By Esther Okpabi
Nigerians are witnessing rare changes in the country from all angles under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Even the Armed Forces which were confined to the unsavoury history of neglect are experiencing positive changes. He has demonstrated that the military is not only good for the trenches alone, but also deserve psychological and physical comfort life can offer so as to excel in the performance of their constitutional duties.
A military arm which its leadership is foremost in justifying the essence of the niceties of change is the Nigerian Army. There are now noticeable features about the Army, which have been scarce for ages in Nigeria. The leadership of the Nigerian Army by the current Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai has prioritized welfare of personnel and the protection of human rights of Nigerians by soldiers anywhere they are deployed to serve the country.
Despite the economic crunch, what has consistently preoccupied Gen. Buratai’s mind and attention is the sustained focus on the development of office and residential accommodation for Army personnel. Gone are the days when soldiers lived in dilapidated barracks or decrepit office accommodation.
Upon assumption of office in July 2015, Gen. Buratai toured army formations across the country to personally access the physical infrastructure in army barracks and get firsthand information about the problems of welfare confronting soldiers. He was saddened by the decay in army barracks and the acute shortage of office and residential accommodation for soldiers. He vowed to effect and change. He proceeded to engage governments at all levels, particularly the Federal Government for immediate intervention.
Gen. Buratai brought the attention of Nigeria to the horrible condition of army barracks in Nigeria at the inauguration of the multiple renovated residential accommodations for soldiers at the Maxwell Khobe Cantonment in Jos.
He had bemoaned; “It is an unfortunate situation but over the years you can see the state of dilapidation and state of decay in the barracks. The soldiers are staying in a very bad accommodation, it is unfortunate but these are just the measures that we are taking to address the situation and we will continue to solicit for more support from government. The decay is enormous but thank God that in this year’s budget there is provision for barracks renovation.”
And in the last one year, Gen. Buratai has rekindled the confidence and pride of soldiers with streaks of barracks renovations, building of new office and residential accommodation for the Nigerian Army across the country. The result of the renewed interest in the welfare of soldiers is manifest in more ways than imagined. The high spirit soldiers’ exhibit on assignments, posting excellent performances is in informed by the prompt payment of salaries and other legitimate allowances. Much more, soldiers now bask in psychological and physical happiness as personnel who live and operate in humanly habitable, decent and state-of –the art office and residential facilities.
And the Army Chief has kept unflinching faith with the issue of soldiers’ welfare and has continued to explore new frontiers. A few days ago, at the Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri, Gen. Buratai commissioned several residential and office accommodation in the sustained struggle to improve on the shameful shortage of office accommodation in Army Barracks.
Impressively, the projects were not just a reference point in quantity, but quality architectural edifices, which spurred instant excitement in the beneficiaries. They included 18 flats for personnel at the rank of Corporal and below , comprising both married and singles officers accommodation; a 20-bed Hospital and six offices for Human Rights Desk Offices to handle cases of alleged violations of Human Rights by soldiers within the 7 Division, Nigerian Army.
At the commissioning ceremony, Gen. Buratai hinted that “These laudable projects are meant to provide decent living accommodation for officers and soldiers and their families as well as conducive office environment to execute your tasks efficiently. I will therefore urge you all to make judicious use of the facilities while remaining focused in your tasks to consolidate our achievements so far. The Nigerian Army under my direction will continue to provide you with the requisite welfare and logistics to enhance your efficiency in the discharge of your constitutional responsibilities.”
The excitement it generated among officers and personnel was palpable, expressive of professionals relieved of a sickening problem of accomodation. The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, Nigerian Army, Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim Yusuf, captured the mood and leadership focus of Gen. Buratai in these words, “enhancing the welfare of Nigerian Army personnel remains one of the cardinal points of the COAS vision” in order “…to have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles’’.
But the Northeast is not the only region favoured by improved military infrastructure. The drums had earlier reverberated in several other parts of the country. Months back. Gen. Buratai commissioned projects at Elele Barracks, Rivers State at the activated 6 Division, Nigerian Army. Among the array of projects he commissioned were the Chief of Army Staff Guest House, constructed by the Rivers State Government and donated to the Nigerian Army; he unveiled Officers’ transit accommodation camp, the 6 Division’s Guests House and four blocks of 10 apartments for the Junior Non-commissioned Officers, in the Port Harcourt barracks.
A similar action also took place in the Northwest, as Gen. Buratai commissioned a Nigerian Army unit in Daura town, Katsina state under the 1 Division Nigerian Army. It is a unit his administration has created and provided with take-off facilities to enhance security in the area. The Army Chief named the new army unit as the Fort Muhammadu Buhari Forward Operation Base, Daura, Katsina State and the new Army unit is in compliance with the Nigerian Army approved Order of Battle 2016 (ORBAT 2016) by the Army Council.
Furthermore, Gen. Buratai also launched the newly built headquarters of the 331 Artillery Tactical Forward Operation Base (FOB) at his hometown Buratai in Biu local government area of Borno state. And at Okene, in Kogi State, the Army boss again commissioned a Forward Operation Base, military barracks. At the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, the development streak of the Nigerian Army berthed at Giri, where a new army cantonment also named Muhammadu Buhari Cantonment at Giri came on board. The cantonment is replete with fanciful structures to carter for both office and residential accommodation of soldiers.
Elsewhere, Gen. Buratai has ensured both renovation or construction of new accommodation for the Nigerian Army, as evident at the Nigerian Army School of Artillery in Kachia, Kaduna State, Office of the Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters Abuja and , the building of a new army barracks in Otukpo, Benue
No doubt, these accomplishments have been possible with Gen. Buratai’s prudent management of lean resources in a transparent manner. The Army Chief is a leader who has shown commitment and zeal to improve the welfare conditions of his personnel. He sleeps and thinks the welfare of soldiers and with a mindset fixated on the everyday success of the Nigerian Army, the results have been the series of facelift of Army barracks in Nigeria.
Therefore, there is every indication that if the Federal Government sustains the tempo of funding support to the Nigerian Army, Gen. Buratai would not only bequeath to Nigeria, a disciplined and re-professionalized army; but parade a military arm that operates in a conducive and befitting accommodation environment. Had his predecessors devoted such attention to the welfare of soldiers, the barracks would not have been in such a mess, as he inherited it.
A leader, who resists the temptation of embezzlement and who thinks more about excellent service to his subordinates’ deserves applause and should be encouraged to sustain it. Gen. Buratai Is popular among Nigerians and soldiers because of his selfless service. So, when he is petted with appellations like the “ Soldiers’ General,” or the “Project COAS,” it stems from a pure heart of appreciation.
Nigerians are probably hearing of barracks renovations or building of new office and residential accommodations for the Nigerian Army for the first time after a long while. It is really relieving and a sign that Nigeria appreciates her military.