Surprise as Jonathan visits Maiduguri, honours fallen heroes

GEJ-1• Pledges end to insurgency  

• Buhari promises better deal for youths, women

PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan as well as the leadership of the Legislature, Judiciary and the Armed Forces yesterday  paid respect to the fallen heroes at the wreath laying ceremony in commemoration of the 2015 Armed Forces  Remembrance Day.

   Also,  across the states, governors marked the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, urging peace and unity in the country.   

   Jonathan yesterday paid a surprise visit to men and officers of the Nigerian Army in  Maiduguri, Borno State, pledging to bring an end to insurgency soon. 

  And All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCPCO) has assured that General Muhammadu Buhari would initiate policies and programmes that would impact positively on the lives of youths and women when he is voted into office.

  The ceremony held at the National Arcade opposite the Eagle Square, Abuja  with the theme: “Appreciating the Nigerian Armed Forces,” saw the president laying the wreath first as it is customary, after the opening prayers and other opening formalities were carried out. 

  Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha also laid wreaths.

   Others who also performed the same rites were the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, Minister of Defence, Lieutenant-General Aliyu Gusau (rtd) and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) Malam Bala Mohammed. 

  Others included Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu.

  Also, Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and High Commissioner of Mali to Nigeria, Mahamane Maiga, and Chairman of the Nigerian Legion, Colonel Micah Gayya (rtd) paid homage to the fallen heroes.

  The Armed Forces Remembrance Day is an annual event held as a mark of respect and in remembrance of the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives as well as those who are still living but fought for the freedom and unity of the country.

  However, as the event progressed, the 21- gun salute session was called up and it nearly marred the ceremony as one of the soldiers, standing second in the roll on the right hand side of the president who stood barely 15 meters away in the middle of the firing party,  after first round went unhindered, tried to re-cock his rifle, but the boot of the gun somehow clasped to his belt, and in the process to unfasten it pointed the barrel in Jonathan’s direction.

  The security details reacted as expected, blocking the president from the line and formed human shield around him, while another officer quickly moved behind the ‘trapped’ soldier to unfasten the clutched butt from his (lower sling swivel) belt.

   While it lasted, Jonathan appeared calm and unaffected by the incident which happened within seconds. 

  As the firing party concluded the 21-gun salute, Jonathan completed the ceremony by freeing symbolic white doves and signing the 2015 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Attendance Register.

   In Kano State, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso advocated sufficient armed and ammunition for the armed forces in the fight against insurgency, presently ravaging the northern part of the country.

   Kwankwaso insisted that only a fully armed forces can fight the prevailing insurgency in the country.

   Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun also appealed to Nigerians to desist from actions and activities that could result into war or violence.

  He urged Nigerians not to see the Remembrance Day as an annual ritual

but a solemn moment steeped in deep appreciation for “men and women

who gave their all for our nationhood.”

   A statement from the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati yesterday in Abuja confirmed the visit, said Jonathan was accompanied by the Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs, the National Security Adviser and Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, adding that Jonathan visited officers and men of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri to thank them for their patriotic and courageous service to the nation.

   The president told officers and soldiers of the 7 Division that the nation was very proud of them and grateful for their dedication and commitment to the defence of the civilian population against terrorists and violent extremists.

   Jonathan also assured the troops that the Federal Government will continue to do everything possible to ensure that they get the weapons, equipment, welfare and logistics support they require to completely rout the insurgents and restore full security and normalcy to affected parts of the country.

  Describing the troops as a special breed of men who were undertaking a great assignment for their fatherland, the President assured them that all necessary action was being taken to address challenges facing them in their operations against Boko Haram.

   “In terms of equipment and logistics, we have already made considerable progress since the insurgency started and we will continue to improve in that regard until your operations are successfully concluded,” he told the soldiers.

  Jonathan also toured wards of the 7 Division Hospital and Medical Services Centre where he met with soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in operations against Boko Haram.      He wished them speedy recovery.

  Before leaving the Borno State capital, Jonathan visited over 900 displaced persons from Baga at a camp in the city.

  The President commiserated with the displaced persons on the losses they suffered during the attack on their town by Boko Haram.

  He promised them that the Federal Government will strive to make their stay in the camps more comfortable while it continues to do all within its powers to restore peace and security to enable them return to their homes soon.

   The statement quoted the President as saying: “Terrorism and insurgency have been very traumatic for all of us. I feel particularly disturbed when I hear of our people being displaced within their own country.

  “I assure you and other displaced persons that Government is working very hard to ensure that you do not remain in these camps for too long.

  “I know that many of your houses have been destroyed. We will assist you financially so that you can rebuild your homes and return to them gradually,” Jonathan told the displaced persons.

   The president thanked the Red Cross and other international organisations who have been assisting in the provision of relief materials to the displaced persons.

  A statement from the Directorate of Media and Publicity of the campaign organisation says the APC manifesto contains several innovations and legislative proposals that will promote the manpower development and social participation of women and youths in the country.

  The statement signed by Mallam Garba Shehu yesterday, said: “Drawing extensively from the information contained in the APC’s manifesto, a Federal Government under the leadership of Buhari promises to offer women and youths in Nigeria a new deal.

  “We are firmly committed to the value that women are the backbone of the Nigerian society, especially in our rural communities. Therefore, issues that matter to the average Nigerian woman cut across the spectrum of policy areas, such as agriculture – where they predominate as farmers and farm labour – to health and education, where their concern for their children are paramount.

  “Our policy position for woman takes into cognisance the fact that in spite of several rights outlined in the 1999 Constitution, many women do not enjoy the same freedom as men, particularly in the fields of education, economic empowerment and political participation.

  It added: “No society can progress where half of its population suffers systemic discrimination. An APC government will seek to end all forms of gender discrimination in both public and private sectors, in education, employment and housing and also protect equal property and inheritance rights.”

  The statement further explains the core policy objectives of the APC for women and youths to include, “improving anti-discriminatory legislation and instituting merit-based affirmative action in employment; injecting gender as a component of federal character and appointing a Minister for Women and Gender in the Office of the President; enforcing legal protection for the fundamental rights of the girl-child in all areas of religious, social and economic life.”

   Other policy concerns according to the statement include, “providing women with greater legal protection from domestic violence and sexual harassment; empowering the Police with specialist training on handling of domestic violence issues; strengthening coordination between women and youths’ agencies at state and federal levels cutting across ethnic and religious barriers.”

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