DISCRIMINATORY PAYMENT OF DEBARMENT ALLOWANCE IN THE MILITARY: AVOIDABLE CONTROVERSY & DISTRACTION
WHAT IS DEBARMENT ALLOWANCE?
Debarment Allowance is a statutorily approved allowance paid to retiring service personnel of the Armed Forces. It is a global practice that cuts across civilized democracies.
The Debarment Allowance is meant to debar retired servicemen from using skills acquired during their service period in the military against the Nigerian State, except in the National interest.
The Debarment Allowance is backed up by:
a. Manual of Financial Administration for the Armed Forces (MAFA 2012)
b. Terms & Conditions of Service for the Armed Forces (As amended)
The Security Debarment Allowance is worth 10% of Annual Salary, multiplied by the number of years in Service.
The Manual of Financial Administration 2012, page 98, clearly states that "Security Debarment Allowance is an allowance payable by each Service to all personnel on retirement on retirement from Service or death." The statement is unambiguous and bears no discriminatory tone or intent.
The payment of Security Debarment Allowance is a global practice worldwide including the US and British Armed Forces where the Nigerian military takes its roots from.
In most of these advanced democracies, it has availed strong alibi and opportunity for the prosecution of veterans, when acquired skills are misapplied against the State.
Approval for the payment of Debarment Allowance to personnel of the Armed Forces was sought and obtained in 2012 under the tenure ship of Air Vice Marshall Petirin - then Chief of Defence Staff.
It was meant to be paid to retiring personnel shortly before their final disengagement from the Service. It is never part of the soldier's gratuity or pension.
Though approval was sought and obtained, the disbursement of this allowance never commenced until 2020. The disbursement which is currently ongoing is, however, being done at sharp contrast with the statutory provisions contained at Page 98 of The MAFA 2012.
The ongoing disbursement exercise is discriminatory and seeks to sideline older military retirees from benefiting in the allowance as against the original intent.
The current exercise is carved out for only those that retired between Nov 2017 and Mar 2020 to the exclusion of all other qualified veterans. No cogent official reason has so far been given for this exclusion which places the action at variance with the provisions of MAFA 2012.
The deep-seated perception among veterans is that corruption at high places is at work again as usual when it comes to their entitlements. Therefore it behoves strongly on the veterans' community to challenge this headlong in view of the huge mouthwatering amount involved or else, government officials and top brass of the military would smile to the bank at the detriment of poor veterans. When it happens as usual, no one is ever there to lend a voice on their behalf. Even veterans in top government positions are too comfortable with the spoils of office to appreciate the sufferings and hardship their colleagues go through.
HOW RIGHT IS THIS PERCEPTION
This perception is informed by terrible real-life experience suffered by veterans in their dealings with government officials and the military hierarchy. Take for instance:
a. Monthly pensions are hardly paid as at when due often elapsing into the next month.
b. Presently 3 months pension increment arrears is being owed pensioners for approval that was in 2017.
c. Minimum wage consequential adjustment is yet to be effected for military pensioners.
d. The fallout of arrears from the minimum wage is also accumulating running to over 15 months as at date.
e. Approvals made by Late President Yar' Adua were not paid until 2019.
It has become customary with the authorities to often deliberately delay the payment of entitlements to veterans, allegedly to allow for strength depletion through natural causes of death. What happens then to monies accruing from such developments?
Comparing notes with other member Associations of the Global Veteran Community worldwide, it is to be discovered that the Nigerian Veteran is among the least appreciated by his country.
The Veteran community in Nigeria does not enjoy any form of subsidy whatsoever, be it shopping, travels, fees, health care or entertainment as exists in other advanced countries.
He is never recognized at functions or accorded any form of dignifying status by his immediate community as a symbolic appreciation for Service.
When last was a veteran shortlisted for National Awards on the grounds of performance or achievement. Meanwhile, United Nations records are agog with praises for Nigerian contingents.
How beneficial is the National Health Insurance Scheme to the veteran community in Nigeria? At best, it takes care of headaches and malaria fever. Veterans with serious internal organ related issues like a heart condition, liver, lungs, pancreas or even diabetes are left to fend for themselves as drugs for organ-related ailments are hardly available at military pharmacies due to their expensive nature. Today there are veterans who spend well over 25% of their monthly pension on medication.
Most painful is the fact that these ailments were either contracted or developed from a prolonged stay in harsh combat environments replete with all sorts of deprivations.
The easiest way of identifying a Veteran today is to watch out for a man with some of the following attributes:
a. Limping movement.
b. Sight defects.
c. Hearing defects.
d. Organ related issues.
e. Artificial limbs.
f. Low self-esteem.
g. Poorly nourished.
h. Poorly dressed.
j. High blood pressure.
The Coalition of Concerned Veterans (CCV) umbrella body of Veterans pressure group is already being activated to take on Government officials and the military hierarchy in seeking a peaceful resolution to the problem.
The following lines of proactive actions are being suggested for consideration to give vent to the ongoing agitation, where peaceful means of resolving the issues fails:
a. The legal approach by petitioning the Industrial Court of Appeal.
b. Peaceful demonstrations in all State capitals including Abuja.
c. Engagement of local and international media in exposing the plight of the Nigerian veteran community.
d. Seek the intervention of the World Veteran Association to which Nigeria is a signatory.
e. Draw the attention of Rights bodies, including Amnesty International to the poor welfare condition of the Nigerian veteran.
f. Picketing of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Defense and The Defense Headquarters.
26. The average veteran today is a man with a low esteem personality who feels unappreciated and short-changed by his country, betrayed by his constituency.
About the Author
Col Hassan Stan-Labo is a veteran, Security Consultant, in-house analyst and research fellow to International Defense organizations and media houses.