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Receive foodstuff, palliatives

By Evelyn Usman 

They sat patiently in a hall at the Ikeja Cantonment in Lagos, awaiting the arrival of the special guests of honour. They wore forlorn expressions suggestive of emptiness.

Then all of a sudden, the drums from the band unit of the 9 Brigade, Nigerian Army, broke their reveries.

These were widows of soldiers who were killed while in active service. Majority of the victims had lives snuffed out of them by bullets   of insurgents, while trying to defend Nigerians .

The occasion was the Nigerian Army Day Celebration. But for these ones,   hope of celebrating the day with their spouses   had been sucked out of them.

Some of them   who spoke with Saturday Vanguard on the condition of anonymity said what they feared most had happened . They explained how they prayed everyday for the safe return of their husbands who were posted to the   North –East to fight insurgents but never had that prayer answered.

While some   of them   took solace in their grown children , having spent about two decades with their late husbands, others said they had nothing to fall back on ,as they had barely spent   one year with their spouses before death separated them.

One of the young widows   was sighted cuddling her first baby who was barely four months old, as she tried to fight back the tears.

In a tone filled with nostalgia,   they narrated   their different moments with their late husbands and how news of their   death reached them.

One of them, who simply gave her name as Maria, said, “ My husband was a Sergeant . He had spent four years in Maiduguri, fighting , before the  Army authority   eventually rotated them. Unfortunately   he returned home sick. He had a deep cut in his left shoulder. He was in hospital for six months before he died”

Another, Memuna,   whose deceased husband also served in Maiduguri, said her husband , too, died from an unknown ailment, shortly after returning home from the north east.

Sadly, for the duo of Maria and Memuna, they claimed to be petty traders , with three children each.

On her part, Simbiat, told Saturday Vanguard that news of her husband’s demise was broken to her one year after. She said, “ My husband was a Staff Sergeant . He died in 2018. He was killed   in Maiduguri by Boko Haram. But I never got to know until 2019,after he had been buried.   I never saw his dead body “.

Also, Mrs   Silian Onyegbulam, whose husband was attached to   one of the Military operations-Operation Lafiya   Dole , said he was also killed in the North East.

Outpour of emotion

The occasion   which was the donation of food stuff and clothes to widows of fallen soldiers residing in the Ikeja Cantonment, by the Nigerian Army Wives’ Association, NAOWA as part of activities to mark the Nigerian Army Day Celebration, NADCEL 2022,elicited emotion   as the widows had tear filled eyes   throughout the duration of the event.

The NAOWA Chairperson ,9 Brigade chapter, Mrs Ndidiamaka   Akpaumontia,   also betrayed her emotion , as she was sighted dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, as she beheld the crestfallen faces of the widows.

Describing the gesture as a demonstration to give the widows a sense of belonging, especially   when their breadwinners were no more, Mrs Akpaumontia in  her words of encouragement, said,”   the  essence of life is to give and when you do not give  ,  you will go down. 

“We know that   behind every successful man there is a  woman and  when that successful man is no longer there , what becomes of the wife  and children?” When a soldier receives  salary every  month, the wife   will always look forward to the salary but when the soldier is no more and the salary is no more forthcoming, what becomes of those left behind?”

She therefore urged   those still living to always remember to extend kindness to families of their departed colleagues.

Also speaking, the Brigade Commander, 9 Brigade, Brig.General   isang Akpaumontia , noted that  nothing   would be given to the widows that could substitute the place of their husbands. He however assured that “ the country that your husbands’ died for will never neglect you”,   even as he   encouraged them not to lose hope , explaining that the token presented to them was a demonstration of the high regard the Army had for them.

Dream comes true

Earlier the same    day,   history   was made at the Premier Day School Surulere, Lagos,   following the construction   of a running tap water   by the Commander 9 Brigade Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Isang Akpaumontia , as part of the   NADCEL 2022 celebration.   Books were distributed   to  over 1000 pupils of the school.

Before the donation, pupils of the school were drinking from an open well   with unclean  water.

Brigadier General Akpaumontia explained that the decision to embark on the water project was borne out of the need to address one of the pressing needs of his Alma mater.

He disclosed that   as a pupil of the school about 40 years ago , there was access to clean water via   a running tap , from where pupils drank water.  He however lamented that during a visit to the school years later,     pupils were seen   drinking from a well ,an action   he said posed danger to their health and personal hygiene.

While appreciating    the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen. Farouk Yahaha  , for what he described as   his visionary leadership which he attributed to one of the factors that motivated him to carry out the water project, as well as the General Officer Commanding 81 Div, Maj. Gen. Umar Musa , for his support towards its actualization , charged management of the school to encourage the pupils to enroll into the Military secondary schools as well as the Nigeria Defense Academy, with a view to producing   great ambassadors in future.

Brig Gen. Akpaumontia   explained that the Army Day celebration was aimed at informing the   Nigerian Army personnel and Nigerians that the civil  war was an unfortunate tragedy.

He said, “ The   Nigerian Army uses the Nigeria Army Day   which terminates on July 6 of every year, for most effective production, we always watch the performance of the previous year in the   Nigerian   Army responsibilities in Nigeria in order to protect lives and property.  This responsibility has become peculiar   in view of security challenges.

Personnel of the 9 Brigade had earlier in the week   conducted a sanitation exercise at Oshodi. The unprecedented presence of the personnel under the Oshodi bridge initially sent fear down the spines of traders and some youths that occupied the space, as they took to their heels. 

But they later watched in awe as the personnel   went about clearing   the gutters that were littered with dirt , and swept the   road and foot bridge connecting the three sections of   the BRT terminal. 

A medical outreach   was also conducted at Iyana Ipaja area of the state,

With the   wrap up   of the week long activities lined up for the   NADCEL 2022 celebration  themed ‘Repositioning the Nigerian Army in   a Joint Operations Environment: A Panacea for Success in Addressing Contemporary Security Challenges, it is hoped that the civil-military cooperation cum quick impact projects carried out by the 9 Brigade and other formations of the Nigeria Army , would indeed boost intelligence gathering for a sucred Nigeria.

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