From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated to Nigerians that he would leave Nigeria a safer country by the time he will be leaving office in 2023.
He gave the assurance on Wednesday during the Emblem Appeal Launch for the 2023 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration, held in the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, he expressed confidence that with the gallantry and sacrifices exhibited by men and women of the Armed Forces in the campaign against insurgency and other Internal Security Operations, the nation will be returned to normalcy as his administration continues to battle decisively, all the security challenges.
He said: “I would like to reiterate, my earlier resolve to hand over a Nigeria at the end of my tenure, that is free from insecurity to the next generation of leaders. And with the gallantry and sacrifices exhibited by men and women of our armed forces in the campaign against insurgency, and other security operations. I’m confident the nation will return to normalcy and we will continue to battle decisively all the security challenges.”
President Buhari also announced the approval of N134.7 billion for the payment of Security Debarment Allowance (SDA) to all veterans.
He also announced the donation of N10 million to the Nigerian Legion, on behalf of the Federal Government, at the launch, urging all Nigerians and corporate organisations to join in and support the nation’s veterans and the families of the dead heroes, whose earlier sacrifices had kept the country united.
The President pledged his administration’s commitment to the welfare of veterans by ensuring prompt payment of their pension and other entitlements, which had been demonstrated by his approval of the payment of SDA to veterans with effect from 2017.
“However, in order to capture all veterans hitherto excluded from the payment of the SDA, I have approved a review of the effective date of the Manual of Financial Administration for the Armed Forces of Nigeria (MAFA) 2017.
“Accordingly, I have also approved the sum of One Hundred and Thirty-Four Billion, Seven Hundred and Forty-Nine Million, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Three Thousand, Two Hundred and Forty-Three Naira, Sixty-Nine Kobo (N134,749,953,243.69) only for that purpose,” he said.
In addition, Buhari expressed his satisfaction that Defence Health Maintenance Limited is providing the veterans with quality healthcare services, highlighting the growth of their service area through the opening of Zonal and State offices.
He said that the government would continue to place a high priority on offering veterans and the general public access to high-quality healthcare services.
The President also made use of the occasion to applaud the efforts made by the Nigerian Armed Forces to directly address banditry, kidnappings, molestation, and the murder of innocent people, declaring that these “vices alien to our culture” are on the decline.
The President also stated that the methodical approach and expanding military campaign to eliminate subversive elements involved in destructive activities such as “the insurgency in North East, militancy in the Niger Delta,” as well as ethnic and religious tensions in some communities, is causing a gradual return of normalcy to some affected areas of the nation.
In order to help the country’s security agencies overcome its issues, Buhari assured Nigerians that his administration will continue to reposition and reinforce the security organisations.
He urged commercial establishments to show their appreciation for the sacrifices made by servicemen and valiant soldiers by providing support in the form of discounts and rebates on goods and services rendered. He noted that doing so would boost the morale of those in the armed forces and help them fulfil their legal obligations.
The President commended Governors who are Patrons of Veterans in their respective States for their support of the Nigerian Legion.
As the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Legion, President Buhari urged government agencies at the Federal and State levels to continue to patronise the services of the Nigerian Legion Corps of Commissionaires in the provision of security and other administrative services.
The potentials of ex-servicemen are enormous and can indeed be tapped for national development, he said, directing the Defence and Services Headquarters to continue to interface with the veterans in matters of security, intelligence and strategy.
The President recounted that the choice of 15th January as the Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration is symbolic because it marked the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
‘‘The occasion gives cause for reflection and reminds us of the sacrifice made by our Armed Forces in preserving the unity of the country and highlights the need for us to guard this unity jealousy,’’ he said.
He, therefore, implored all citizens to refrain from detrimental actions and statements that threaten national unity and integration but rather engage in positive actions that unite the country.
‘‘The strength of our country lies in our diversity; an endowment we must do all within our means to preserve,’’ he said.
On the 2023 emblem, the President explained that it remains a symbol of remembrance and a beacon of hope for a peaceful future with the unspoken message to the fallen heroes that their sacrifice was noble for the greater good of our fatherland.
‘‘It is also our humble way of appreciating the veterans and the families of their fallen colleagues,” the President said, calling on all Nigerians and non-Nigerians residing in the country, irrespective of their political affiliation or religious beliefs, to adorn the emblem with pride and identify with those who laid down their lives for the peace and security of the nation.
He also encouraged all to donate generously in support of the veterans and dependants of fallen heroes.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan, who also promised financial donation, on behalf of the National Assembly, to the Nigerian Legion, commended the President for giving “maximum support” to the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“For us at the National Assembly, there is nothing that we will approve for the Armed Forces and other security agencies that will be too much. We believe that we must secure this country before we take our exit from the government and Mr President we are with you on this journey,” he said.
The Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen Bashir Magashi, (retd) pledged that the Ministry would continue to ensure the prompt payment of the entitlements and death benefits of the deceased servicemen.
Furthermore, he said the scholarship programme for the children of the deceased up to the tertiary level is being implemented.
He, however, called on well-meaning corporate and Non-Governmental Organisations to prioritise the alleviation of the hardship faced by widows and orphans of the departed heroes.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor, on behalf of the Armed Forces; the Inspector-General of Police, Alkali Baba, on behalf of the intelligence community; and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on behalf of the Bankers’ Committee; pledged donations to the Nigerian legion at the Emblem Appeal Launch.