The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has laid to rest the bodies of the 5 fallen heroes who died in the Mi-35M helicopter that crashed in Damasak, Borno State on 2 January 2019 while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion. The deceased personnel, who were buried today, 8 January 2019, with full military honours at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja, are; late Flight Lieutenants Pereowei Jacob (Captain) and Kaltho Paul Kilyofas (Co-pilot), Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim (Flight Technician), Lance Corporal Adamu Nura (Gunner) and Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael (Gunner).
Speaking during the burial ceremony, which had in attendance the Honourable Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, stated that the 5 gallant heroes lost their lives in the pursuit of the peace which we often take for granted. He saluted their courage stating that their deaths must spur the NAF to rededicate itself to even greater service to the Nation while strengthening our collective resolve to expose and fight all agents of destabilization and extremism in the society. Air Marshal Abubakar emphasized that all members of the Service must throw everything they have into the fight against terrorism 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 an end that is favourable to our nation”, he said.
The CAS restated the commitment and unalloyed loyalty of the NAF to the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his efforts at tackling the security challenges facing the Nation. Air Marshal Abubakar ended his remarks by praying for the repose of the souls of the fallen heroes, who, he re-emphasized, had paid the supreme price in pursuit of the peace and security of their fatherland. He said they would be fondly remembered for their invaluable service to the Nation and humanity. He therefore encouraged their families to take solace in the knowledge that the Nation grieves with them, while praying that time would ease their present pains.
The Chief of Administration Headquarters NAF, Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar, while reading the citation of the 5 deceased personnel, noted that both pilots were members of 58 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy. According to him, they were exceptional and seasoned pilots who had great passion for their jobs and carried out assigned tasks diligently. He remarked that Sergeant Ibrahim Auwal was a dedicated Flight Technician while Lance Corporal Nura Adamu and Aircraftman Meshach Ishmael were committed Regiment personnel, who had participated in several air combat missions against Terrorists’ locations within the Northeast Theatre of Operation. Paying tribute to the fallen heroes, the Commander 115 Special Operations Group (115 SOG), Air Commodore Elijah Ebiowe, extolled their sterling qualities noting that their patriotism, bravery, hard work and dedication to duty were glowing testaments that exemplify one of the NAF’s Core Values of “Service before Self”. While praying for the peaceful repose of their souls, Air Commodore Ebiowe remarked that “they gave their today for our tomorrow”. He said the Service and, indeed, the entire nation owed them an unending debt of gratitude.
Other dignitaries present at the burial ceremony included the representatives of the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff and other Service Chiefs, along with other serving and retired senior military officers. Also present were the National President Nigerian Air Force Officers’ Wives Association (NAFOWA), Hajiya Hafsat Abubakar, along with other members of NAFOWA as well as friends and families of the deceased personnel. Other highlights of the event included the presentation of National Colours to the deceaseds’ Next-of-Kins by the CAS, laying of wreaths by dignitaries and the representatives of the families of the late personnel as well as the customary 21 gun salute and playing of the last post. Faith services had earlier been conducted by Group Captain (Reverend) Dogo Gani, Director Chaplaincy (Protestant) Headquarters NAF, and Group Captain Luqman Lawal, the Director Islamic Affairs Headquarters NAF, before the caskets were lowered into the ground.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force