Widows of slain officers tell their horrible experiences since they lost their husbands fighting the terror sect
By Vivian Onyebukwa
Although the military and indeed the Federal Government have declared victory over Boko Haram in their over six-year battle against the dreaded terror sect, the widows of the heroes of the war are far from being relieved. In fact, it appears their own anguish and nightmares have just begun.
No doubt, the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the country has equally taken a toll on the military with the killings of some of its personnel. Just as the military has been claiming successes on the battlefield, so also reports of casualties suffered by government troops have been filtering out. The war has indeed left many military family members without breadwinners. The government as part of its responsibilities promised to take care of the families of fallen soldiers.
For many of these families, the promise by government has remained a mere rhetoric, as they continue to complain that neither the Federal Government nor the Nigerian Army has come to their aid to bring up their children. The widows complained that since their breadwinners died in battlefield in Borno State and other parts of the Northeast theatre of war, things have been very difficult and they now worry about the fate of their children who struggle to go to school.
Estimated to be well over 1000, some of the widows lamented the death of their husbands, insisting that they have not even been told anything about the whereabouts of their husbands. They lamented that the promises made to them when their husbands died since 2014 till date have not been kept.
Ene Alidu from Benue State whose husband died on November 15 last year asked the government to fulfill all the promises made in the condolence letter issued to them when their husbands died. “I want them to take care of my three kids as they promised. They are David 8, Joshua 6, and the new kid who is about a year plus. We were given condolence letters where it was stated that, they would pay his salary until all his benefits are out. They have been paying his salary as promised but they are yet to fulfill other promises”.
Ene said she was pregnant when her husband died and was waiting for her husband to come back and see his baby, before she got the unfortunate news. She lamented that her husband was buried without her consent. “The most annoying thing about my husband’s death is that when he died I did not even see his corpse, and they buried him without my consent”
Another widow, Mrs. Mary Johnson narrated her ordeal trying to collect her husband’s benefits. Her soldier-husband was killed in Monguno, Borno State. “When I went to the military headquarters for his benefits, they told me that I must go to Monguno in Borno State and obtain some papers from the Commander. On getting to Maiduguri, I was warned that I cannot go to Monguno except with military escort. Since then, I have been starving with my children.”
Thirty nine year old Josephine Akakaf whose husband was also killed by Boko Haram is equally left with four children, and has nobody to help. Amid weeping, she said, “I am weeping because of my husband. He died on Saturday, April, 2015. He did not tell me that he would leave me like this. I know how he worked to make ends meet. I want the government to help me because of my children. I do not want them to be abandoned. What will happen to their education? I do not want them to abandon their schools”
The case of Mrs. Fatima Abdullahi is different. She is unaware of her husband’s fate; whether he is dead or alive as she has not seen or heard from him since 2014. “I am yet to see his corpse. He was declared missing since 2014 and we have not heard anything about him since then. But two months after he was declared missing, the military authority stopped his salary and drove us away from the barracks.”
Another widow, Sarah said after her husband died, she continued to receive his salary for a year but thereafter the payment stopped. “My problem is, I have not seen the corpse of my husband. I am not begging for financial aid from the military. I am a university graduate. Give me a job to take care of our children. That is my prayer to the military authorities.”
Monica Victor, 33 was very moody when this reporter was talking to her. “I feel bad. He died in Maiduguri in Dec. 2015 with his oga (boss)”. Asked if the family has been assisted, she said the family has been neglected.
Mrs Chinyere John is 24, and is probably the youngest among them. She said, “Shortly after we got married, he was deployed to Borno and we all prayed before he left. But few weeks later, he stopped calling. That was when I became apprehensive and I asked his friends in the barrack, but nobody told me anything. One of his friends told me after sometime that he had died. The army sent me a letter that he was missing in action and that they can’t declare him dead. I am quite confused.”
But as part of efforts to soothe the pains of the widows, some of them were recently gathered to be given cash and clothing items provided by the Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA) 81 Division Chapter. Mrs. Amelia Edet, wife of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division and the President of NAOWA in the Division who presented the items to no fewer than 20 widows said it was part of the activities commemorating the 2016 Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL.)
She commiserated with the widows on the loss of their breadwinners urging them to engage themselves meaningfully to ensure that they keep the family together. She said that efforts were on to ensure skill acquisition training for wives of soldiers, killed in battlefield, who reside around Lagos and the 81 Division Headquarter.
Apart from taking them through entrepreneurial training, the NAOWA is also preparing to provide seed funds for them to start their own business and be able to take care of their families.
She allayed fears by the widows that they would be ejected from the barracks especially as their breadwinners had died, explaining that the Army takes care of its own. “I rarely see cases where the soldier dies and the widow and the family he left behind are chased out of the barrack. Some of them have been here for a long time and since I have become President of NAOWA in this Division none of such has happened.”