President Bola Tinubu, alongside Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, were among those who laid wreaths at the 2024 Armed Forces Remembrance Day in honour of the Nigerian military personnel who died in the line of duty.

For the first time since assuming office, the President presided over the historic event at the National Arcade in Abuja, inspecting the Guard of Honour mounted by detachments of the Nigerian Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Nigerian Legion.

Afterwards, Tinubu laid a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier as a mark of last respect to the fallen heroes who paid the supreme price to preserve the nation’s territorial integrity and peace globally.

Three volleys of 21-gun salute were fired at the event, followed by the President’s signing of the Remembrance Day Anniversary registers and the release of white pigeons to indicate the nation’s harmony.

Also, at the laying of wreaths were the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesome Wike,  the Minister of Defence, Abubakar Badaru, and the Minister of State for Bello Mattawale.

Others were the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa, service chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, a member of the diplomatic corps, the Chairman of the Nigerian Legion and a representative of the widows of the fallen heroes.

The Armed Forces Remembrance Day, observed annually on January 15, honours the country’s military veterans, both living and deceased, who have served in World Wars, the Nigerian Civil War and various peacekeeping missions.

The day marks the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970 and serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the armed forces to maintain the country’s territorial integrity and peace. The highlight of the ceremony is the laying of wreaths at the National Cenotaph in Abuja, a solemn ritual performed by the President, top government officials, and military chiefs.

Speaking after the event, Senate President Akpabio said Monday’s wreath-laying ceremony was the administration’s way of identifying with those left behind by the fallen heroes. He promised to “do everything possible” to ensure their welfare.

“Today’s ceremony is to signify to all of them that they are not alone, that we also mourn with them and we continue to pray for God Almighty to console them and provide for the children and their siblings that they have left behind,” said Akpabio.

Similarly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, said the National Assembly would ensure the welfare of the surviving family members of the fallen soldiers.

He said, “They should know that what they are doing is a noble cause and we will be with them all the way. ”

On his part, the Minister of Defence said his ministry had all the support it needed to cater to the needs of the surviving families and ease the operations of living service personnel.

Meanwhile, widows of the fallen heroes lamented what they called a lack of progress in their welfare. They urged the present administration to prioritise their welfare by setting up structures supporting their businesses and finance access.

The National President, Military Widows Association, Mrs Veronica Aluko, said though the wreath-laying ceremony showed that their husbands did not die in vain, the living were in dire need of adequate welfare.

She said, “We are remembering today that these people left us for real. And the significance of today is remembering their sacrifice, that it is not in vain. Some have died and are forgotten but remembering them gives us more strength.

“But we don’t want to go cap-in-hand begging, because if you beg today, people will close their doors tomorrow. So we wrote to the former President that we wanted to sell little things, to partner with some of these unions to generate revenue, like tickets. Some states have given us approval, including Osun State, where the governor gave us approval to sell in the state. And we say thank you to him.”

National Secretary Military Widows’ Association, Mrs Deborah Abel, who recounted the association’s milestone in the past decade, said, “We’ve not achieved much in the past 10 years. So, we are hoping and praying that this present government will be of assistance, and maybe from then, we will start achieving. But for the past 10 years, military widows, just like the police widows have not achieved anything.”

On his part, the Chairman of the Nigerian Legion, Maj. Gen. Abdulmalik Jibrin (retd.), called for a review of benefits due to military veterans as the current remunerations had been devalued by inflation.

Jibrin argued, “There should be a corresponding increase of the pensions of those who have served and left. The families of the fallen heroes, after giving them the entitlement of gratuity and death benefits, are left in the hands of the Nigerian Legion. But the Nigerian Legion is not well grounded in terms of finances to be able to shoulder the enormous responsibilities of looking after all the families of the fallen heroes.

“So we call upon the government to continuously look at our allowances and pensions in relation to the inflationary trend we’re all experiencing now.”

Punch / Titilayo Kupoliyi

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