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In Nigeria, Armed Forces Day, also known as Remembrance Day, is celebrated on January 15th.
It was formerly marked on the 11th of November every year to coincide with the Remembrance Day (Poppy Day) for the World War II veterans in the British Commonwealth of Nations, but it was changed to January 15th in Nigeria in commemoration of the surrender of Biafran troops to the Federal troops on 15th of January 1970 thus signalling the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
The day is marked with a Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph in Abuja and in the 36 state capitals.
The ceremony includes a 21 gun salute, playing of the Last Post, a minute’s silence, laying of wreaths and release of pigeons to symbolise peace.
In the past month Armed Forces Remembrance Day emblems have been on sale across the country. Proceeds of the sale of the remembrance emblem go to the Nigerian Legion.
The Nigerian Legion is the Nigerian association of ex-servicemen, i.e. former members of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force.
Officers and men of the armed forces are trained to fight and kill.
When they retire, they discover that there are no jobs for them (some of them have been in the armed forces since they were teenagers and military work is all they know). Others were forced to retire from the Armed Forces due to injuries sustained in battle.
The Legion helps them to integrate into society and to take care of themselves.
By law the Legion is permitted to operate certain businesses in order to raise money for its members. Members of the legion also serve as security guards at government establishments (you often see them in their brown uniforms). The Legion also raises money through the sale of Armed Forces Remembrance Day emblems.
In recent years (especially since the return to civilian rule) members of the Legion have gone through great hardship while trying to collect their pensions and gratuity. Sometimes their pensions are not paid for many months.
At other times, legionnaires, who could be as old as 60, 70, or 80 years old are made to travel long distances and queue in the hot sun, all in the name of pension verification exercise. Many legionnaires have died during this process.