•Defence Minister drums support for Armed Forces
•Nigerian legion, others seek adequate succour for families of fallen soldiers
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, led other top government functionaries, including service chiefs and members of the diplomatic corps to honour the nation’s fallen and living heroes in commemoration of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRDC).
The event involved laying of wreaths at the National Arcade. First to lay a wreath was the President, followed by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.
Other dignitaries also performed the wreath-laying ceremony including the Minister of Defence, Retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi and his Federal Capital Territory counterpart, Mallam Mohammed Bello; the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas and members of the diplomatic corps as well as the Nigerian Legion and widows of the late officers/soldiers represented by Mrs Ladi Umar.
Buhari thereafter signed the anniversary register and released the ceremonial pigeon as a symbol of national peace.
In his address, the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), urged Nigerians to support the nation’s Armed Forces to boost their morale to win various ongoing campaigns in the country.
According to him, all Nigerians were critical stakeholders in maintaining a well-mobilised professionally responsible and responsive military that would be capable of safeguarding the nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
While commending President Buhari for providing the right leadership to secure the country internally and against external aggression, he said a buy-in by the public in the form of speaking well of the military would energise the nation’s fighting forces to win the battles.
The event was also commemorated in various states of the federation, with the state governors and other prominent Nigerians harping on the need for the nation to always remember the labour of her fallen heroes and serving troops.
In Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended Nigerian officers, dead and alive, for their commitment and sacrifice over the years.
Sanwo-Olu stated this at the Remembrance Arcade, Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos, where the event was marked.
The governor noted that the yearly celebration of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day was a testimonial that government and Nigerians appreciate their sacrifices in keeping Nigeria one. Sanwo-Olu was happy that the celebration still held despite the coronavirus pandemic.
After inspecting the guard of honour, the governor laid a wreath in commemoration of the day. After that, he went on to release pigeons, which all flew away from their cage and balloons.
On hand to celebrate the fallen officers included the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, representative of the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Commanders of 9 Brigade, Ikeja and 651 Base Service Group, Ikeja, Oba of Lagos and Chairman, Nigerian Legion, Lagos Chapter, who all took turns to lay wreaths after the governor.
Meanwhile, Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, said the state government would participate fully in all the programmes leading to the final burial of the former Military Governor of the State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), who died last Wednesday at 77.
In Cross River State, Governor Ben Ayade stated that ex-servicemen who fought for the country deserves better treatment than they presently receive.
Ayade stated this during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day parade at the Millennium Park in Calabar.
The governor, flanked by his Deputy, Prof. Iwara Esu and other top government functionaries, lamented the pitiable condition of the ex-service men, saying Nigeria has the responsibility to take care of them.
He said: “You fought for the sustenance of the oneness of this nation. You fought to keep us alive; therefore, we have the duty and responsibility to protect you and take care of you. Of course, one good turn deserves another.”
The governor then announced a donation of a brand new bus to ease their logistics problem, saying: “I understand your challenges; I understand your situation. I therefore, hereby authorise the purchase of a brand new bus for all of you, the ex-service men.”
On his part, chairman of the state chapter of the Nigerian Legion, Capt. Joseph Offiong, described this year’s event as unique, commending Ayade for donating a bus to the Legion even as he promised that it would be judiciously used.
Earlier, the governor joined service commanders in the state and widows of fallen soldiers to lay wreaths at the park.
Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on his part, commended the security personnel for working tirelessly to sustain the peace being enjoyed in the state.
The governor said he was not out to only honour the gallant fallen heroes who at various times and in different circumstances paid the supreme prize to defend the nation but also to appreciate and pray for those still in the battlefront confronting the merchants of evil who do not wish the nation well.
Lalong, speaking at the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration in Jos, said: “As at today, the Armed Forces of Nigeria are still actively engaged in internal security operations around the country, fighting insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities.”
He also gave the assurance that increasing cases of kidnapping and violent crimes in parts of the state would be tackled, explaining that he had already signed the anti-kidnapping, land grabbing, cultism and violence related matters bill into law to bring the culprits to book.
“By that law, anyone convicted of kidnapping in Plateau State will be sentenced to death while cultism and other violent crimes attract various terms of imprisonment,” the governor added.
Chairman of the Nigerian Legion in Plateau State, Col. Sati Yilwat (rtd), called on government at all levels to always redeem the pledges made to retirees especially in the face of the daunting economic challenges facing the country.
According to Yilwat, last year, the Plateau State governor pledged to give them N5 million, which he immediately redeemed.
Yilwat, who noted that they were happy about the donation, however, reminded the governor that he was yet to redeem his pledge to give the Legion an administrative vehicle and a tractor.
In Delta State, members of the Nigeria Legion and widows of fallen military men in the country called for assistance from government at all levels and Nigerians for the upkeep of the families of those who lost their lives while securing the nation.
Chairman of the state chapter of the Legion, Col. Boniface Ojei (rtd), made the call yesterday in an interview with journalists at the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration held at the Cenotaph, Asaba.
Also speaking, the member representing Ika North East constituency in the state House of Assembly, Emeke Elekeokwuri, and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Peter Mrakpor (SAN), stated that supporting the families of the departed heroes would boost the morale of serving military officers to give their best in defence of the territorial integrity of the nation.
The ceremony was attended by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa; his Deputy, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro; the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Ochor Christopher Ochor, who represented the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, and the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Marshall Umukoro, who took their turns to lay wreath at the foot of the unknown soldiers.
Other dignitaries at the ceremony included heads of military and paramilitary organisations in the state and members of the Delta State Traditional Rulers Council led by the Chairman, HRM Obi Emmanuel Efeizomor II, among others.
The ceremony featured symbolic gunshots by selected military personnel in honour of the fallen heroes as well as the release of pigeons by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, his Deputy, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro and other dignitaries to signify peace.
Also, the Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, lauded the supreme sacrifice, selfless service and invaluable roles played by officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces in ensuring one and indivisible of Nigeria.
He saluted the fallen heroes and gallant soldiers and officers for their unparalleled sacrifices in defending the nation’s sovereign integrity, peace and unity since its creation, even as he said his administration was resolute to continuously prioritise the welfare and general well-being of the security agents, particularly officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Oyetola, speaking at the Grand Finale of the Year 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day held at the Military Cenotaph, beside the State House of Assembly Complex, Osogbo, described officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces as worthy exemplars and selfless citizens.
He said the nation would continue to be grateful to them for their tireless efforts in promoting unity.
“Today, we recall with gratitude, our fallen heroes who have paid the supreme price for our nation during the First and Second World Wars, the Nigerian Civil War, various peace support operations, internal security operations and the fight against insurgency and banditry in the North Eastern and North Western parts of the country respectively.
“To these fallen heroes, we stand together with their families and loved ones to affirm that they did not die in vain; rather, they yielded their lives for the worthy cause of sustaining our common heritage as a people,” he said.
Oyetola said his administration would continue to prioritise the security of lives and property of the citizens as well as the welfare and general well-being of the people.
Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya, also laid a wreath yesterday in honour of the nation’s fallen heroes who paid the supreme price in defence of the country’s territorial integrity.
Inuwa equally inspected a guard of honour mounted by officers and men of the 301 Artillery Regiment at the Pantami Township Stadium.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after leading other dignitaries to lay wreaths in honour of the fallen heroes, the governor praised the gallantry and sacrifice of both fallen and serving soldiers, saying, “we shall continue to assist security agencies in maintaining law and order in the state.”
He urged Nigerians to continue to support the families of late and serving members of the Nigerian Armed Forces to boost their morale.
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has lauded departed soldiers for their selfless service to the nation.
Speaking yesterday during the wreath-laying ceremony as part of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day at the Peace Park cenotaph in Yenagoa, he appreciated Nigerian soldiers for their sacrifice in defence of the country against external and internal aggression.
His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted the governor as acknowledging the selfless lifestyle of men of the Nigerian military, saying they deserve the honour and highest regards of Nigerians for putting the interest of the nation ahead of theirs.
Diri called on Bayelsans and Nigerians to emulate the ideals of the departed and serving soldiers by always ensuring that the interest of the state and nation comes ahead of any personal or group consideration.
He tasked Nigerians to give meaning to the yearly remembrance by playing their part in the process of building the nation, adding: “Each of us must depart from this arena today with the resolve to strengthen our commitment to our state and nation and the values which we stand for.
“If we walk away from today’s ceremony reminded that progress requires hard work and sacrifice; if we walk away with a rekindled sense of obligation to our values; if we walk away determined to defend those values, the labour of our heroes past would not have been in vain.”
The highlight of the event was the laying of wreath on the grave of the unknown soldiers by Governor Diri, his Deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo and other top government functionaries as well as serving and retired military personnel.