By Ifeanyi Aigbedion
Nigerians woke up to hear about the brutal killing of an Army Captain and some soldiers who were on a routine patrol operation in Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State.
The 11 fallen heroes were killed by alleged gunmen who ambushed their military convoy.
Unconfirmed reports also claimed that the slain troops met their ‘tragic end’ after intervening in a ‘bloody’ communal clash between Konshisha and Oju local governments.
Days earlier, they had first been declared missing. But in a statement, issued penultimate Thursday, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Yerima, Director, Army Public Relations, said the missing soldiers were later found dead. This was after a search and rescue operation was conducted.
Though this is not first time personnel of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have fallen victim of unscrupulous elements, it is heart breaking that Service to fatherland is being turned into source of sorry.
With the killings come new widows and children who have no father to look up to. Dying in the war front is not a new thing, but when it happens when on a mission to restore peace, it becomes unacceptable.
The series of attacks by gunmen on security personnel cuts across the country.
Like many spirited and concerned Nigerians, Hajia Salamatu Adebayo, Publicity Secretary, Mothers for United Nigeria (MUN) laments the frequent attack on members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
Haj. Adebayo like several other Nigerians are of the opinion that the wanton attacks on troops is capable of ‘killing’ their morale, while affecting ongoing military operations, across the country.
Truth must be told, families of our military personnel are already in pains missing their loved one’s engaged in several operations across the country. Some families have not seen their loved one’s who are engaged in military operations for months. The last any of the families want to hear is death of their loved one’s.
Therefore, willfully killing people who have mortgaged their life for the country is adding salt to the injury.
Like Hajia Adebayo said, we must ensure the morale of our military personnel is not weakened. We must support them at this very crucial point in the history of this great country.
We must support the new service chiefs led by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. LEO Irabor, and give them benefit of doubt as they seek solutions to the security challenges ravaging the land.
Thankfully, the killings has been condenmed by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who vowed to collaborate with security agencies to bring peace to Konshisha.
Ortom, while describing the incident as unfortunate, apologised to the families of the fallen heroes.
He vowed that the state government would collaborate with security agencies to ensure that all those who perpetrated the act are fished out and brought to book.
He regretted the manner in which the soldiers died in the hands of the militias, while trying to ensure peace in troubled areas of the state.
Ortom appealed to the families of the deceased soldiers to forgive him for uncomplimentary comments he may have made in the course of the situation, saying he said that based on the information available to him at that time.
“If I said anything that was offensive to the families, I ask for their forgiveness. I earlier said only two soldiers were involved based on the information available to me at that time.”
The governor pledged his administration’s support for the bereaved families to enable them overcome the difficult moment.
Political, community and religious leaders, traditional rulers must educate their people on need to support the Armed Forces of Nigeria to bring peace to their domain.
But beyond the condolences of Governor Ortom and the homilies of both Major Mavisky and Captain Bashir, there is need for a proactive measure to be adopted to arrest the spate of wanton attacks on military personnel.
Meanwhile, it should dawn on the federal government, most especially, to find a way to curb anything that will dampen the morale of troops in various frontline, and also hinder ongoing military operations. It is fundamental to ensure that efficacious military strategies evolved to fight terrorists, bandits, militia gangs, and other criminals, are not weakened.
That is why every necessary machinery must be put in place to avoid a repeat of the Konshisha event. And that is why we all (Nigerians) must not only worry that our military personnel are been maimed, on a basis. We must also do something to stop it.
Ifeanyi Aigbedion is Convener, Unity Advocacy Group (UAG)