·We lost 407 colleagues in a set
·Personnel missing inside bush during operation
·How insurgents posed as colleagues to launch attack

By Evelyn Usman

June, 19, 2020. As early as 8am, they were already seated inside Buhari Hall, at the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre , Oshodi, Lagos, awaiting the arrival of the Special Guest of Honour,  Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar.

While some of them were lost in reverie, others exchanged banters, from their social distance sitting arrangement.

From the expressions on their faces, it was obvious they had long waited  for the  day to come. Unfortunately, some of  their colleagues who also looked forward to that day, had fate dictate otherwise.

The occasion was the Passing Out Ceremony of   Military personnel of Course 01/20, drawn from the Nigerian Army , Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Airforce.

Thirty-five years ago, they took an  oath to lay down their lives if need be, and to go anywhere  by land, air or sea, in protection of the sovereignty and strategic interest of Nigeria,  as demanded.

407 personnel die

About 750 of them were enlisted into the Military in 1985. However, along the line,  half  of the number, died either in the course of  defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria, or through  natural causes.

In this interview with some of them, they  gave chilling accounts of their face-to-face encounter with enemies of the country  and those of other war torn countries.

While some of them had different medals attached to their left breast pockets,

to show for their participation in different wars, the feat , however, left  indelible scars and disfigured body parts , as memories of their sojourn in the military.

Hear them:

According to Olateju Sunday, a Master Warrant Officer ,  ” These 35 years are indescribable. I did not expect that I would spend  up to this year in the Army, but because God has destined me to be there,  I was able  to scale through despite the hurdles. There were times  when  I was sober over my  colleagues death”.

“Asked how many colleagues he has lost, he replied, I cannot tell you all.   But  we  were 750 that  started in 1985, but  343 are passing out today.  So,  if you subtract the number from those alive,  you should know that it is the grace of God that saw us through.

Disguise to attack

“I participated in the United Nations  ECOMOG operation  in Liberia, Sudan, Sierra-Leone  and  other countries. The experience  I can never forget, was during the fight against Boko Haram sect in the North-East.

”On that fateful day, precisely in 2014, Boko Haram members  disguised as friendly forces by flying the Nigerian flag  on their helicopter. Our  Commandant thought the helicopter  was  our  colleagues’  that were coming to give us support. Instead of landing in front of us, the helicopter   landed behind us.

“ As they were landing,  they released smoke bomb so that we  would not be able to see them, until  they would be able to take over.  When  they took over, they started taking our fire powers, which were our supporting weapons, on the field.  We  started losing some of our people.

“ Even in the face of that confrontation, we did not chicken out , we had to  fight with the   last  ounce of  blood .We did not give up until  we were able to overcome them.

“My advice to those still in service is that they should be prayerful. Tactics or no tactics, it’s God that saves lives. Somebody can die from the left or right  sides, or  even near or far from you, it’s only God that  will  not allow the bullet  targeted at them to penetrate. They should   not  try to leave training, because  it’s not the day you are in the war front that you’re supposed to prepare for  war. You  prepare for war in  peace time so that when war comes, you are not scared to do anything”.

I joined Army at 23

For Master Warrant Officer Adeshina Peters, who was 60 years old  on Monday, he said he joined the Nigerian Army at 23.

Though he described his 35 years in the Military as challenging, he boasted that he would encourage his children to join the Military  if they showed interest.  Like others, he shared  his close shave with death.

He said, “ I’ ve had close shave with enemy forces. That was January 15, 2015, in Kangarowa,   the Lake Chad region.

We were at our defence. Normally, the enemy attacks as  from 4pm till 8pm. So, if we were in the warfront, we always observed that  time.

On that fateful day, we saw them coming right from our observation post. Everybody got into the trench to wear our fragmental jackets. Then ,  they started shelling, as they were shelling, they were advancing and we were returning fire. I was 30 to  45 meters close to them. How I managed to escape remains a miracle till date.

Colleagues die, missing in bushes  

On his part, Army Warrant officer, Sadam Ezekiel, was full of praise to God Almighty  for the privilege of being among  those who have  war stories to share.

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Narrating his,  he said, “There were lots of challenges. We swam troubled waters and peaceful environment,   we experienced hardship and  rain storm.

I have participated in  four wars in the  African continent. They include : Sudan, Mali, Liberia and Sierra-Leone, and I have my medals to show for them. Some paid the supreme price, but God helped me  triumph.

“I had  close shave with death in Sudan and Mali, when the enemies threw missiles to our camp, but fortunately, it did not reach us. Rather, it fell in their neighboring camp.

Many people died in our camp in Sierra-Leone.  Some were shot and died right  in front of me and by my side. Some colleagues got missing in the bush”, Ezekiel, stated.

For Warrant Officer Anyanwu Vitalice, the tales were not different. As an Electrical Electronic Engineer  with the Nigerian Navy, he said the war he fought was mainly in the sea.

According to him:  ”Within these 34 years, I have experienced all the wars you can think of, both inside and outside the country.  I participated   in the Niger Delta, the Boko Haram activities in the North-East  , as well as the fight in the south. I also  fought  in ECOMOG war in  Liberia for almost two years.

“While the war was on, our job was to maintain all the weapons onboard and ensure    our ships were in order, in terms of being  seaworthy, operational and gun power readiness. At one time or the other, we escaped death by the whiskers through God’s grace”.

Encounter with militants

For Nandon Dashe, a naval personnel,  he said he had the good, bad and ugly experience in his field of operation. He recalled how they were attacked by militants in the course of trying to restore peace in the Niger-Delta  region.

He said he could count 20 of his colleagues who died during operation .

He also expressed concern on the perception of the public on Military personnel.

He said, “ at times,  civilians see us as enemies, as if we are not humans.  We are  welcomed anywhere we go and  seen as people who have given their lives to serve this nation. But in Nigeria, it is always the other way round. People frown at us”.


As part of preparation to disengage these military personnel from  service and  reintegrate them into civilian life,  they underwent six months training at the NAFRC, where they were trained on vocational skills that would enhance meaningful post service life.

The Special Guest of Honour/ Commandant of the Centre, Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar, while  congratulating them, informed that 365 of them turned up for the six-month course but that some of them had to be returned for various reasons, leaving  343  of them . Unfortunately, he disclosed that  one of them died last month.

He gave special recognition to  wives and children of the retiring personnel for what he described as their sacrifice, love and prayers throughout the years of service.

“ Indeed, they had to bear the brunt of our absence over the years. The sacrifice is over and it is now time to return to their warm embrace”.

To the retiring personnel, the Commandant, charged them to continue to make positive contributions to the country.

He reminded that “ as ambassadors of the Nigerian Armed Forces, you are to remain  dedicated , disciplined and maintain the highest level of integrity with which you have served in the past 35 years. The training you acquired is to enable you contribute positively to your various societies and thus, helping to build a greater nation”.

Some of the personnel were given awards for their exemplary leadership and outstanding performance during their six months stay at the centre.


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