At a press conference marked by solemn remembrance and a resolute call for action, the chairman of the Military Veterans Welfare Committee (MVWC), Air Commodore Isaac Olufemi Oguntuyi (rtd), addressed a gathering of military veterans and members of the press in Abuja on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. The conference convened just days before the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, was not only a tribute to fallen heroes but also a critical platform for advocating the rights and welfare of Nigerian military veterans.
Dual role of the conference
As the nation prepares to honour its fallen heroes, the MVWC took this opportunity to highlight the ongoing struggles faced by those who have served. Air Commodore Oguntuyi emphasized the symbolic importance of Remembrance Day, linking the sacrifices of the past with the welfare concerns of the present. This day of remembrance, he said, is also a call to action to ensure that the service and sacrifices of Nigeria’s veterans are acknowledged and rewarded appropriately.
The conference aimed to sensitize the public and the veterans’ community about the challenges faced by former military personnel. Air Commodore Oguntuyi thanked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other government officials for their commitment to veterans’ welfare. However, he pointed out that despite these efforts, several critical issues remain unaddressed, creating a sense of inequity and neglect among the veterans.
Key issues and recommendations
The Military Veterans Welfare Committee’s report, submitted to the Honourable Minister of Defence, covers several vital concerns.
Firstly, the Military Veterans Welfare Committee called for a bulk payment and standardized template for the Security Debarment Allowance (SDA) to address disparities and ensure fair compensation for all veterans.
Secondly, the Military Veterans Welfare Committee highlighted significant discrepancies in pension payments and called for a review to address these inequalities.
Thirdly, the Military Veterans Welfare Committee advocated for an upward review of salaries and pensions for both serving and retired personnel in the light of rising inflation in the country.
Fourthly, the Military Veterans Welfare Committee called for the establishment of a Veterans Federation of Nigeria (VFN) to centralize and efficiently address veterans’ concerns.
Last but not least, the Military Veterans Welfare Committee stressed the need for a comprehensive review of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to cater to the health needs of veterans and their families.
Air Commodore Oguntuyi said all these demands are necessary to make life meaningful for the people who have made huge sacrifices for the country and its people.
He called for patience from the veterans’ community, assuring them of the committee’s commitment to pursuing these issues with the government.
He expressed hope that the government’s actions would reflect the nation’s gratitude and respect for those who have served.
He said that a particularly poignant aspect of the Military Veterans Welfare Committee’s mandate involves addressing the needs of Nigerian Civil War veterans who have yet to receive their pension benefits, stressing that the committee emphasized the need for policy reviews and equitable treatment for these veterans, aligning with the principles of justice and recognition for their service.
Palliatives and the promise of support
The Military Veterans Welfare Committee said it has welcomed with open hands the recent approval of palliatives by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for military veterans and their families.
However, the committee expressed concerns that delays in the distribution of the benefits have caused worry among the veterans.
Air Commodore Oguntuyi reassured the veterans that efforts are being made to expedite these payments, stressing that the committee’s vision is to establish a structure where veterans’ sacrifices are acknowledged through equitable benefits and support systems.
This, he said, includes a fair and just pension structure, improved health benefits and the establishment of a Veterans Federation to advocate for their rights. The committee calls upon the government to consider their recommendations and act promptly to address these longstanding issues.
A nation’s duty to its protectors
There is no gainsaying the fact that the press conference by the Military Veterans Welfare Committee welcomed was a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by Nigeria’s military veterans.
As the nation pays homage to its fallen heroes, it also faces a crucial test in addressing the needs of those who have returned home. The call for action by the Military Veterans Welfare Committee is not just a plea for benefits; it’s a demand for justice, equity and recognition – the very least a grateful nation can offer its brave sons and daughters.