*As victims of NAF jet crash are buried
*NAF still in palpable shock over loss of gallant officers —CAS
*Says their death’ll spur military to expose, fight agents of destabilisation, extremism
By Kingsley Omonobi
Mrs Omolola Olawunmi, mother of two boys and spouse of late Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi, the electronics and radar maintenance expert attached to the ill-fated Beechcraft King Air 350i, described her deceased husband as a teacher, very loving and very caring.
On his demise, Omolola said: “It is so painful that I have missed a loving husband. He is a loving and caring husband. He is a nice man, very quiet, and intelligent. He is a brilliant man.”
Noting that the last discussion she had with him was on that Sunday morning, she said: “We spoke on phone. He said to me, okay, before saying he was going to Minna on that day. I will never forget him.
Earlier at the graveside, Mrs Omolola Olawunmi was seen weeping uncontrollably and shouting Olasunkanmi’s name: “Sunkanmi, so you left me and these our boys alone just like that. Well done, Thank you. But I promise you I will take care of them with the support of God. Thank you.”
Flight Sgt. Olasunkanmi Olawunmi was one of the seven personnel of the Nigerian Air Force who died in a plane crash in Abuja last Sunday and was laid to rest, yesterday.
The other late officers include Flight Lt Haruna Gadzama; Flight Lt. Henry Piyo; Flying Officer Michael Okpara; Warrant Officer Basset Etim; SGT Ugochukwu Oluka and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson.
The personnel were on a surveillance mission to Niger State, over the abducted students and staff of Government Science College, Kagara, Shiroro, when their aircraft, a Beechcraft 350 KingAir, suffered engine failure and crashed near Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The solemn occasion had in attendance Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Defence, Maj Gen Bashir Magashi (retd); Minister of Women Affairs, Paulen Tallen; Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Maj Gen Lucky Irabor; and Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Major Gen Ibrahim Attahiru.
Also in attendance were the Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, Rear Admiral AZ Gambo; Chief of Air Staff, CAS, Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao; Chief of Defence Intelligence, Maj Gen SA Adebayo; members of the National Assembly, families and friends of the deceased.
NAF still in palpable shock over loss of gallant officers — CAS
Speaking on the occasion, the chief mourner and Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, in an emotion-laden voice, declared that the Nigerian Air Force was still in palpable shock and grieving very deeply over the loss of its personnel, describing them as gallant and courageous heroes.
He said the death of the courageous and professional young officers and airmen must spur the military not only to rededicate itself to the service of the nation but also resolve to relentlessly expose and fight all agents of destabilisation and extremism in the society.
“We must throw everything that we have into this fight to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain,” he added.
Amao, who was visibly in tears, said: “It is with a heavy heart and deep sense of loss that I stand here today (yesterday), bearing my grief as well as that of the entire Nigerian Air Force, as we lay to rest the remains of our fallen colleagues.
“The untimely death of these very promising gentlemen occurred on Sunday, February 21, in Abuja while they were on active duty in service to our fatherland.
“I must confess that, even at this moment, the Nigerian Air Force is still in palpable shock and grieving very deeply upon this loss of our gallant and courageous heroes, in whom we had so much confidence, with our expectations now suddenly and painfully cut short.
“We salute the supreme sacrifice of these young men, whose lot it became to give their lives in the defence of the peace which we all enjoy and often take for granted.
“These intelligent and disciplined young officers and airmen flew their quota of ongoing surveillance missions in the North East, North West and more recently in the North Central over Niger State and its environs in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the staff and students abducted at Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State.
“The loss of these confident, courageous and professional young officers and airmen must spur the rest of us not only to rededicate ourselves to the service of our nation but also to resolve that we shall relentlessly expose and fight all agents of destabilisation and extremism in our society.
Their death’ll spur military to expose, fight agents of destabilisation, extremism
“We must throw everything that we have into this fight, to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain.
“This solemn event, in addition to honouring the sacrifice and memory of our fallen comrades, offers us all an opportunity for sober reflection as we pray for the eternal repose of the gentle souls of our departed heroes.
“Their death is a huge loss to the Nigerian Air Force family and, indeed, the entire nation. They will be greatly missed but fondly remembered for their invaluable services to the nation and humanity.
“Today, as our late colleagues go to their final resting place, may the Lord be with them forever and may they be rest assured that the Nigerian Air Force and indeed the Nation will remain ever grateful to them for their service and sacrifice.
“To the families of our deceased brothers, our prayers are with you at this time, as also those people from everywhere, both within and outside the country.
“The overwhelming show of love, solidarity and support from everyone is a clear indication that the nation, and, indeed, the entire globe, shares in this grief with you.
“I, therefore, encourage you to be consoled by the knowledge that the entire nation grieves with you on the loss of these shining, amiable and patriotic Nigerians who have laid down their lives in the service of their fatherland. I also pray that time eases the pains of today.’’