The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, recently led top Government Functionaries, members of the Diplomatic Corps and Captains of Industries to the foundation-laying ceremony of the Nigerian Army Officers Wives’ Association Wellness Centre, pledging the Legislative Arm’s support toward the actualization of the project.
The Centre which is located at the Mambilla Barracks, Asokoro Discrict, Abuja, is designed to offer services that will address mental, emotional, psychological needs of the military personnel, their dependents and the general public.
The Wellness Centre is a brain child and initiative of the National President NAOWA (wife of the Chief of Army Staff) Mrs Fati Attahiru, to addres cases of mental health, substance abuse and rehabilitation of victims of all kinds of abuses within and outside the barracks.
Rt Hon Gbajabiamila, while commending the initiative of the wife of the Chief of Army Staff, described the project as a landmark achievement which would provide opportunity to address the mental and psychological needs of all military personnel, especially those who have, for long, been deployed in the battle field, appreciating their sacrifice for the peace and security of the nation.
He added that the project would not only help to address issues relating to drugs and substance abuse within the barracks alone but also address curative and preventive health challenges affecting the society considering the wide range of services to be offered by the centre when commissioned.
The Speaker applauded the spouses of the officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces, especially those in the battle front for being able to tackle and manage the home fronts while their husbands are busy defending the nation against all forms of terror confronting the nation.
“When we talk about sickness, wellness and health, we are not just talking about the body or physical health; we are talking about the mental and soul.
“You will agree with me that wellness is an essential ingredient in living a healthy body and sound mind.
“With this in mind, the House of Representatives, on March this year, made a recommendation to the Nigerian Army to improve the welfare of its personnel and I am happy to see this kind of development and project coming up,” he added.
The Speaker further said over 50 million Nigerians, according to research, were either suffering from one form of mental illness as a result of the COVID -19 pandemic or other related health issues, urging all well-meaning individuals, philanthropists, Governments at all levels as well as people of goodwill to support NAOWA’s quest to have a befitting centre in all the states of the Federation.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, described the project as a movement in the right direction, adding that the initiative is in tandem with the United Nations’ policy on strategic goal number 3 of the UN Welfare Guideline.
Mr. Kallon, while congratulating the National President for her passion in addressing mental and emotional health challenges, assured her and the association of the United Nations’ support, stressing that the project was a continuation of her good work which was synonymous with her ideals while she was with the United Nations’ Family.
Also speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, while congratulating the wife of the Chief of Army Staff for the project, noted that the initiative would address preventive, curative and rehabilitative health challnges facing the society which is in line with the Federal Government’s policy on primary and secondary health packages for communities.
Ehanire said the project would not only serve the military but the entire society, adding that the services would complement Government’s efforts in addressing physical and mental abuses which often lead to emotional breakdown and mental stress.
The Minister assured NAOWA of the support of the Ministry of Health, urging the leadership to replicate the gesture in all the states of the federation.
Speaking Earlier during her welcome remarks, the National President, NAOWA, Mrs Fati Attahiru, said that the centre was not a luxury but a facility that was urgently needed to address issues of serious concern relating to mental health and abuse, adding that the centre would partner with the Nigerian Army Medical Corps to address all health-related challenges within the barracks and its environs.
She solicited for the support of government, corporate organisations and individuals to enable the Association complete the centre, stresing that NAOWA was conscious of the fact that there were lots of grieves over the loss of loved ones, Post-Traumatic Stress DO(PTSD), depression and mental instability among members of the barracks community.
The National President further stressed that, rather than ignore the problem, the centre, when completed, would be a haven to fish out and collectively address problems associated with all issues relating to mental health and substance abuse.
She emphasized that establishing the centre was borne out of several distress calls from members of the barracks communities, and in some cases friends of the military who were directly or indirectly affected by the loss of their loved ones and were battling with depression and needed assistance.
The event featured drama presentation by Soldiers’ Wives Association (NASWA), dance drama by Students of NAOWA College, donations, foundation-laying and unveiling of the centre plaque, among others.
The event was attended by the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Her Excellency, Dr. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by her Senior Special Assistant to the First Lady on African First Ladies Peace Mission, Mrs. Mairo Al-makura, Executive Governors of Kogi and Imo States HE Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and Sen Hope Uzodinma, Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Women Affairs Mrs Pauline Tallen, representatives of Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, and Members of the National Assembly.
Also in attendances were service Chiefs, Principal Staff Officers from both Defence and Army Headquarters.