Aggrieved retirees of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) under the aegis of Coalition for Concerned Veterans made good their threat to embark on a nationwide protest over the continued delay in the payment of their security debarment allowance, as they defied the early morning downpour on Monday, blocking the entrance of Ministry of Defence Headquarters, Abuja.
The aggrieved retirees had about a month ago vowed to 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 (CCV), 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.”
The aggrieved protesters, joined by some relatives of the deceased personnel, blocked access road to the Ministry located at Ship House on Olusegun Obasanjo Way in the Federal Capital Territory.
The military veterans under the aegis of the Retired Members of Nigerian Armed Forces and the Coalition of Concerned Veterans, accused the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (Retd), of being insensitive to their plight.
Spokesperson of CVV, Abiodun Durowaiye-Herberts, vowed that they would not leave the Ministry’s entrance until their demands are met.
“We are here alongside our wives and children, and the widows of late military personnel and veterans who died in service, some of whom died fighting Boko Haram terrorists. We’ll be sleeping over at this place until the Minister of Defence, Magashi accede to our demands,” he said.
On his part, the National Secretary of RMNAF, Roy Okhidievbie, who explained that the demonstration was to demand the payment of their security debarment allowance owed them by the Federal Government.
He accused the Minister of refusing to disburse the allowances despite approval by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We have had meetings with the Defence Minister, Magashi, but he appears to be headstrong, heartless, and unperturbed concerning the grievances of retired military officers, as he never paid nor showed any interest or concern to pay these allowances, especially the Security Debarment Allowance.”
“Interestingly, President Buhari-led administration has approved the payment of this allowance, but Magashi have refused to make disbursements,” Okhidievbie said.
Anna Nanven, whose husband, a Corporal, was killed by Boko Haram terrorists during an attack on a military barracks in Borno State, 2015, told our correspondent that she had only received one allowance disbursement since her husband’s demise.
Also speaking, one of the relatives of a deceased personnel, Mrs Nanven said, “My husband was a young man, a Corporal that was killed by Boko Haram terrorists during an attack on the barracks where he worked.
“I now live with his parents, and I bore five kids, three females and two males for him until his demise. The children are aged, 22, 20, 18, 15, and seven years old, and the two eldest, both girls, that are done with High School can’t afford going to the University because I can’t afford their school fee.
“I am pleading that the President, the Minister of Defence, and Nigerian citizens come to our aid. I and my five children are suffering and living in poverty because I can’t afford starting a business, and I have no job.”
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 and Defence 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.