Widow of Flying Seargent Olasunkanmi Olawunmi reacts during the burial of her spouse, among the seven air officers who died on Sunday in a Beechchraft King Air B3350i crash, in Abuja…yesterday.
Nigeria Air Force (NAF), yesterday, vowed to expose and fight sponsors of extremism in the country. They made the pledge as the remains of Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama and six other officers of the Force, who died in a plane crash last Sunday, were buried at the National Military Cemetery in Abuja.
Gadzama reportedly battled hard and ensured the ill-fated NAF plane, Beechraft KingAir BB305i, did not crash into a residential area before he finally lost control of the jet and it crash-landed, killing him and others on board.
The others were Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo (co-pilot), Flying Officer Michael Okpara (Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) specialist) and Warrant Officer Bassey Etim (ATOS specialist), Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi (ATOS specialist), Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka (ATOS specialist), and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (onboard technician).
The bodies were accorded full military honours with the traditional 21-gunshot salute and were lowered into graves at exactly 1 p.m.
It was an emotional event as colleagues of the late officers, including the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, wives and family members of the deceased, wept uncontrollably.
Amao described the deceased officers, as courageous heroes in whom the Force had so much confidence, saying the Nigerian Air Force would do everything to ensure the officers did not die in vain.
His words: “The loss of these confident, courageous and professional young officers and airmen must spur the rest of us not only to rededicate ourselves to the service of our Nation but also to resolve that we shall relentlessly expose and fight all agents of destabilisation and extremism in our society. We must throw everything we have into this fight to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain.
“The untimely death of these promising gentlemen occurred on Sunday, February 21 in Abuja, while on active duty in service to our Fatherland. I must confess that, even at this moment, NAF is still in palpable shock and grieving deeply over the loss of our gallant and courageous heroes, in whom we had so much confidence, with our expectations now suddenly and painfully cut short.”
Amao, who succumbed to emotions intermittently, while reading his address, added that the death would spur officers to rededicate themselves to the task of defending the nation and remaining loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He described the officers’ death as a huge loss to the NAF and the entire nation, saying they would be greatly missed and fondly remembered for their invaluable services to the nation and humanity.
“Today, as our late colleagues go to their final resting place, may the Lord be with them forever and may they rest assured that the Nigerian Air Force and indeed the nation will remain ever grateful to them for their service and sacrifice.
“To the families of our deceased brothers, our prayers are with you at this time, as also those of people from everywhere, both within and outside the country. The overwhelming show of love, solidarity and support from everyone is a clear indication that the nation, and indeed the entire globe, shares in this grief with you,” he said.
He said appreciation for the officers was evident in the volume of condolence messages and visits by personalities, including the President, leadership of the National Assembly, governors, ministers, members of the diplomatic corps, among others. He urged them to be consoled by the knowledge that the entire nation grieved with them on the loss of their loved ones.
The presiding priest and Director of NAF Chaplaincy, Reverend David Dogo Gani, described the death of the officers as a trying moment in the history of the country and prayed for grace to remain focused on God, as the only succour in times of trouble.