Giving military veterans another lifeline 

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Gwabin Musa, recently declared open the South-south Skills Acquisition Training for Veterans (SAT-V) in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital.

The training was aimed at improving the living standard of veterans as well as empowering them against the effects of dwindling economic conditions.

Represented by Major General Jamal Abdulsalam, the General Officer Commanding, (GOC) 6 Division Nigerian Army/Land Component Commander Joint Task Force (South-south) Operation Delta Safe, General Musa said: “It is based on the need to empower our veterans that I directed the Veteran Affairs Division to conduct skills acquisition training for veterans nationwide on a geopolitical zone basis.

“I am indeed glad to observe that veterans are not left out of our drive to make life better for service personnel.More so, veterans are critical stakeholders in our pursuit of improved living conditions.” General Musa said.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Director, Veteran Affairs Division of Defence Headquarters, Major General Danladi Salihu, said the training was organised in line with the leadership concept of the Chief of Defence Staff, which is “to nurture a Professional Armed Forces of Nigeria that is people-centric, Collaborative and Capable of Meeting its Constitutional Responsibilities in a Joint Environment.”

The training is aimed at ensuring a comfortable and purposeful life for veterans through education and focuses on the importance of improved standard of living.

He noted that one of the major reasons for hardship suffered by veterans over the years is lack of proper planning before retirement.

“Hence, the importance of training of this nature can not be over emphasised as it is quite timely and desirable. The CDS, considering his pedigree and antecedents, has always been a true believer in capacity building of personnel, veterans, and their dependants,” Major General Salihu added.

He also said, “The CDS has always demonstrated this in his unwavering support and commitment to the welfare of troops and their families, including veterans and widows of our fallen heroes. The CDS also believes that this training will be of great value to our veterans and serving military personnel from the AFN.”

No doubt, the veterans need skill acquisition training that could help them have alternate sources of income to cope with the current reality, especially when considering the daily increase in the cost of living. 

Conducted by the Veteran Affairs Division of the military and expected to be replicated across the entire six geopolitical zones, the timing for the training is very apt, and at the end of it, the veterans would be certified by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN. It is gratifying that the certificate could be utilised by the participants as a requirement to obtain loans from banks, depending on the scope of their intended vocation and business plan.

Participants at the workshop were trained in such vocations as poultry, fish farming, snail farming, animal husbandry, livestock farming, integrated farming, irrigation, and modern crop farming techniques, amongst others.

In order to maximise and boost the participants capacities, the training also included financial literacy, record-keeping, agricultural produce processing and packaging, as well as marketing and identification of business opportunities.

Recall that when General Musa was appointed as the head of Nigeria’s Military High Command, he vowed to improve the welfare services of the personnel of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in order to create a conducive atmosphere for them where discharging of enshrined duties will go smoothly.

Not only that, he also extended this gesture to include the ex-service personnel who have already paid their dues to the country through their selfless services.

It is unfortunate that upon transitioning to civilian life, many veterans face significant challenges, struggling to find meaningful employment and reintegrate into society. This is a national issue we cannot afford to ignore. By providing skills acquisition training, the Nigerian military high command can empower veterans, strengthen communities, and bolster national development.

Veterans often leave the military with valuable skills honed through rigorous training and real-world experience. However, these skills may not directly translate to civilian jobs. Additionally, veterans may face physical or psychological injuries, further hindering their transition. However, the results are unemployment, underemployment, and financial hardship, leading to frustration, social isolation, and even dependence on welfare. 

 Equipping veterans with relevant skills is tantamount to unlocking their potential and equally enabling them to contribute meaningfully to the workforce. 

They therefore, need supports including career counselling, mentorship, and financial assistance to smooth the transition into civilian life.

It is obvious that investing in skills acquisition training for veterans is not just a moral imperative, it will boosts the economy by increasing tax revenue, reducing social welfare costs, and injecting vital skills into key sectors like manufacturing, construction, and security. 

Studies show that trained veterans often become highly engaged and productive employees, bringing valuable leadership, teamwork, and discipline to the workplace.

The necessity to re-integrate veterans into our workforce is very urgent and can never be downplayed due to the fact that ignoring their needs is a disservice to those who have served and a missed opportunity for national development. 

Delaying action only compounds the challenges they face, leading to deeper personal struggles and a wider economic burden.

The Nigerian military high command has the opportunity to be a driving force in empowering veterans. Implementing comprehensive skills acquisition programmes tailored to individual needs and local job markets is crucial. 

At this juncture, it is crucial for the Defence Headquarters to partner with private companies, training institutions, and NGOs so as to leverage their expertise and resources in order to further enhance this programme. 

It is also heartwarming when the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle, disclosed that the federal government is considering re-engaging retired senior military officers who are still agile in order to help in fighting insecurity.

Investing in veterans is not just about equipping them with skills; it’s about recognising their service, valuing their potential, and building a stronger, more inclusive nation. By empowering veterans, we empower ourselves. Let us seize this opportunity to honour their sacrifice, unlock their potential, and build a brighter future for all Nigerians. 

Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi, an NDA research student and author of “National Security Strategies: A Young Writer’s Perspective”, writes via [email protected]