President Bola Tinubu, on Monday, alongside Senate President Godswill Akpabio and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, among others, 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 a Guard of Honour mounted by detachments of the Nigerian Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Nigerian Legion.
Afterward, 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 signing of the Remembrance Day Anniversary registers by the President, who released white pigeons to indicate the nation’s harmony.
Also laying wreaths were the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesome Wike, and the Minister of Defense, Abubakar Badaru, and his Minister of State, Bello Mattawale.
Others are the Chief of Defense 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 is observed annually on January 15 to honour the country’s military heroes, 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 afterward, Senate President Akpabio said Monday’s wreath-laying ceremony is 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.
“Again, the presence of all of us is also a major significance that, indeed, the government of the day would never let them mourn alone and I will do everything possible to ensure that their welfare is taken care of and that this event reduces the calamities that we’re seeing in our country,” said Akpabio.
Echoing Akpabios’s commitment was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, who said the national assembly would ensure the welfare of the surviving family members of the fallen.
He remarked, “They should know that what they are doing is a noble cause and we will be with them all the way.
“We will support them all the way. I will ensure that their siblings are not left alone. That is a commitment from the National Assembly, as you have learned from our senate president.
“We will do everything humanly possible to improve the welfare of the families of the fallen heroes and the active men and women in the field.”
On his part, the Minister of Defense said his ministry has all the support it needs to cater to the needs of the surviving families and ease the operations of living service personnel.
Badaru said, “We will do our best and we have all the support from Mr. President to support the family of the fallen heroes in every way and manner possible.”
He urged those in active service to “keep working very hard and rid us from the menace of the security challenges in the country,” adding that “they are doing wonderfully well now.”
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, the Military Widows Association, Mrs Veronica Aluko, said although the wreath-laying ceremony shows that their husbands did not die in vain, the living are 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 want to sell little things, to partner with some of these unions to generate revenue, like tickets. Some states have given us approval, like Osun state, where the governor gave us approval to sell in the State. And we say thank you to him.
“Delta State is coming on board. By the time we raise some money there, we can start giving these women a source of livelihood. So our children can have hope of going to school from these things we are selling. We collaborate with the police so that we can help even the widows outside to lessen this burden.”
National Secretary Military Widows’ Association, Mrs. Deborah Halima 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 we pray that this present government will be of assistance maybe from then we’ll 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, Major General Abdulmalik Jibrin (retd.), called for a review of benefits due to military veterans as the current remunerations have 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.
“For example, if I’m taking N10,000, that cannot buy what N10,000 was buying a year ago or two. So, it means that my pension has been rendered more or less useless. So, how does government assist the retirees and the families of heroes? By looking at the ways to increase the pension and allowances that we are entitled to after service.”