The body of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, who died in an ill-fated Nigerian Air Force (NAF) plane crash in Kaduna, Kaduna State, has been laid to rest. He was buried along other 10 officers at exactly 4:45pm, at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, last Saturday.
They died when the aircraft skidded off the runway after landing at the Kaduna International Airport, Friday. He was in Kaduna to attend the Passing Out Parade of members of 80 Regular Intake, at the Depot Nigerian Army, scheduled for Saturday, when he and some of his principal officers met their untimely death.
He died along Brigadier Generals Ahmed Kuliya, O.L. Olayinka and M.I. Abdulkadir, Majors N. Hamza and L.A. Hayat, Sergeants O. Adesina, Umar, Aircraft Man O.M. Oyedepo, Flight Lt. Asaniyi and Olufade.
The last ceremony Attahiru attended was the 57th anniversary celebration of the Nigerian Air Force, in Makurdi, Benue State. He was at the 2 Mechanised Division, Nigerian Army, Odogbo, Ibadan, Oyo State, before heading to Makurdi.
News about their death filtered in on Friday night. He was in the office that Friday and left after attending the Friday Muslim prayers. A statement by Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, soon put the death in proper perspective. The Defence Headquarters and Army Headquarters thereafter issued a statement confirming the crash.
The Army, thereafter, mobilised members of the Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA), to the Flag House to condole with his widow, who happens to be NAOWA national president. The Flag House, Niger Barracks, Abuja, soon became a Mecca of sorts. Serving and retired military officers and their wives trooped in to pay condolences to Mrs. Attahiru.
Similar crowds were witnessed at the homes of the other departed officers, while arrangements to convey those not resident in Abuja were made to bring them into the city.
The burial ceremony started after their corpses arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on a C-130 aircraft and were received by the service chiefs and top officers. They were conveyed to the church and mosque, respectively, for the Christian and Muslim funeral service and prayers.
The service for the Christian officers was held at the Protestant Church, NAF Base, Abuja.
With prayers over, the bodies were moved to the National Military Cemetery. Officers clad in ceremonial dress with black bands around their arms trooped into the cemetery to pay their last respects. Grave-diggers arrived the cemetery as early as 6 O’clock to dig the graves under the supervision of the Guards Brigade, Nigerian Army, led by its commander, Brigadier-General Takuti Usman.
Pallbearers who assembled at the cemetery as early as 6 O’clock, began to take position for the ceremony at exactly 12:40pm for a dress rehearsal, awaiting the arrival of the remains of the late officers.
Burial started with the arrival of very senior retired and serving officers, including former Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and president, Defence and Police Officers Wives Association.
Others were former COAS, Lt-Gen. Dambazau, Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, the Inspector-General of Police, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and members of the diplomatic corps.
Attahiru’s body was the first to be brought out of the ambulance. Pallbearers in the rank of Major General marched with the body to the grave. Chief Imam of the Nigerian Army offered prayers, after which he made an appeal that the family would prefer a private burial.
The burial of the other officers started at about 16:30, when senior officers in the rank of Brigadier General marched in their bodies. Brigadier General J.H. Abdulasalam read the funeral orations for Brigadier Generals Kuliya, Olayinka and Abdulkadir, while Colonel A.S. Saleh read the funeral orations of Majors Hamza, Hayat, Sergeants Adesina, Umar and Aircraft Man Oyedepo, while Flight Lt. U.V. Edem and Flying Officer C. Odili, read that of Flight Lt. Asaniyi and Olufade, respectively.
Next of kin for the deceased were then called for the presentation of the national flag to them, which was done by Magashi, who represented the President. Chaplains and imams of the Nigerian Air Force and Army also offered prayers for the repose of the souls of the deceased.
Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Irabor, said the officers died as a result of their love for the country, and their deaths would not be in vain. He said he received the news of the death of the COAS and the 11 officers with shock.
He promised that the war on insecurity must be won and called on Nigerians to continue to pray for the Nigerian armed forces.
He described the late COAS as not just a fine officer but also “one with passion, professionalism, love for the job and a very dependable colleague.”
He said the death of the officers was painful but would last only for a moment, as the armed forces would come out stronger. He assured the families of the deceased that the armed forces, the Federal Government and the Nigerian nation would not abandon them.
Magashi described their death as a huge blow to the nation but pledged government’s continuous support for the military and families.
Three-day prayers for ex-COAS kicks off
A three-day prayer programme for the repose of the soul of the late Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, who died alongside 10 other officers in the plane crash at the Kaduna International Airport, last Friday, has commenced in Abuja.
This is just as the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, again charged members of the Nigerian armed forces to remain steadfast in the discharge of their constitutional roles, saying the death of the COAS and others would not be in vain.
The prayer session took place at the Staff Flag House, Niger Barracks, Asokoro, Abuja. It was conducted by director, Islamic Affairs, Nigerian Army, and the Chief Imam, Brigadier General Shehu Garba Mustapha.
He prayed for God to forgive the shortcomings of the departed souls and grant them eternal rest in Aljannah Firdaus. He also prayed that God would console their families, friends and colleagues for the irreparable loss.
The event was graced by the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Mohammed Ali Ndume, former Minister of Interior and one-time COAS, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Ishiaku Amao, and former Governor of Adamawa State and one-time Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako.
Others were: chairman, NDLEA, Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), principal staff officers from Defence, Army and sister services headquarters, top government functionaries, and members of Defence and Police Officers Wives Association and members of the Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association.
Attahiru: DHQ constitutes board to investigate crash
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, has ordered the constitution of board of inquiry, to unravel circumstances surrounding the crash of the Nigerian Air Force Beechcroft aircraft that claimed the lives of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and 10 other senior officers of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force.
This is just as the CDS urged personnel of the armed forces and their families to take heart and be consoled on the tragedy that befell the military.
Acting director, Defence Information, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, said: “It is with a heavy heart that the Armed Forces of Nigeria regrets to announce that this evening at about 1800 hours, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, in company of his entourage, who were on official trip from Abuja to Kaduna, were involved in an air mishap.
“The unfortunate incident occurred after landing at the Kaduna International Airport due to inclement weather. The CDS, General Irabor, therefore, directed that an Accident Investigation Board be constituted to unravel the immediate and remote cause(s) of the unfortunate accident.
“As we pray for the repose of the souls of our gallant and committed Chief of Army Staff and other personnel on board with him, the Armed Forces of Nigeria solicit the support and understanding of all Nigerians in the face of this tragic incident.
“We wish to state that the Armed Forces of Nigeria remain resolute in combatting the security challenges bedevilling our nation. The sacrifices of our dearly departed heroes will not be in vain.
“Meanwhile, the CDS urges all military personnel and their families to take heart and be consoled on this tragic loss. The CDS also reassures all Nigerians of the commitment and loyalty of the Armed Forces of Nigeria to the Constitution and government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as it continues to carry out its responsibilities.”