The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, Tuesday, explained how five Nigerian Air Force personnel died in helicopter crash on January 2, at Damasak, Borno State, while pursuing Boko Haram terrorists in their vehicles.
The explanation followed their burial at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja.
Air Marshal Abubakar, speaking at the emotion-laden event, attended by the wives and family members of the deceased officers, 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.
Representative of President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali,the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, among many others, were also at the burial site, along Airport Road, Abuja.
Abubakar said:”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 the avowed 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.
He said: “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, who gave 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 safety and secure Nigeria where the freedom of worship and association of one and all are guaranteed under one indivisible nation.
“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 will III yjoin 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 5 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 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, among others.