Five Nigerian Air Force (NAF) crewmembers on board a Mi-35M helicopter have died after it crashed while providing close aerial support to troops of the 145 Battalion in Damasak, Borno State.
The tragedy occurred on Wednesday.
Their remains have since been recovered and moved to Maiduguri, according to Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF’s Director of Public Relations and Information.
The crewmembers are Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob (Pilot-in-Command), Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas (Co-Pilot), Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim (Flight Technician), Lance Corporal Adamu Nura (Gunner), and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael (Gunner).
“The gallant fallen heroes made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our fatherland, for which the NAF and indeed the entire nation owe them an unending debt of gratitude,” Daramola said in a statement yesterday.
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf of all officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF, commiserates with the families of the men, the statement stressed.
It added: “The NAF appreciates the overwhelming support shown by the general public to the service over the sad incident. We continue to solicit your understanding and support as we daily strive to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Oby Ezekwesili, described President Muhammadu Buhari’s perception of insecurity in the country as out of tune with reality.
“It is tragic that each time the president nods his head for great work on stemming insecurity, one concludes that he is far removed from the reality of what his citizens, especially in the northeast, north central and Zamfara and Kaduna in the north west have suffered and still suffer,” she said.
The president, as leader of over 200 million people, seems accustomed to losing his citizens, she noted. According to her, “he is very unjust to his citizens in the way he has failed to dignify their lives.”
The presidential hopeful was reacting on Twitter to a report by Nigeria Security Tracker, an initiative that maps political violence, which revealed that the menace has almost doubled since 2017.
The report documented 1,949 deaths through October 2018, compared to 1,041 sectarian-related fatalities in all of 2017, while killings from the Boko Haram conflict through October 2018 were roughly 1,900.
Ezekwesili charged the president to give an accurate report of the counter- terrorism war and national security.
She advised him “to step away from seeing issues of national security as ‘arsenals’ for his re-election and do the right thing; which is to give weight to his constitutional duty to protect his country and citizens.”
Urging the president to “get the country’s priorities right immediately,” she added: “No true leader will act the way our president carries on in the midst of such frequent senseless killings of his citizens including troops prosecuting the terrorism war. Stop it now!”
President Muhammadu Buhari meanwhile has expressed condolences to the Air Force and relations of the officers. In a statement by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina, the president said rather than dampen the morale of troops in the northeast, the unfortunate development should bolster their resolve to eliminate all evildoers in the shortest time possible.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General T. Y. Buratai, also paid a condolence visit to the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal S. B. Abubakar, at the headquarters of the Air Task Force Command of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maiduguri, Borno State.