After a protracted debate, the Federal Government has finally approved the inclusion of retired military personnel and their families in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

This has laid to rest the discrimination against the Nigerian Legion in the scheme, which was initiated by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The approval was given yesterday at the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting which was presided over by the President Goodluck Jonathan, with Vice President Namadi Sambo and most ministers in attendance where a presidential committee?s report on the issue was discussed.

Briefing newsmen on the new development, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, alongside the Minister of State for Defence, Olusola Obada, said the scheme will kickoff off with 75,000 military retirees and the sum of N3.6 billion has been earmarked for it.

She said the N3.6 billion will take care of about 75,000 retirees, whose biometric data have been captured during a revaluation exercise for pension purposes earlier in the year.

?N3.6 billion for the first three years and then up to N3.626 in the fourth and fifth years. We hope that this action will further motivate our men and women in uniforms and they will realize that in and out of service, the nation will look after them health-wise?, she added.

She explained that Navy, Airforce and Army personnel and their spouses as well as four children under the age of 18 will be beneficiaries of the scheme, just as it exists for civilians.

According to her the inclusion of the military in the NHIS was necessary to encourage members of the armed forces to continually give their best to the nation, and reassure them on their welfare even after service when they could still be called upon to serve the country.

?When the NHIS was introduced by the Federal Government to ameliorate the hardship by Nigerians in accessing healthcare, the Nigerian military retirees were excluded from the scheme despite the fact that in the Armed Forces Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS), Chapter 19, Section 19 stipulates that all retired officers shall be entitled to free medical treatment in armed forces and government hospitals.

?However, the retirees have been left out; and to ensure that we appreciate them for the services rendered to the nation, we have brought this memo to Council and it was approved and they have been included also.

?Before this approval the retirees had been going to the military health facilities requesting for free medical care, but unfortunately they were not attended to.

?We all know that the key performance indicators of the Defence ministry is look after their welfare of our men and women in uniform towards the eventual protection of territorial integrity of Nigeria? she said.

Meanwhile, FEC also approved the commencement of 44 infrastructural projects across the Niger Delta states of Cross River, Akwa Ibom, River, Delta, Imo, Abia and Ondo under the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC) mandate.

The minister of information did not disclose the cost of the projects states but said they involve bridges, roads and other infrastructural projects.

FEC also approved a National Policy on Climate Change to provide the government with a framework for tackling environmental challenges occasioned by global changes in the climate, the effect of which has manifested in increased flooding and rise in sea level.

Minister of Environment, Hadiza Mailafia said the policy framework will guide economic and social response of Nigerians to the global trend of climate change, though she did not give specific details.

Being signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, Nigeria?s adoption of the policy will enhance her obligation towards reduction of emission of obnoxious substances in the environment even as it emerged that gas flaring in the country has been reduced to eight per cent and will improve further as more gas is sent to generate electricity in upcoming power stations.

The Federal Capital Territory also got an approval for the second phase provision of infrastructure at a cost of N13.3billion for Mbora district, within the third phase of Abuja?s development plan. It will be funded from statutory budget of the FCT.

FCT Minister of State, Olajumoke Akinjide, explained that the contract will involve arterial and collector roads, telecommunications, power supply, drainage works, and others, with the effect of enabling plot owners start development in earnest; generate employment and decongest the city centre.

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