ad hoc committee to begin the unification process and establishment of the “Veterans Association of Nigeria.’’
“I also expect the retreat to set up a steering committee to run the affairs of the proposed federation, a contact group to seek the support of the 9th National Assembly for the quick passage of the Veteran Federation of Nigeria bill into law and subsequently take-off of the federation.’’
The Director, Veteran Affairs at Defence Headquarters,Major General Lawal Abdullahi,speaking earlier in his welcome address,appealed to the retired military veterans to heed to the voice of reason by doing away with their different bodies and come under a single unified body.
He said:“It is also believed that in order for the various veterans associations and the nation to benefit maximally from the large human resource base of the veterans and the `World Veterans Federation’ (WVF), there is need to restructure and unite internally. “A united body is stronger and better than so many fragmented bodies acting unilaterally.
“The need, therefore, to have a unified veterans federation in Nigeria, will help tap the abundant human resources of our veterans to improve their lots and contribute to national development is long overdue.”
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