Aggrieved retirees of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) under the aegis of Coalition for Concerned Veterans have threatened to embark on a nationwide protest over the delay in the payment of their security debarment allowance, vowing to ground all activities at the nation’s Ministry of Defence Headquarters Abuja if their demands were not met by the end of August 2022.
The Spokesperson of the Coalition for Concerned Veterans, Abiodun Durowaiye-Herberts, while accusing the Ministry of Defence of treating their members with disdain, said: “We are giving the ministry till the end of August to commence payment for our members after which we will come out and ground activities at the ministry till we are paid.”
Describing as weird the Ministry of Defence sudden focus on embarking on verification exercise of the retirees after claiming that the funds for the payment had been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, Durowaiye-Herberts stated: “We have endured a lot of humiliation with the hope that our allowance will be paid. We have been on this issue since January. How can a minister invite the leadership of the group to a meeting with no adequate provision? We were stranded afterwards. He did not give us any regard. How can we have a minister, who is one of us, threat us in such manner?
“If we come out this time around, it would be more massive than what we did earlier. The minister, despite being one of us, has shown no empathy with us. We were told the money has been approved by the President and they are trying to deploy means to delay the payment by telling us that we would have to do verification before getting our money.
“The questions begging for answer are: If a proposal was forwarded to the President for veterans that were hitherto excluded from payment of SDA and approval was subsequently granted with financial commitment, it would mean that a total strength of would-be beneficiaries were already determined without verification. What then is the basis for further verification?
“Also, if the minimum wage, which is at its third tranche of payment, has continued to be paid to ‘qualified’ veterans without recourse to verification, why is verification now necessary before payment of SDA?
“If veterans, both living and dead, are qualified to be paid, what informs the need for verification? If the government/Ministry of Defence suspects the existence of ghost pensioners since 2015, why wait until now to verify veterans?
“If fresh veterans are being paid their SDA within a short time after disengagement from active service, why extend our payment over a period of three to five years?”
Durowaiye-Herberts said the delay in the payment casts doubt on the sincerity of the relevant authorities to pay the allowance.
Early this year, the military retirees had embarked on a series of protests in various States of the federation to demand payment of their 24 months arrears of approved minimum wage and debarment allowance, among others.
On January 5, 2022m they protested at the Federal Ministry of Finance headquarters Abuja. They then vowed to picket the Federal Ministries of Finance and Defence on January 15, a day set aside to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day if their demands were not met.
But in a meeting with the leadership of the protesting retirees on January 9, 2022, Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) begged them to sheathe their sword, stressing that their protest was sending a wrong signal to the international community.
However, sources confirmed that three tranches of the minimum wage for the ex-servicemen had been paid by the Military Pension Board (MPB) with arrangement for the final trench being worked on.
But “no satisfactory progress” had been made on the payment of the security debarment allowance, an allowance meant to dissuade the retired military personnel from using the skills they acquired while in service against the country.
This is despite the fact that the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr Ibrahim Kana, had in May 2022 claimed that money for the payment of the allowance had been approved by President Buhari.
There has been yet no reaction to the threat to ground activities at the Ministry of Defence headquarters Abuja or the payment of the said allowance.