President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday led top government officials from both the executive, legislative and judiciary arms to lay wreaths in celebration of the grand finale of the 2014 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration.
The event also held in the 36 states of the federation where just like at the version at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), governors laid wreaths, released pigeons and gave exhortations as part of the ceremonies to mark the occasion.
The celebration at the FCT was, however, blighted by the collapse of the Camerounian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Salaheddine Abbas Ibrahima, and the brutal attack by an anti-terror trained dog on an army major.
The ceremony started at 10am with the arrival of Jonathan, at the National Arcade, Three Arms Zone after which he inspected a parade of colours.
Jonathan, accompanied by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark; Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, supervising Minister of Defence, Mr. Labaran Maku and service chiefs, amongst others, proceeded to lay wreaths at the cenotaph.
After the wreath-laying ceremony and 21-gun salute, the president released some pigeons to signify “unfettered freedom, unity, peace and harmony for the country.’
However, the event did not end without drama as Ibrahima, who was the only diplomat selected to lay a wreath at the foot of the monument, slumped and almost fell before he was assisted back to his chair.
The diplomat had been standing for almost an hour in the morning sun alongside the president and other dignitaries.
Also, a security dog belonging to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) attacked an army major immediately after the ceremony.
The dog, which has been harassing security men and other passersby, attacked the army officer as he walked pass it.
It took spirited efforts of the NSCDC officer handling the dog and others around to rescue the major from the dog.
In his speech, Maku assured legionnaires of the federal government’s commitment to their welfare and that of the families of departed soldiers.
“Their pensions had been increased by President Goodluck Jonathan, and generally, we believe that this nation must continue to show a sense of gratitude by looking after the welfare of the families of fallen heroes.
“The government will also ensure the welfare of those who have retired as well as serving officers.
“We will also continue to ensure that they live in dignity with full support not only by the government but by the people of Nigeria,” a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted him as saying.
Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sa’ad Ola Ibrahim, said a many initiatives had been put in place by the Defence Headquarters to cater for the legionnaires and families of dead soldiers.
Ibrahim said the initiatives were carried out with the support of Jonathan in order to bring succour to them.
Also speaking, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, said an insurance scheme had been put in place to alleviate the pains of the families of fallen soldiers.
“There is also a policy that will ensure that the salary of the deceased is not abruptly stopped like before,’’ he added.
Celebrating the occasion in Ogun State, the Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, said the best way to remember the nation’s fallen heroes was to ensure the sustenance of their families and also the welfare of officers in active service.
According to him, the supreme price paid by the fallen heroes cannot be under-estimated as it is the reason for the peace the country enjoys today.
“These heroes, who worked selflessly until they laid their lives, can be better appreciated by remembering their families.
“We should as well make living better for those who sustained one degree of injury or the other while serving the nation. We have to ensure that the welfare of those in active service is catered for,” he said.
Earlier, Brigade Commander, 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, Brigadier General David Ahmadu, had observed that the day was set aside to remember and celebrate ex-servicemen as well as officers in active service for their selfless service to the nation.
However, the celebration in Ondo State was dampened by complaints by ex-service men over the three-year arrears of pension the federal government owed them.