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What is Nigeria’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day?

On January 15 every year, Nigeria celebrates the Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD). However celebrated grandly, it’s a solemn event about the sacrifices of men and women in uniform and a reminder that there are no winners in war. 

What’s the history behind the Armed Forces Remembrance Day?

Globally, the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, also called “Armistice Day”, is celebrated on November 11 to honour the veterans of World Wars. However, Nigeria’s AFRD was moved to January 15 to commemorate the surrender of the Biafran troops in 1970, following a civil war between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the breakaway Republic of Biafra from the Southeast region. 

Why is it important to celebrate it?

AFRD is a call not to forget  the price the armed forces (the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Legion) had to pay for peace. It’s a day to honour the military officers who laid down their lives and those currently risking theirs to protect Nigeria.

How is it celebrated?

The remembrance day emblem

Preparations for this day usually start two months prior, and it begins with the sales of the remembrance emblems across the country. Millions of people wear this emblem on the top left side of their outfits till January 15 as a symbol of solidarity and respect for members of the armed forces.

Prayers around the country

Special prayers are held in military churches and mosques across several barracks and cantonments. In Abuja, special services are conducted at the National Christian Centre and National Mosque.

Parades and the wreath-laying ceremony

Each state organises a military parade, and a wreath-laying ceremony is held. In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, the parade is inspected by the President, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Armed Forces Remembrance Day sacrifice

The President and the Vice-President, alongside other top government officials like the Senate President, the Chief of Defence Staff and a representative of widows of fallen soldiers, would then lay wreaths in front of the statue of the Unknown Soldier. 

The wreath-laying ceremony is solemn and emotional, and it ends with releasing white pigeons from a cage. 

The Armed Forces Remembrance Day should forever remind us about the sacrifices of the armed forces and be a warning to many of us to never indulge ourselves in things that might once again bring disunity and strife to Nigeria. 

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