By Christel Odili
The remains of the five crew of the Nigerian Air Force, who died in NAF Mi-35M helicopter that crashed in combat on January 2 was laid to rest at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja on Tuesday.
The helicopter crashed while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion during a fight against the Boko Haram insurgents in Damasak, Borno State.
The late crew members are Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob – Pilot in Command; Flight Lt- Kaltho Paul Kilyofas – Co-Pilot; Sgt. Auwal Ibrahim – Flight Technician; Lance Corporal Adamu Nura – Gunner; and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael – Gunner.
The late officers were laid to rest at 11:20 am on Tuesday at the National Military Cemetery Abuja, with full military honours, amidst wails and tears by family members, wives, relatives and sympathisers.
Wreaths were also laid by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali and the wives of some of the officers.
The air chief also presented the National colours to the families of the deceased crew members.
The burial ceremony was attended by representatives of the Service Chiefs, among other dignitaries.
The late officers were honoured with 21 gun salute (Firing of Volley) as well as the Last Post.
The air chief in his remarks at the internment ceremony said that the late officers died for the peace and unity of Nigeria.
“These gallant heroes lost their lives in the pursuit of the peace which we all enjoy and often take for granted. We salute the courage of these young men, whose lot it became to give their lives for this purpose.
“The loss of these courageous and professional gentlemen must spur the rest of us not only to rededicate ourselves in the service of our Nation, but also to expose and fight all agents of destabilization and extremism in our society.
“We must throw in everything we have to this fight to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain.
“We must do everything possible to bring the ongoing insurgency in the North East to a speedy end that is favourable to our nation.
“I am indeed deeply touched and saddened by the price which our patriots had to pay in this needless fight against insurgency.
“Our departed heroes fought that we live in a safe and secure Nigeria where the freedom of worship and association of one and all are guaranteed under one indivisible nation,” Abubakar said.
He consoled with the families of the deceased, noting that, “I know Nigerians everywhere join me in praying for you as you shoulder this heavy burden of grief.
“May time ease the soaring pain of today and please note that the entire nation shares this grief with you.
“There can be no better consolation than the knowledge that the nation grieves with you on the loss of these amiable and patriotic Nigerians, who paid the supreme price in the course of their duty to the fatherland,” he said.