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Security was beefed up in and around the Federal Capital Territory on Sunday as President Muhammadu Buhari and other top government officials took part in the grand finale of the 2017 Armed Forces Remembrance Ceremony.
The strictly military event that lasted for about an hour was held at the National Arcade, opposite the Eagle Square, Three Arms Zone, Abuja.
The roads leading to the Federal Secretariat were shut to traffic throughout the duration of the programme that also saw Buhari talking through video conferencing with troops in the Sambisa Forest; those attached to the United Nations Mission in Liberia and the Air Force Base in Yola.
On arrival at the arcade, the President inspected a 240-member military parade before proceeding to lay a wreath in honour of the fallen heroes.
Others, who laid wreaths at the ceremony, included Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen; Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; Minister of the FCT, Muhammed Bello; the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Others are the representative of the diplomatic corps, representative of the fallen soldiers’ widows and a representative of the Nigerian Legion.
The event also witnessed a minute silence for the fallen heroes, 21-gun salute, the release of pigeons to signify peace and the signing of the anniversary register by the President.
During his short interaction with the troops in Liberia and the Sambisa Forest, the President commended them for the success so far recorded in the fight against terrorism.
He urged them not to relent while promising further support by the Federal Government.
“I congratulate you. I thank you very much for the honour you have done to the country and to us.
“I wish you more success. Please maintain the standards of discipline and efficiency,” the President told the troops in the Sambisa Forest.
He expressed delight at the information that the last contingent of Nigerian troops in Liberia would return to the country in 2018 after restoring peace.
“God willing, as you briefed us, in 2018, the last of the contingent of Nigeria in Liberia will come back. I wish you very sincerely a successful operation. I wish you the best of luck,” the President said.
While commending men of the Air Force for their efforts in restoring peace to the North-East, Buhari hailed them for raising the morale of their colleagues especially in the Army by hi-tech performance.
The President added, “I get regular briefings from your Chief of Air Staff. Your performance speaks for itself and you have raised the morale of your colleagues in the military, especially in the army.
“With your hi-tech performance and platforms, we have been able to restore the sanity and the territorial integrity of Nigeria. I congratulate you.
“For the officers and men, you know you cannot be over-trained. With your hi-tech outfit, training has to be continuous and I am very pleased with the initiative that you have taken in the maintenance of equipment. It is very encouraging and a boost to our morale here.”
Officers who spoke with Buhari on behalf of their men were acting General Officer Commanding, 7 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Victor Ezugwu; Force Commander UNMIL, Maj. Gen. Salihu Uba; and the Air Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Commodore Charles Owoh.
Earlier, the commander of the UN mission in Liberia, Uba, said the Nigerian troops, under the UN peacekeeping mission, were the first to land in Liberia in 1990 and would be the last to leave in 2018.
He said, “We are honoured to see you and speak with you, Mr. President. May the souls of our fallen heroes rest in peace. You will recall that Nigerian troops were the first to land in 1990 in Liberia in the heat of the crisis. The troops have since been in Liberia. Peace has been returned to the country.
“The UN has come up with a breakdown showing that there will be the closure of the mission in Liberia in 2018. Nigerian troops, who were the first to arrive in Liberia, would be the last to return home. We are 938 soldiers, and this is the last Nigerian Army battalion in Liberia. We are glad to listen to your esteemed address.”