March 27, 2024

Okuama: Slain soldiers left behind pregnant widows, 21 orphans – Lagbaja

Okuoma soldiers

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, says the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army who were gruesomely murdered in Okuama Community in Delta on March 14, left behind 10 widows three of whom are pregnant and 21 orphans.

Lagbaja made this known at the burial of the 17 personnel comprising one Lieutenant Colonel, two Majors, one Captain and 13 soldiers, on Wednesday at the National Cemetery in Abuja.

According to him, the Okuama killing has added to the care of the Nigerian army and, by extension, the Nigeria state, 10 widows, three of whom are four, five, and eight months pregnant, 21 orphans, and many other dependents, including parents.

“While commiserating with the families of these gallant soldiers, I assure them that the Nigerian army and the good people of this country will not leave them in the cold.

“We shall do all within our power to provide succour to them and preserve the memories of their departed loved ones,” he said.

Lagbaja said he considered his toughest job to be putting fine men and women in harm’s way, sometimes knowing that they might not return to their families and loved ones.

He added that his men, correspondingly and intriguingly know that in spite of the equipment, training, and other forms of preparations, sometimes some may not make it back alive, while some may return handicapped.

According to him, “when soldiers die in the hands of the enemies of the State, we take it as dying for what the nation has considered a just cause; we celebrate them as gallant heroes.

“But when they are gruesomely murdered by the very people they are trained, equipped, and took an oath to protect, it is highly demoralizing.

“It is no longer news that 17 of the Nigerian Army’s finest men, whom we have come to bury, were murdered in a reprehensible manner on March 14 in the Okuama community of Delta State while they went on a legitimate peace-making mission.

“It grieves my heart that it took our search and recovery effort over 72 hours to recover some vital organs of the decapitated and disembowelled bodies of my men that were scattered all over the Okuama community by the community youths and their friends.

“I consider it the most barbaric act any citizen or community can commit against the authority of the state, and I must place on record that a lot of restraints have been exercised so far in our search and recovery efforts for missing arms, ammunition, other equipment, and body parts.

“I assure Mr President and all Nigerians that the Nigerian Army remains committed to its constitutional responsibilities and will not be deterred by setbacks such as witnessed in the Okuama community.

“As tasked by Mr President and Commander-In-Chief of our Armed Forces, the Nigerian Army, with the assistance of its sister services and other security agencies, is committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Okuama murder to book and recover all service and personal belongings taken from the murdered troops.

“The Nigerian Army will continue to seek the cooperation of all well-meaning Nigerians, particularly in the affected area, towards swift and successful conduct of our search and recovery operations,” he said.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa, said the fallen heroes exemplified the very best of service to nation and love for country.

Musa said they were the vanguards of peace, the guardians of freedom, and the sentinels of security, adding that their selflessness and unwavering dedication to duty would forever be etched in their hearts and memories.

He assure the families of the deceased officers of the support of the nation and the armed forces in every way possible, urging them to find solace in the knowledge that their loved ones made an indelible mark on the nation’s history.

The defence chief said the military would honour their memory by continuing the fight against those who sought to undermine the peace and security of the nation.

“We will remain steadfast in our resolve to build a nation worthy of your sacrifice.

“The loss we feel today is immeasurable, but we must not allow it to dim the light of hope within us.

“Instead, let us use this moment as a rallying cry to come together as a nation, to support our armed forces, and to work tirelessly towards a Nigeria free from the grip of violence and insecurity.

“We owe it to these fallen heroes to honour their memory by redoubling our efforts to create a safer and more prosperous nation for all.

“Let us build a nation where every citizen can live without fear, where communities can thrive, and where our children can grow up knowing the true meaning of security and stability.

“To the men and women who continue to serve in the armed forces, I want to express my deepest gratitude for your dedication to duty.

“Your commitment to defending our nation, even in the face of great peril, is truly commendable,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that President Bola Tinubu, Speaker, House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, and governors of Delta, Bayelsa, Kano, Kogi and Imo states, were in attendance.

The president announced the award of posthumous national honours on the slain soldiers as well as houses and scholarship for their children.

Vanguard News