By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Twenty years after some military officers lost their lives in the Nigerian Air Force C130 Hercule that crashed in a swamp, in Ejigbo, Lagos, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, a rights activist, has assured their widows of his readiness to use instrument of law to fight their course.
Falana who lamented the neglect of family of the late officers who lost their lives in the incidence by successive military and civilian administrations, said it is regrettable that government that claimed good governance for the people should abandoned the victims to their faith with little or no compensation since 1992.
Speaking at a commendation service held by the widows and their family at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ogudu, Lagos, Falana carpeted past administrations, especially the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for not correct injustice handed down to the widows during his eight years in office.
Falana noted that one would have expected Obasanjo who was a victim of phantom coup to correct injustice against affected family of victims of the air crash, but did nothing in spite of demands by the family of the officers for adequate compensations for their dead bread winners.
“It is very sad that you have been abandoned for about 20 years by successive governments in the country. They made promises when the incidence happened but they didn’t do anything to correct this injustice.
“We will take up this challenge by taking up your matter and correct criminal neglect of military authorities. American soldiers are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places during operations, and their families were duly compensated, but soldiers, officers are dying in Nigeria and nothing is being done.
“Is it not an irony of life that Obasanjo who was tried illegally for phantom coup, pardoned to contest would spend eight years ruling the nation without addressing your plight? When he was there one would have thought that he knows where shoes pinch others.
“If military authorities failed to address this injustice before the end of this month, we will be compelled to use the instrument of law to seek redress. We shall call on those in authorities to correct this criminal neglect. We want to assure you that human rights community and progressive arms of the civil society are behind you,” Falana assured.
One of the widows, Mrs. Risikat Mukoro, said that she wrote several letters to former President Obasanjo, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, rtd, without any response. She said she had not collected any money from the government since they relocated from Lagos to Abuja.
She lamented discrepancies in the way state governments handled building accommodation given to the widows, stressing that many states have not redeemed their promises till today.
Also, expressing their readiness to fight the battle to the logical conclusion, another widow, Mrs. Didi Feruke-Bello, wife of late Lt. Commander Kareem Bello said the battle was not a personal one but one aimed at upholding ideals of their late husbands.
“We are not fighting for ourselves, but we are fighting for the dead. They made them to die and rendered us useless. If you have forgotten I did not forget because the memory of that dark era is still fresh in my memory,” Feruke-Bello said.