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CDS vows crackdown on bandits as 20 slain soldiers buried

He stated further, “Today, we bid farewell to those who dedicated their lives to the noble cause of protecting our nation. They were people of honour, integrity and incredible bravery. They accepted the call to serve, fully aware of the dangers that lay ahead.

By Solomon Odeniyi

The rows of coffins draped with the national flag and military kits, and the solemn sound from the ceremonial bugle evoked tears at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on Friday, as families, friends, colleagues and top military officers gathered to pay their last respects at the burial of 20 of the gallant soldiers who died on active duty in Niger State a few days ago.

Bandits, now known as terrorists, had ambushed troops in Zungeru, Niger State, on August 13, resulting in the death of 22 soldiers while seven others were injured.

In its swift response to the attack, the MI-171E helicopter deployed by the Air Force to evacuate the victims, unfortunately crashed near Chukuba Village in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, claiming the lives of all passengers, including two pilots and two crew members.

The aircraft, which was carrying 14 of the 22 bodies and the seven injured soldiers from the ambush, had departed Zungeru Primary School, en route to Kaduna when it was later discovered to have crashed.

Thus, the 20 bodies buried on Friday were some of the victims of both the ambush and the crash, while the rest had been buried in other locations.

Indeed, the pain etched on the faces of the mourners, especially family members mostly dressed in black clothes, reflected the void left by the gallant soldiers. For the duration of the programme, the atmosphere remained poignant, deepened by the tribute paid to the fallen soldiers.

As the caskets were lowered at exactly 2.04 pm, the tears held back for long by grieving family members and friends eventually ran down their faces at once.

The burial was attended by the Minister of Defence, Muhammad Badaru; Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Christopher Musa, service chiefs, families and friends of the fallen heroes. The governors of Kaduna and Niger states were represented at the funeral, which also featured the laying of wreaths by the two ministers.

Pain too much to bear – Deceased relatives

A relative of one of the deceased, Chiroma Musa, said the death of his cousin had destablised the family.

He said, “I lost my cousin, Chiroma Poguyamta.  He was a friendly person. He wasn’t the type to hurt people. I was shocked when I heard the news of his death. I have been destablised since then. The first time we were informed of his death, his corpse had not been found, but we were later told they found it.

“It has been a very sad moment for us. It is very painful to lose your loved ones in this manner. He was married with two kids. His wife has not been herself since she heard the news.”

Also, a brother to Alfred Seth, Enoch David, said Seth’s death came as a devastating blow to the family, adding that the family would take solace in God.

David said, “He was a nice brother, dedicated to his work and highly disciplined. Before his death, I didn’t see him for a while because of the nature of his work. He was someone who never turned his back on his family. This is a devastating situation. The family would only find solace in God. It is not easy, but we will find solace in God. He wasn’t married. He was very young and the second born.”

Daniel Alaribe’s elder sister, Mrs Ada Akagbuaye, said the late Daniel was the youngest in the family.

She stated, “I am the sister of one of the deceased soldiers, Alaribe Daniel. He was the last child of a family of 10. The pain is so much. It is only God who can heal us. My father is still alive. He is 91 years old. For us to lose him when the others are still alive is so painful.”

Naomi Abel, who bemoaned the death of promising young military personnel in the country, urged the authorities to look into the situation, saying the country could not afford to continue losing its soldiers.

She said, “My brother is Usman Akali. It is a tragedy and I feel very bad. He had been the helper in the house and had been very supportive. He was a wonderful young man. What is happening in this country?  What are we doing about the security situation in this country? Is it that we don’t have capable hands or equipment? How come our promising young men are just dying? What is the issue? The leaders in the military should do something about it. Whatever it is that is causing the problem, address it. This thing is eating us up!”

Defence chief talks tough

Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff did not mince words in his remarks, as he gave an assurance that the death of the soldiers would be avenged.

Addressing the gathering while conveying the country’s gratitude to the families, the CDS said, “Today, we gather here with heavy hearts and tearful eyes to bid farewell to our fallen heroes, the big leaders and women in the armed forces of Nigeria who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

“We stand here today to honour their courage, dedication and commitment to duty. Their lives were abruptly taken from us in the line of duty. We gather to celebrate their lives and extraordinary contributions to our beloved nation. We are gathered here today not as grieving family members, friends and colleagues but as a nation united in sorrow.”

He said the fallen heroes exemplified the very best of what it means to serve and protect one’s country. He described them as the vanguard of peace, guidance of freedom and sentinels, noting that their selflessness and unwavering dedication to the security of the country would be forever etched in their hearts and memories.

He stated further, “Today, we bid farewell to those who dedicated their lives to the noble cause of protecting our nation. They were people of honour, integrity and incredible bravery. They accepted the call to serve, fully aware of the dangers that lay ahead. Yet, they never wavered in their commitment to protecting the lives and property of our fellow citizens. These fallen heroes possessed a rare blend of physical and moral courage, but they faced the danger head-on.

“Each and every one of them had a story, a dream and a family waiting for their safe return. We all miss them. They were sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers.”

Musa promised that the sacrifices of the deceased personnel to their nation would not be in vain, adding that the troops would sustain the fight against insecurity as a mark of honour to them.

The CDS added, “In the midst of this tragedy, we must remember that their sacrifice was not in vain. These brave men and women laid down their lives so that we could live in peace and security. They fought on the front line, ensuring that the flame of hope and liberty continued to burn bright in our nation. Their courage and dedication will forever be an inspiration to all who follow in their footsteps.”

Musa assured the family of the deceased that the military would stand by them.

He said, “To the families who have lost loved ones, we offer our deepest condolences. We cannot begin to fathom the pain and sorrow that we are experiencing. Deep in your heart, know that you are not alone in your grief. The entire nation and the Armed Forces know you and are ready to support you in any possible ways.

“To our fallen heroes, we say thank you. Thank you for your legal commitment to duty, your sacrifice and your love for our nation. We will honor you by continuing to fight against those who seek to undermine our peace and security. We remain steadfast in our resolve to build a nation worthy of sacrifice.”

We’ll avenge soldiers’ death, CDS vows

The CDS, in his address, ordered all military commanders and troops in the country to avenge the deaths of their colleagues. He vowed that those responsible for the death of the soldiers would pay for it.

He said, “When you have to burry your own, you feel very pained. I want to assure the families that their deaths were not in vain. We appreciate them. We will ensure that those who did this must pay for it. I use this opportunity to call on all commanders and troops all over Nigeria that we must avenge this.  Those who did this and those who kill our men, wherever they are, we will smoke them out.”

He stressed that the military would hunt down bandits, terrorists and other criminal elements in the country. “To the bandits, terrorists and perpetrators of violence who seek to sow the seed of fear among the people, know that our resolve will not waiver,” Musa said. “We will hunt you and bring you to justice. I will restore peace and security to every corner of our nation.

“Your actions may cause pain and suffering, but they will never extinguish the spirit of unity and resilience that binds us. I promise you, we will not relent until we get all those causing havoc in this country.”

The event came to a climax with the presentation of the national flag to the next of kin of the fallen soldiers by the CDS and service chiefs.

Punch Newspapers

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