As nation honours 5 Air Force personel who died in helicopter crash
By Joseph Erunke
Military personel are known for their bravery. Though they are human beings with blood running through their veins, they hadly betray emotions. This is largely due to their professional trainings to withstand any ugly situation no matter the circumstance they find themselves. Anyone who attends the burial of any military personnel who died in combat will appreciate in a situation like this, they would cry even in their uniforms like ordinary people.
On Monday, December 7, 2016,the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, wept to the surprise of many as he read the funeral oration at the graveside of seven military men killed by Boko Haram terrorists, among who was their commander, Lt. Col. Mohammed Abu-Ali. Soldiers at the event could not also hold back tears as they wept uncontrollably.
This scenario played out again last Tuesday,at the National Military Cemetery,Abuja, during the burial of the five personel of the Nigerian Air Force,who died in combat in Damasak,Borno State, on January 2, when the NAF Mi-35M Helicopter they were flying,crashed with no survivor. Colleagues of the deceased joined friends and family members of the deceased officers in weeping.
The Chief of Air Force,Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar,who was the chief mourner at the event, also could not hold back tears. Though he struggled to fight the tears in his eyes, it was so visible to those sitting or standing close to him at the burial that he was overwhelmed by the death of his gallant officers.
For Mrs Diepreye Jacob,wife of Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob, the pilot of the ill-fated helicopter, going to the grace with her late husband was a better option than her continuous existence on earth. How would she live the whole of her life on earth without her heartthrob she just got married to barely three weeks before his death. She attempted to move into the grave but was held back by her family members who accompanied her when she was called upon to pour sand into the grave where the body of her late husband, put in a coffin and covered with a cloth in green-white-green colour of the Nigerian Flag was lowered.
“How do I live, what will I do again, who did you leave me with?” These were some of the questions the widow kept asking the deceased husband as she bent down, scooped some sand and poured into the grave.
The young deceased Air Force pilot was said to be a focused, hard working, respectful and dedicated officer. “He was lively and his attitude to work endeared him to many junior and senior colleagues. He maintained exellent relationship with his colleagues. He had a brief affection for social activities and had a commendable flying skill and constantly worked to improve his professional knowledge. He was one of the promising air combat pilots in the Nigerian Air Force,”the 32-year old indigene of Bayelsa State and captain of the ill-fated helicopter,who is survived by his parents, siblings and his wife,was described during the funeral oration at the graveside.
Jacob’s friend and co-pilot in the ill-fated NAF Mi-35M Helicopter,Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas,a 35-year old indigene of Gombe State, was said to be making preparation to get married before death came calling.
The deceased young Nigerian Air Force commissioned officer was described as a good pilot with great potentials just like Flight Lieutenant Jacob. “He was a reliable, disciplined and hard working pilot. He applied himself in all aspects of learning and had passion for his job and carried it out dilligently,” said an officer designated to read the deceased officers’ brief citations.
Paul is survived by three brothers.
Unlike Jacob and Paul, Ibrahim Auwal,who also died in the crashed helicopter,was a non commissioned officer. Auwal,who was the flight technician, was holding the rank of Sergeant in the Nigerian Air Force before his death. The 31-year old native of Katsina State,was said to have won his way into the warm embrace of both senior and junior personel of the service due to how serious he took his work.
“Sergeant Auwal was an intelligent,hard working and dedicated senior non commissioned officer. He was an amiable airman who worked well with his subordinates. His approach to duties remain unparalleled and worthy of emulation,” his citation read. He was said to be survived by parents, siblings and two lovely children.
In fact,his last son said to be two years old,moved people at the graveside to tears as he accompanied his mother to lay wreath in honour of the fallen heroes at the event.
The innocent boy, having stepped out behind his mother, walked to where the wreaths were placed, turned round to look at the people gathered including the Chief of Air Staff but could not fathom what was going on even as his mother was visibly overwhelmed with grief. He later detached from his bereaved mother ostensibly to play as he mistook the occasion for such. He was gently led back to where a seat was reserved for his mother.
Like Auwal, Lance Corporal Nura Adamu was also a non-commissioned officer. The 27-year old indigene of Jigawa State, was described as a committed and an outstanding airman. “His attitude towards improving himself as well as carrying his subordinates along was an attribute that stood him out”,an officer had described him.
Adamu,who was survived by his parents, siblings,wife and three children,was recently deployed to the North East to join in the service’ battle with the Boko Haram terrorists.
Like Adamu,Meshack Ishmael,a 25-year old and youngest of the crew members was a gunner. The deceased aircraftman,a native of Gombe State was said to be “a hard working, humble and respectful airman.”
Adamu was not only the youngest of the crew members in age but also most junior in the service having not spent up to three years in the service of the Nigerian Air Force before death took him away in the painful crash.
“He was lively and his attitude to work was worth emulating. He was focused and dedicated to his duties.He was a good sportsman and participated in many social functions. He upheld military regimentation and constantly worked hard to improve his professional knowledge. He was one of the promising and upcoming regimental airmen in the Nigerian Air Force. Despite his short presence in the service,he contributed immensely to the service’ mission in the North East,”he was described.
Throughout his service life, he was said to have maintained exellent attitude to his work and relationship to his colleagues. “He paid the supreme price in his service to his fatherland,”the late Ismael,who was survived by parents and family was eulogized.
The helicopter was said to have crashed on the fateful day,while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion in Damasak, Borno.
The Chief of Air Staff,Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, speaking at the event, explained that the Nigerian Air Force personel lost their lives while pursuing vehicles of Boko Haram terrorists to save the lives of the ground troops.
He said the five military personnel, comprising two pilots and three crew members,lost their lives in combat while in pursuit of Boko Haram terrorists in their vehicles.
According to him, “While we mourn the death of our departed heroes and these courageous Nigerians,we must also be thankful to God that such men lived.
“In their last moments, these heroes showed courage, diligence and unparalleled commitment to pursue the terrorists’ vehicles and fight them to finish so that the lives of our soldiers of 145 Battalion Damasak could be saved.We cannot but be more thankful for these great Nigerians.”
Even as he expressed sadness over their deaths, Abubakar hailed their courage, saying they demonstrated patriotism in their services to their fatherland.
He said in spite of the sad development,the Nigerian Air Force in particular and the Nigerian military as a whole will not relent in their determination to see to the total annihilation of insurgence and terrorism in the country, insisting that the military was rather emboldened to go all out for the terrorists.
“These gallant heroes lost their lives in the pursuit of the peace which we all enjoy and often take for granted. We salute the courage of these young men, whose lot it became to give their lives for this purpose.
“The loss of these courageous and professional gentlemen must spur the rest of us not only to rededicate ourselves in the service of our nation, but also to resolve that we expose and fight all agents of destabilization and extremism in our society.
“We must throw in everything we have to this fight to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain. We must do everything possible to bring the ongoing insurgency in the North East to a speedy end that is favourable to our nation.
“I am indeed deeply touched and saddened by the price which our patriots had to pay in this needless fight against insurgency. Our departed heroes fought that we live in a safe and secure Nigeria where the freedom of worship and association of one and all are guaranteed under one indivisible nation,”Abubakar said.
The Nigerian Air Force chief added:”Therefore, as we resolve to re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of defending the nation, let me at this juncture restate our profound commitment and unalloyed loyalty to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his efforts at tackling the challenges bedeviling our national security.
“This is not a speech making occasion, but a time for sober reflections as we pray for the eternal repose of the gentle souls of our departed heroes, all of whom will be greatly missed but are fondly remembered for their invaluable services to the nation and humanity.
“Jacob, Kilyofas, Ibrahim, Nura and Ishmael, today, as you go to your final resting place, may the Lord be with you forever and be assured that the Nigerian Air Force and indeed the nation will remain ever grateful to you for your services and sacrifice.
“To the families of the deceased, I know Nigerians everywhere join me in praying for you as you shoulder this heavy burden of grief. May time ease the soaring pain of today and please note that the entire nation shares this grief with you.
“There can be no better consolation than the knowledge that the nation grieves with you on the loss of these amiable and patriotic Nigerians, who paid the supreme price in the course of their duty to the fatherland.
“As we conclude the interment of Jacob, Kilyofas, Ibrahim, Nura and Ishmael, we fervently pray for all our departed colleagues who have paid the supreme price in the course of ensuring the integrity of our dear nation.
“As Nigerians, we will persevere, taking strength from the legacy of service of these five gentlemen and those before them. May God continue to bless them and keep our land prosperous and free.
“May I, at this point,assure of our collective commitment to secure Nigeria and the Nigerian people.”
The the burial, which was preceded by Christian and Islamic prayers,later ended with the laying of wreaths by the Minister of Defence,Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff,wives of some married deceased officers and some family members.