- Engagement of retired personnel already on-going, says ex-Army PR boss
By Kingsley Omonobi & Evelyn Usman, ABUJA
Some retired military personnel yesterday described as a welcome development, plans by the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya, to engage reservists to assist in tackling the high level insecurity in the country.
Nigeria is currently faced with problems of insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes, which have claimed thousands of lives and property worth billion of naira in recent times.
It will be recalled that the Army chief had at a “Regimented Dinner “ he organised for the 2021 set of retired officers from its 3 Division, Rukuba, near Jos on Tuesday night, reiterated plans by the Army to co-opt retired military personnel into the fight against the insecurity currently facing the country.
The COAS’ plan came against the backdrop of the fact that during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the US embarked on the largest call-up of reserve forces since the Korean War, in which more than 35,000 Army Reserve Soldiers from 626 units helped liberate Kuwait by providing combat and combat service support. The Army Reserve was among the first to fight and last to leave.
The COAS, who was represented by Major-General Ibrahim Ali, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the division and Commander Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), had explained that the expertise of the retired personnel would be needed toward supporting the Nigerian army in its bid to end all forms of insecurity in the nation.
“I wish to assure you that the Nigerian army is grateful for the services you rendered to our father land.”
‘Plans on to engage retired professionals’
“There are ongoing efforts to engage the services of the retired professionals with the wealth of experiences gathered over the years.
“These experiences are necessary toward tackling all forms of insecurity in our nation,’’ the Army chief had said. “he said.
Reacting to General Yahaya’s call yesterday, three retired generals, including an Infantry General from the South-East, an Intelligence General from the South-West and former Director of Army Public Relations from the North, declared their readiness to key into the plan of the Chief of Army Staff, though they all spoke on grounds of anonymity.
The generals contacted yesterday argued that the Army had been stretched thin by its involvement in internal security in virtually all the states of the federation, due to inability of the Police to cope.
They said the engagement of the retired personnel will not only boost the number of those in action, but also bring the experience neded to deal with insurgency and banditry in the country.
‘Well-trained, experienced officers abound nationwide’
Speaking with Vanguard in an interview yesterday, the retired Intelligence General, who pleaded anonymity, said: “Security is everybody’s business and these retired officers who were well trained, with a vast wealth of experience in operations, field support engagements, are spread across all parts of the country.
“With their knowledge of the terrain, for instance, they will in the area of intelligence, assist troops in combat/campaign planning.
“Also, you should be mindful that these retired officers are people with substantial level of patriotism. So if the Chief of Army Staff conceives the plan and brings it to fruition, I will support it.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the retired Infantry General (names with-held), said: “The disclosure or plan by the Chief of Army Staff will not be the first time it is happening in the world and it will not be the last time.
‘’It is not out of place because he wears the shoes and knows where it pinches. He knows the areas he wants to make improvement.
“The truth is that the army, with all the engagements it is involved in, is greatly under-staffed. I believe the retired personnel the COAS have in mind are people with experience in certain fields, such as instructors, trainers, equipment experts, advisers, etc.
“The structure of the Armed Forces itself creates some of the problems and the handicap in the military. You see people (retired personnel), when they get to the peak/time that they are supposed to give their best to the system, are asked to leave because the terms and conditions of service say so.
“It is not that the service is happy to see them leave but the laws have to be followed. So it is a welcome development because what it took to get this people to where they are and with the rapidity of emerging threats, the experiences cannot just be wished away.’’
On his part, the former Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen SK Usman, said: “People should try to understand the context in which the Chief of Army Staff is speaking.
“Firstly, the Army Act makes provision for retired personnel as reserve force that can be called upon if the need arises.
There is also the debarment issue, which makes it known that certain personnel, because of the position, ranks and training they were exposed to, cannot deploy such skills to work just anywhere.
“So, the debarment allowances are to keep you in check but you can be recalled to impact that knowledge on the system.
‘Engagement of retired personnel already on-going’
“In fact, the engagement of retired personnel is already ongoing with retired officers being deployed as consultants, instructors, researchers etc. It is not that the retired officers or personnel are coming back to take up arms.
“In several other ways, they still have much more to contribute to the system. The fact that you are retired does not mean you have to abandon the military.
“In those days, when you leave the Army, nobody cares about you because the level of security threats was not like what we are witnessing today. So people with vast experience in technology, engineering, intelligence, people with ability to decipher feedback mechanism, well-trained in specific specialties will be very helpful in containing present-day challenges.
“So for me, it is a welcome development. They do it in other countries. In Ghana, for instance, as a means of generating revenue for the country, they use their retired military personnel for peace-keeping operations abroad.”
Also reacting yesterday, retired Major Bone Efoziem, who is now Managing Director, Strict Guard Security Company, said: “It is not a bad idea. Don’t forget, engaging them does not necessarily mean they are taking them to combat areas as foot soldiers but their experience in working out the strategies, planning and operational procedures.
Experience counts more than your physical fitness and these are people who have good knowledge in combat and operational procedures and could advice on plans and strategies that could help overcome insecurity in the country.
“But I think this should come before now and done mainly covertly, rather than being made public. That is my position on this.”
Army dismisses alleged plans by soldiers to storm Abuja over poor welfare
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army High Command yesterday directed all its personnel (officers and soldiers) to remain steadfast, and unswayed by what it described by the antics of unpatriotic elements, who for selfish gains, are out to plunge the nation into chaos.
Speaking against the backdrop of reports of disquiet in the Nigerian Army on social media over poor welfare and equipment to prosecute operations against insecurity, the High Command said the Nigerian Army had never had it so good, given the quantum of combat and logistics equipment for troops that had turned the tide against threats facing the nation.
The Army in a statement signed by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig-General Onyema Nwachukwu, tiled “Phanthom Report On Purported Disquiet In the NA Over Poor Equipment, Welfare, A Failed Attempt At Institutional Blackmail,” said:
“The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to yet another mischievous report peddled by some online media, alleging serving officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army are planning to storm Abuja, to protest over unpaid emoluments, poor working conditions and other unsubstantiated allegations.
“Judging by the unprofessional and irresponsible manner the release was made, citing faceless persons, it could have been ignored.
“However, the weighty nature of the claims demands some clarification for the sake of well meaning Nigerians.
“It is on record that officers and soldiers of the NA under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Faruk Yahaya, like never before, have witnessed exceptional positive changes in the moral and physical components of the force.
“It is, therefore, crucial to state in very clear terms, that the NA has never had it so good, given the quantum of combat and logistics equipment that have been injected into the theatres of operations, a circumstance that has evidently turned the tide against the complex array of threats facing the nation.
“This is in addition to welfare packages introduced by the current leadership of the NA. Aside from prompt payment of salaries and operational allowances, welfare flights have been inaugurated, which significantly reduced the burden of troops travelling in and out of the theatres to see their loved ones.
‘’This is also in addition to huge commitment on the medical needs of officers wounded-in-action and soldiers and the barracks communities.
“Scholarships are also being awarded to children of officers and soldiers killed in action in the ongoing operations.
“It is worthy of note, that across all NA barracks, there are deliberate efforts at providing conducive working and living conditions for troops and their families.
“These interventions in the form of massive barracks construction and renovation works, with visible footprints, are bringing succour to NA personnel nationwide.
“The desperate effort by the authors of this unpatriotic report to give ethnic and religious coloration to the activities of the NA, is nothing but an inglorious attempt to woo unsuspecting members of the public with bigotry bargains, laced heavily with evil intent.
“It must be made crystal clear that the NA remains a symbol of national unity and, therefore, cannot afford to be divided along ethnic or religious lines.
“Suffice to state that the NA under the current leadership has remained resolute in carrying out its constitutional role and will vigorously continue to implement welfare programs for the benefit of all personnel.
“Troops deployed in ongoing operational engagements are putting in their best for the nation and should be encouraged, rather than plotting disaffection among them.
‘’All personnel are urged to remain steadfast and unswayed by the antics of unpatriotic elements, who for selfish gains want to plunge the nation into chaos.”