In a striking display of frustration and desperation, over 700 retired personnel from the Nigerian Armed Forces, excluding the South-East region, gathered in Ibadan to protest the non-payment of pension arrears spanning an alarming 45 years. The retired military personnel, who collectively served between 10 to 15 years, issued a stern warning of a nationwide highway blockade if their long-overdue entitlements were not promptly addressed.
Brandishing placards adorned with poignant messages such as “We were used and dumped by the federal government,” “We are dying of hunger,” and a heartfelt plea directed at “President Tinubu to save our soul,” the protesters sought to draw attention to their dire situation. These ex-servicemen identified themselves as “ten years and above civil war veterans” and emphasized their significant contributions to the nation’s defense.
At the forefront of the demonstration, Corporal Babawande Philip, the national coordinator of the group, addressed the press, shedding light on the distressing details of their plight. With over 100 members succumbing to poverty, the group underscored the life-threatening consequences of the delayed pension payments.
Corporal Philip highlighted the dire state of health among the retired personnel, revealing that many are grappling with physical challenges and illnesses exacerbated by the inability to access quality healthcare due to financial constraints. The frustration and indignation among the group were palpable as they lamented the apparent disparity in treatment, pointing out that counterparts who fought for the Biafran Army had already received their entitlements during the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Describing the situation as “unfair,” Corporal Babawande Philip called for immediate redress to the longstanding issue that has plagued them for almost half a century.
“For the past 44 to 45 years, we have been deprived of our pension rights. In 2015, we did a capture in Abuja wherein every one of us was issued with a genuine pensioners form. We all have those copies with us. Since 2015, we have been waiting for this to really come up,” lamented Corporal Babawande Philip.
The grievances of the retired military personnel extend beyond the financial aspect to the glaring impact on their overall well-being. The stark reality of their situation is underscored by the somber statistics of lives lost to poverty within their ranks. The protest serves not only as a desperate cry for financial justice but also as a plea for recognition of their sacrifices and a call for urgent intervention to address the dire consequences they face.
The retirees’ decision to resort to a nationwide highway blockade reflects the intensity of their frustration and the urgency they attribute to their cause. This drastic measure is a clear indication that the group perceives their situation as reaching a breaking point, necessitating bold and attention-grabbing actions to secure a resolution.
As the retired military personnel confront the government with their demands, the spotlight is cast on the broader issue of pension rights and the welfare of those who have dedicated years of service to the defense of the nation. The protest amplifies the need for a comprehensive review of pension systems, ensuring that those who risked their lives in service are not relegated to a life of destitution and neglect in their retirement years.
The ball is now in the court of the government and relevant authorities to address these deeply rooted issues and engage in a meaningful dialogue with the retired military personnel. The nation watches as the fate of these veterans hangs in the balance, with the hope that their sacrifices will be duly recognized, and justice will prevail.