45 Years After Civil War: Retired Soldiers Plead For Pension Arrears

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The Armed Forces Remembrance Day held every January 15 is aimed at commemorating the servicemen of the Nigerian military, especially those who fought during World War I and II and those who fought during the Nigerian civil war.

As another remembrance day drew near, retired soldiers, popularly known as I’m Alive, as well as the next of kin of those who lost their lives in active service, vowed to take to all federal roads to express their displeasure over the nonpayment of their pension arrears for 45 years.

At the Nigerian Legion Building on American Street, Agodi, Ibadan, Oyo State, our correspondent saw hundreds of retired soldiers who have been certified due for pension but are being owed arrears. They marched under the sun, chanting solidarity songs and bearing placards.

The Legion Building, an 18th century-styled one-storey building, which looks old and lacks maintenance, bears witness to the neglect the ex-soldiers and their next of kin are complaining about.

The old soldiers, most of them in their 70s and 80s and dealing with one age-related ailment or another, called out the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as well as other stakeholders, to grant them their demand and pay their 45-year pension arrears.

The pensioners, who flaunted different documents obtained during the course of discharge from duty, verification exercise in Abuja etc, looked worn-out and impoverished as they narrated their ordeals to Daily Trust Saturday.

The national coordinator, The Able Voluntary Discharged Soldiers of Ten Years and Above, Corporal Babawande Phillip (retd), recalled that more than 100 of the ex-servicemen had died in abject poverty during the struggle for their right.

“For the past 44 to 45 years, we have been deprived of our pension right. In 2015, we were in Abuja for a recapturing exercise, wherein we were issued genuine pensioners forms. But we are still waiting and nothing has been done.

“The painful part of this is that the Biafran soldiers we fought against have been paid their pensions some years back. Majority of us are dead because of the abject poverty they have thrown us into.

“Some of our people are sick and have no money to take care of themselves. Many have died. We wrote some letters to the federal government in December, which we addressed separately to the Head of State, Senate, House of Representatives, Chief of Army Staff, the Minister of Defence, Chief of Staff, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, but we are yet to hear anything from them. We are still pleading. We need them to rescue us from this predicament,” Phillip said.

He said the ex-soldiers were set to conduct an aggressive protest on federal roads across the country before the Armed Forces Remembrance Day.

“If you frustrate a goat it will turn against you. So, if they fail to pay our pension arrears, all the federal roads will be blocked. Our brains, with which we fought the civil war, are still intact. The ultimatum ends before the remembrance day,” he said.

Another war veteran who retired in June 30, 1978 narrated how he had been frustrated in the course of seeking his pension arrears.

The blind 81-year-old man, Rafiu Olabamiji, who was a corporal said, “They should have pity on us. I have my documents. I have the one of 2015. We did another one in 2023. I have my discharge certificates here too.

“I have been blind for 20 years now. Many people have died because of hunger and sickness. I lost my children and my wife has left me. I cannot start begging in the streets, this is why I am clamouring for my rights with the government.

“President Tinubu should hearken to our pleas. His wife, Oluremi, should plead with him. The next of kin, widows and children of deceased soldiers should be considered.”

Sergeant Rafiu Ibikunle, another retired soldier who suffers from partial stroke, narrated how he had not been paid his pension since 1978. He said, “I retired in October 1978 but have not been paid my pension.

“We appeal to the president to look into our situation and do the needful. Our counterparts were paid by the Olusegun Obasanjo government. We are appealing to the federal government to help us.”

Madam Elizabeth Adedayo, wife of late Corporal Patrick Adedayo who retired in 1979, said she had not received anything from the government since her husband died. She pleaded with the government to release their pension to make life easier.

Also, Madam Rachel Adejumo claimed that her husband, Corporal Adebisi Adejumo, died about 10 years ago but the government had neglected them.

She said, “Some of these people at the helm of affairs were once soldiers, so they know how soldiers usually suffer. No wife of a soldier can confidently say that she enjoyed her husband while he was in service. They should listen to our plea.

“The death of former president Yar’adua brought this suffering on us. He had promised to pay all retired soldiers before he died.

“We are pleading with the government. Former President Obasanjo, who was a soldier, ought not to have made us suffer.

“They should be merciful on us. Let the present government hear our cry. Our children even mock us, saying we got nothing from our years of service in the military.”

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