By Emmanuel Onwubiko
I’m about writing on what was done or not done in the immediate past dispensation within the military to mainstream the implementation of constructive modalities of promoting welfare schemes for members of the Nigerian Army.
This is because of some misgivings that have emerged regarding what was done or not done about the welfare of combatants given the peculiar war situation that Nigeria has unfortunately found itself and also because of the overwhelming appetites to try to muddy up acclaimed milestones that public officials with conscience achieved conscientiously.
But first, let me share some stories from a nice book I have read over five times since I bought it.
These stories say a whole lot intrinsically about or regarding my subject matter and also brings out the twists and turns that do occur to someone in public office who although is doing a lot to improve the wellbeing of his subordinates but who will go on to face criticism from even his own institution.
These are how the author narrated the series of interwoven stories: The author says that: “When Tony Jacklin won the British Open in 1969, he was inundated by endorsement opportunities, particularly from England, which had been waiting a long time for its own golf champion. We felt, however, that Jacklin’s win was no accident, and so we agreed only to short-term contracts, one year or less. A year later, Jacklin won the US Open and his endorsement value tripled.
Conversely, when Ben Crenshaw first turned pro, I felt he had one of the most promotable images I had seen in pro sports. He was being touted as the ‘next Nicklaus, and while that is a nice reputation to have, it was next to impossible to live up to. I felt it was important to promote Crenshaw’s image before it was associated with any success he might or might not have on the golf course. Unfortunately, Ben waited too long, and by the time we began representing him the fact that he was something less than immortal hurt his marketability.
When Muhammad Ali was at the peak of his fame, the climate of the country simply was not as favourable for a black athlete as it was for a white one. It is now, and even back then you could see it was going to change. Had Ali worked on developing a positive, wholesome, ‘non-boxer’ image, he could have made as much out of the ring as he did in it. But he never weighed the present in terms of the future, and his revenues from endorsements have never amounted to much.” (WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU AT HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL BY MARK H. Mc CORMACK).
These little less than half a dozen stories of individual heroism attained within certain epochs and continents, encapsulate what I think has become the existential factors trailing the retirement from service of the immediate past Service Chiefs with specific and unique reference to the immediate past Chief of Army Staff: lieutenant General Yusuf Tukur Buratai (rtd).
Even his (General Buratai) adversaries agree that the immediate past Army Chief of Staff has built formidable legacies of a boosted welfarism for the men/women and officers of the Nigerian Army, yet his marvelous achievement and milestones in the area of promoting the well being and welfare of Soldiers has come under frenetic attacks by some Soldiers. I resist the temptation to call them unprintable names.
The below dramatic news reportage was the format adopted by the online medium that reported the story of the allegation by the Solders.
The usually fearless medium reported that ‘aggrieved’ soldiers of the Nigerian Army are calling for a probe of how their Uniform and Boots Allowance and Scarce Skills Allowance approved by President Muhammadu Buhari since November 2017 have not been paid by the army authorities, then under the former Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (retd.).
The soldiers stated that their allowances for the past four years have been either unpaid or underpaid by the army authorities without any explanation, urging the president to order the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to probe what happened to the monies.
SaharaReporters obtained a copy of the Manual of Financial Administration for the Armed Forces of Nigeria 2017, which is the official document spelling out the allowances of the military personnel, which was approved by President Buhari on November 9, 2017.
“The MAFA contains details of allowances and other financial entitlements of personnel in service and on retirement. It also provides guidelines for financial planning that ensures effective and efficient financial management. Consequently, the Armed Forces Council approved the implement of the MAFA with effect from Novermber 9, 2017,” Buhari had stated and signed.
Checks by SaharaReporters into the MAFA indicated that the Scarce Skill Allowance is N100,000 for all military personnel “irrespective of rank.”
However, this writer in my capacity as intellectual head of a Civil Rights body carried out an investigation and these are the ingredients of my findings: THE FACTS: The issues raised are straightforward except to the mischief makers:
- It was the former COAS, H.E Lt Gen Buratai that introduced boots and uniform allowance before it was incorporated in the 2017 MAFA.
- Scarce skill allowance, and some other allowances were not implemented 100% due to funding constraints.
- Though the MAFA was approved wef Nov 2017 there was no financial appropriation to back it until 2020 when partial funding was granted. Furthermore, only 60% of budgeted requirements by the Armed Forces for the implementation of the 2017 MAFA was appropriated in year 2020 and without arrears.
- An implementation strategy was adopted by all the Services and DHQ to ensure equity, fairness and transparency.
- It should be noted however, that the 2017 MAFA which is the most robust welfare to the Armed Forces since inception was introduced under the able leadership of the immediate past CDS and the Service Chiefs, a credit to the President and Commander In- Chief, Mohammadu Buhari.
- It should also be noted that Manuals of financial Administration is essentially a guide of military non-regular allowances subject to appropriation.
- There has been many MAFAs before the 2017 MAFA, however, no MAFA has succeeded in the level of implementation as the 2017 MAFA which has archived almost 80%.
- The National Assembly most also be commended for their support in appropriation of funds despite the current tight economic environment.
- Curiously, though all the issues cuts across the Services why single out Gen Buratai???
- There are several welfare packages introduced by H.E Lt Gen Buratai (Rtd) as former COAS which are not covered by the Manual of financial Administration (MAFA). This is aside massive infrastructural development across the various Army formations in the country as well as many community development projects and services. I got these details from a very credible insider.
These facts are now in the public domain. But I must say that the military General whose legacies are been challenged, is a person who throughout his career as the Army Chief manifested a passion for stating the issues as they are.
Also, generally speaking, there is no gainsaying the fact that within the period that the past service chiefs in charge of the Nigerian Army held sway, his leadership deepened the welfarist outlook of the Military Institution for the operatives and officers.
His successor has also made it known that Lieutenant General Buratai indeed erected formidable welfarist character to the benefit of all and sundry in the Nigerian Army. So the records are pragmatic enough for all to see including the naysayers.
On January 28th 2021, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, retired Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, says he left the Nigerian Army better than he met.
Buratai stated this in his valedictory speech during the Pulling Out Parade by the Nigerian Army.
He said that the army under his watch had achieved tremendous feat in the fight against insurgency and other security threats in the country.
He added that he ensured adequate training of personnel and enhancement of war fare capabilities of the army as well as prioritisation of personnel welfare.
“Today is a day of appreciation and not a stocktaking, but let me put on record that I left Nigerian Army better than I met it.
“The Nigerian Army under my leadership was able to achieve great feat in the fight against insurgency in the country.
“We have been experiencing pockets of threats here and there, but I can confidently say that no part of Nigeria is ceded to any terrorist group or criminals.
“The counter insurgency operation is a warfare new to Nigerian Army but over time, we have continued to device means of tackling the ever evolving dynamic nature of the threats in the country.
“The Nigerian Army has remained resolute in the discharge of its roles as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I urge you all to continue to rise to the occasion,” he said.
Buratai said that while it was always necessary to say goodbye at a point in life, he said it was not easy to find the right word to say goodbye to the courageous and dedicated team that worked with him.
He said that Nigerian Army also made giant strides in infrastructure development across the country.
Buratai commended the officers and soldiers of Nigerian Army for their dedication and loyalty, which he said assisted him to achieve so much in office.
The former COAS also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for the opportunity to serve the country as well as providing an enabling environment for him to succeed.
He also commended the effort of the government of Borno in the war against insurgency, assuring that the war would soon be a thing of the past.
He urged politicians to always leave military out of politics, adding that the country needed politicians who are statesmen to support the military in addressing the prevailing security challenges.
According to him, there is no gain saying that there cannot be development without security and lack of development breeds insecurity.
He solicited support for the new Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, to be able to deliver on his mandate.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Buratai was officially pulled out of service in a parade held in his honour at Mogadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, Abuja.
This writer believes that the ongoing effort to set up a trust fund for the military, as is being conceptualised by the National Assembly inevitably draws inspiration from the landmark efforts made by the immediate past service Chiefs and especially the erstwhile Chief of Army staff- General Buratai with a unique focus on boosting staff welfare.
Having said the aforementioned, it will be recalled that the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said that the military needs more funding because Nigeria is at war.
Gbajabiamila, who stated this at a public hearing on a bill seeking to establish a special trust fund for the Armed Forces, said insecurity in the country has made extra funding for the military necessary.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the hearing, the speaker said tackling insecurity in the country requires various remedies, adding that there is need for the military to be better equipped through the bill.
He said: “Even with these extensive and wider examination of our security challenges; we cannot exclude the need for and benefit of a well-equipped and better-trained military in the fight against all forms of insecurity.
“It is a historic fact that countries during war times do not fund their military through regular appropriations alone. From the USA, to the United Kingdom and all Western powers; their military are funded through extra-budgetary means during periods of war.
“Nigeria is at war against insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping and all manner of insecurity; hence the need to uplift the resources available to our armed services to enable them procures the best tools to help win this war. So, what we seek to do in this bill is not new or unique to us as a nation.
“The solution to our security challenges requires asymmetric actions across many policy areas. This is what we have tried to do as the representatives of the people. The concept of a trust fund already exists for the Nigerian Police.
“It only makes sense to also bolster our military capability as well through this unique vehicle. In this bill, the board of the trust fund is full of eminent Nigerians from all walks of life; this should give confidence to all of the depth of knowledge and experience that will be available to manage this fund. The National Assembly will equally play its part in over sighting this work of this Trust Fund.”
By way of conclusion, I wish to counsel the current crop of service chiefs to focus a lot more on sustaining the efforts that are targeted at improving the welfare and well-being of their team members and most importantly the combatants who are making guanstrides to defend the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria. He firstname.lastname@example.org, www.huriwanigeria.com, email@example.com.