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Tears as slain military personnel buried in Abuja

  • Heartless people took away our breadwinners – Families

  • Deceased officers get national honours; kids scholarships

 

There was a flow of tears from relatives as the bodies of the 17 soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army, who were killed by irate youths at Okuama Community of Delta State on March 14, 2024 arrived in Abuja for burial.

Daily Trust had reported how the troops of 181 Amphibious Battalion, Bomadi, Delta State, were killed while on a peace mission to the Okuama community.

The incident occurred when the troops responded to a distress call after the communal crisis between the Okuama and Okoloba communities in Delta State.

The remains of the military personnel arrived at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, at about 2:26pm on Wednesday.

Those killed include: AH Ali (Lieutenant Colonel); SD Shafa (Major); DE Obi (Major); U. Zakari (Captain); Yahaya Saidu (Staff Sergeant); Yahaya Danbaba  (Corporal); Kabiru Bashir (Corporal); Bulus Haruna (Lance Corporal); Sole Opeyemi (Lance Corporal); Bello Anas (Lance Corporal); Hamman Peter (Lance Corporal); Ibrahim Abdullahi  (Lance Corporal); Alhaji Isah (Private); Clement Francis (Private); Abubakar Ali (Private); Ibrahim Adamu (Private) and  Adamu Ibrahim  (Private).

Our correspondent reports that President Bola Tinubu, all the service chiefs led by Gen. Christopher Musa and other top military brass from various formations across the country were on ground to pay last respect to the fallen heroes.

Other dignitaries at the event were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume; the Minister of Defence, Abubakar Badaru and the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila.

State governors included Abba Yusuf (Kano), Sheriff Oborevwori (Delta), Usman Ododo (Kogi), Hope Uzodinma (Imo), AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq (Kwara) and Duoye Diri (Bayelsa).

Distraught wives, children and relatives of the deceased personnel were also on ground. In separate interviews with Daily Trust some of them described the death of their loved ones as “shocking and irreparable loss” that would take a very long time before the wound would be healed.

tears as slain military personnel buried in abuja2

 

‘Heartless people took away our breadwinners’

Speaking to our correspondent on the side-line of the national burial, Theresa Ukem, mother of late Major Obi, said she and four children of the late military officer have been deprived of a worthy benefactor.

Mrs Ukem said: “Major Obi was a nice son to me, a very good man. In everything, he is good. I miss him, I miss Obi. I don’t know how I will stay. Who will take care of me as a widow? Obi is my son. Who will help me?

“Obi has four children… I can only thank the government for all they have done for us, that they brought me to bury my son.  I say thank you. God will reward all of you for what you have done for us.

“I leave his killers with God. It is God that will fight the battle, I cannot fight it. It is Nigeria that will fight the battle. As for me, I leave them with God.”

In the same vein, Hanatu Hamman, mother of late Lance Corporal Peter Hamman, in an emotional-laden voice said she felt sad and pained that her child was already preparing for his wedding before his untimely death.

She said, “This son, anything I say he will hear me. As he joined the army, he was the one that gave me money to feed and even take care of my health when I am down. When anything happens to me, I will call him at once and he will send me money to solve my problem.

“Now that he is no more, I still give God the glory. I am in God’s hand now; I don’t have anyone to run to for help. Those soldiers are still alive, may God help and protect them as they do their job.”

On his part, Ahmed Abdul, the elder brother to Lance Corporal Ibrahim, said it was tough losing a loved one.

He said:  “It is a sad event. We have lost a brother that was the bread-winner of the family. He was a man of peace, a Muslim to the core. He was a man that if you don’t say go, he won’t go. He respected everybody in the family. He is caring.

“We received the news with great shock because it was unexpected. He wasn’t troublesome. You can’t find him in suspicious places; so when the news came, it was so sad. It is a great loss to the family.

“There is nothing that will compensate for the life of a man. He died fighting for this country, and that is our consolation.

“For the perpetrators, a criminal is not supposed to live in the society, so anywhere they are, they should fish them out, a life cannot be given, why must you take it? What are you taking it for? Our security agencies should go out day and night to bring these people to book. We’ll be grateful,” he said.

He urged the president and the military authorities to fulfill all the promises made to the  families of the deceased.

Recall that the mother of late Lt. Col. Ali, Hassana Hassan had in an exclusive interview with the Daily Trust last week said two of her children were killed by non-state actors while protecting Nigeria.

“Honestly, it is devastating because he is now the fourth one I lost. I have nothing to say but God is watching. “His brother, Captain Jamilu Ali Hassan, also paid the supreme price in 2019 in Katsina State. His colleagues told me that they were helpless, so they allowed him to be killed in a manner that no one would wish, even his enemy.”

She further narrated how her daughter, who was also married to a military man, died alongside her husband and his brother in a car accident during the fasting period some years ago.  Hassana also said the fourth military man she lost was her husband, who died peacefully after retirement from active service.

Wives of 3 deceased soldiers pregnant; 21 orphans left behind

Earlier, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, disclosed that the 17 deceased military personnel left 10 widows with three pregnant women among them as well as 21 orphans.

Speaking in an emotional voice where the slain military officers were buried, Lagbaja revealed that the three women were 4, 5 and 8 months pregnant, respectively.

Lagbaja said, “While commiserating with the families of these gallant soldiers, I assure them that the Nigerian Army and the good people of this country will not leave them in the cold. We shall do all within our power to provide succour to them and preserve the memories of their departed loved ones.”

Deceased personnel get nat’l heroes

Meanwhile, President Tinubu has conferred national honours on the 17 deceased military personnel and offered scholarships to their children up to university level. Tinubu, who took time to mention the names of the deceased individually, said they have all been awarded posthumous national honours.

“The four gallant officers have been accorded the award of Member of the Order of Niger (MON). The thirteen courageous soldiers who also lost their lives have been awarded the Officer of the Federal (OFR) medal,” he said.

He described the deceased personnel as “patriots, brave and noble men” who gave their lives to defend and protect Nigeria against internal and external threats, saying their sacrifice will be remembered and honoured for generations to come.

“Before the dastardly attack, Lt. Colonel Ali, as the Chief of Army Staff briefed me, enjoyed great operational exploits; fighting terrorists and insurgents in the North East and North West before his deployment to the Niger Delta.

“Ali kept faith with his military calling till the end. On behalf of a grateful nation, we honour the sacrifice of Ali and the other gallant patriots who died that day. They will forever be remembered as heroes who answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price.

“Each man now belongs to the hallowed list of servicemen and women who defended our country and protected their fellow Nigerians not minding the risk to their own lives.

“I commiserate with the families of our fallen heroes and the entire Armed Forces. I share in the pain and grief you carry today. It is my prayer that God will comfort all who are bereaved as a result of this tragedy.

“It is worth restating the debt of gratitude we owe these valiant soldiers and their families. “As Commander-In-Chief, I do not take the contributions of members of our Armed Forces for granted. I recognise your valour and bravery. I honour your unflinching commitment to making our country safe from criminals, bandits, kidnappers and insurrectionists.

“While we continue to grieve for the courageous men we lost that day, let us also, on this solemn occasion, be reminded of the unfinished business of working for peace and harmony in our communities.”

Tinubu encouraged the military not to feel downcast over the terrible incident, saying Nigeria cherishes their contribution.

“The federal government will provide a house in any part of our country to each of the families of the four officers and 13 soldiers. The federal government has also approved scholarships to all the children of the deceased up to the university level.

“The military must, within the next ninety days, ensure that all the benefits of the departed are paid to their families. May the families of the departed and all their loved ones find the strength to bear the pain of this loss,” he said.

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