A Nigerian soldier at a ceremony.
Wednesday May 21, 2008, was one of the saddest days in the history of the Nigerian Army as Nigeria lost 46 Nigerian soldiers who had returned from their peacekeeping mission to Darfur.
I was angry and sorry for the unfortunate 46 Nigerian African Union Peacekeeeping soldiers who were killed in the ghastly road accident in Northern Nigeria last Wednesday May 21, 2008.
I was angry, because this horrific accident could have been prevented!
Captain Albert Okojie and the 45 other soldiers were risking their precious lives in Darfur for six months as peacekeepers in the African Union (AU) Hybrid Force and they survived the dangers of the mission. They were flown back to Nigeria safely and were looking forward to returning to their 245th Battalion in Monguno and to reunite with their loving families and others the following day. But they were killed on that fateful Wednesday as an empty petrol tanker crashed into their military convoy and exploded along the Kari-Potiskum-Maiduguri Road in Bauchi State.
They would have been alive and well today if their convoy had a road safety escort!
The road safety escort would have seen the danger of the speeding petrol tanker ahead of them and the ghastly accident would have been prevented.
I am sorry for them, and I sympathize with their bereaved families, relations, friends and all the members of the Nigerian Armed Forces who will miss them and who have lost the heroic service of these brave officers.
Nigerian soldiers at a parade
President Umaru Yar'Adua of Nigeria made the following statement in his tribute to the 46 Nigerian soldiers at their funeral ceremony.
"This is indeed a tragedy of enormous proportions. It is made more heart rendering by the fact that these were courageous heroic soldiers who had just acquitted themselves commendably in their tour of duty in the challenging terrain of Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region."
"To return home and end in this way is a calamity that Nigeria, the military establishment and in a special sense, their families will find difficult to live with. However, we can find solace in the knowledge that they have paid the supreme price and sacrifice in gallant service not only to our fatherland but in the course of international peace and security and in the service of humanity."
"We have an obligation to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain by recommitting to successfully driving peace efforts in the Sudan and other troubled spots on our continent and beyond. My heart goes out to all the aggrieved families to these fallen heroes. I pray that the Almighty God to give them the fortitude to bear the loss to deal with the unfortunate passing of their loved ones."
"I pledge that the Federal Government will do all that is necessary to mitigate the adverse effect of the demise of these gallant Nigerians on their families and their dependants."
"As we bid our departed patriots a final farewell, let us all pray that our nation will never again be visited by a calamity of this proportion. May God in His infinite mercy give them final eternal rest in His own bosom and in His very presence."
Names of the Officer and Soldiers are:
Captain Albert Okojie, WO Patrick Ogbudu, CPL Sini Jaduwa, CPL Ali Ibrahim, CPL Michael Andache, CPL Golmang Kassem, CPL Hashimu Ibrahim, CPL Ahmed Mohammed, CPL Aba Tijjani, CPL Alhassan Salisu, CPL Tukur Abdulkadir, CPL Ta'u Mohammed, LCPL Bitrus Goni, LCPL Zingur Mallam, LCPL Garba Saidu, LCPL Hamidu Ibrahim, LCPL Alamu Wasiu, LCPL Sani Abdullahi, LCPL Hamza Garba, LCPL Bala Mohammed, LCPL Ahmed Sulieman, LCPL Sabo Isah, LCPL Chindu Salisu, LCPL Saleh Ahmad, LCPL Audu Mamman, LCPL Shehu Mohammed, LCPL Shehu Umar, LCPL Salisu Rabiu, LCPL Tanko Madaki, Trooper Sanga Joseph, Trooper Bassey Egbala, Trooper Dauda Saadu, Trooper Aduo Freeman, Trooper Sanusi Bello, Trooper Adamu Jeje, Trooper Usman Umaru, Trooper Abdullahi Dauda, Trooper Moses Orimogunje, Trooper Idris Shaibu, Trooper Mutala Garba, Trooper Richard Zittee, Trooper Kabiru Yaro, Trooper Olowu Abolade, Trooper Peter Ije, Trooper Akande Oluwagbemi, Trooper Bitrus Yusuf.
May their souls rest in peace.