President Muhammadu Buhari has said the sacrifices of fallen officers and men in the war against terrorism in Nigeria would never go in vain, and that their memories would be eternally etched in the hearts and minds of fellow citizens for whose sake they laid down their lives.
Reacting to the death of Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, one of Nigeria’s finest and bravest soldiers in recent history, Buhari said in a condolence statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, that he was rudely shocked by the news of the officer’s death along with other gallant soldiers during an encounter with the Boko Haram bandits in Borno State.
According to the President, “A courageous commander does not only give orders, but also joins his men to fight the battle, no matter the risks or the obvious danger.”
He explained that the late Colonel Abu Ali “was an extraordinary officer who inspired respect and adoration among those he commanded”, adding that “one of the greatest attributes of a war hero is the ability to help your troops overcome fear in the face of danger.”
Buhari said Ali and his other fallen colleagues had brought glory to the army and the country for laying down their lives for the sake of others.
In his passionate condolence to the families of the victims and the Nigerian Army, the president also noted that their heroic sacrifices were “so immeasurable that no words can do justice to their patriotism and remarkable courage.”
The president, who personally called late Colonel Ali’s father, Brigadier-Gen. Abu Ali (Rtd) to console the family, reassured them that his death and others in battle would never go in vain.
“He was a gallant soldier, never to be forgotten. He has brought a good name to the family,” said the president.
He then called on members of the armed forces not to let the tragic incident to dampen their morale and spirit, adding that under no circumstances should the Boko Haram terrorists be allowed to destroy the will of our troops.
He said: “Evil should not be given any chance to defeat good and humanity,” and that “members of our armed forces should remain formidably united in the war against terrorism.”
The president has appointed a high powered delegation to be led by his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, that includes the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello and the Minister of State Solid Minerals Development, Baba Buhari, to represent him at the funeral of Colonel Ali and others today.
Meanwhile, colleagues and close associates of the slain army colonel have continued to eulogise his bravery in the fight against the insurgents.
Most of them described his death as a “sunset at dawn” and praised his gallantry against the terrorists.
Speaking from Johannesburg, South Africa, about his unique encounter with the late army colonel, Hamza Idris, a journalist who had covered the Boko Haram insurgency in North-east over the past years, praised Aliu’s bravery and described him as being “full of gallantry, sacrifice, love for Nigeria and ever willing to die in order to keep it one.”
He said the deceased was “Quiet, considerate, compassionate and caring” adding that “leading by example was his trademark at the height of confrontation with Boko Haram terrorists.”
Continuing, he said: ”Late Col. Ali was the soldier who operated the most sophisticated of all war equipment deployed to the North-east, traversed the North-central and northerner Borno endlessly and tirelessly; recovered towns and liberated villages under control of the Boko Haram.
“Ali it was, who during the day and night, come rain or shine, stepped on countless landmines that dotted Borno’s porous borders with Chad, Cameroun and Nigeria, cleared the paths for our dear soldiers, who rescued the weak, the kids, the women and the old from the clutches of the Boko Haram.
“Though smallish in physical stature, Ali’s heart was like that of a lion, the king of the jungle; he never retreated, he never relented, he never compromised and he never gave up until the last hour.
Also, Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, condoled with the family of Etsu of Bassa-Nge Kingdom, Brigadier General Abu-Ali (rtd), over the death of his son.
The governor, in his condolence message issued by his Chief Press Secetary, Petra Akinti Onyegbule, yesterday in Lokoja, described his death as unfortunate and “a monumental loss to Kogi State and Nigeria.”
Bello said the late colonel “was a gallant officer who served the nation with his all and paid the supreme price by laying down his life for the peace of the country. He maintained that the late soldier will be remembered for his sacrifice and commitment to the cause of the Nigerian Army to rid the country of insurgency which has been a source of concern to every one.
“Kogi State and indeed Nigerians will never forget your gallantry as you led a ream of the Nigerian Army to recapture Baga from the control of terrorists and your death while in active service, gallant soldier” Governor Bello said of Col. Ali.
Similarly, the command centre on Silverbird Television Network also mourned the passing away of “a gallant, battle-tested and trusted patriotic soldier.”
It said the deceased “served the nation with unwavering commitment and dedication, paying the ultimate price so that millions can sleep on their beds in peace.
“Until his death, Ali nicknamed “Sarkin Yaji; Lord of war” was the commanding officer of the 272 task force battalion at Mallam Fatori in Northern Borno State.
“We are deeply pained at the loss of someone so selfless and committed to routing the misguided terrorists from the north of the country.
“Ali, a recipient of the Chief of Army staff award for exceptional bravery and excellence led the army units that recovered Gamboru-Ngala, Baga and several communities from the terrorists, he lost his life after a failed attempt by the terrorists to capture Mallam Fatori with four other gallant soldiers.
“They however neutralised fourteen of the terrorists recovering a large cache of arms and ammunition from them. Command centre is deeply pained as Ali did not only serve as the face of the campaign against Boko Haram which embodied commitment, loyalty, service and hope for a better, peaceful and prosperous nation but also a source of inspiration to us and millions of Nigerians praying for the speedy end of the insurgency.
“At this point, we pray for his family and the Nigerian Army that God gives them the fortitude to bear the loss.”
However, the acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, yesterday said troops of 7 Division Nigerian Army, Operation Lafiya Dole, led by the General Officer Commanding of the Division, Brigadier General Victor Ezugwu, had at the weekend, conducted a decisive clearance operation into the remnants of Boko Haram strategic hub town of Chukungudu on the southern fringes of the Lake Chad Region in the northern parts of Borno State.
He said 85 people, mostly children were rescued in the operation.
According to him: ”The maneuvering Brigade led by 3 Battalion of 22 Brigade, successfully cleared Geram, Bulankassa and Chukungudu believed to be the Boko Haram terrorists stronghold in that area. The gallant troops rescued 85 people, comprising of mostly women and children held hostage by insurgents.”
Similarly, they neutralised five Boko Haram terrorists fighters in a fierce encounter that made several of the terrorists run into the Lake Chad waters.
He said the troops recovered four rounds of Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) bombs, one double barrel gun, 349 packets containing various rounds of ammunitions, 3 magazines, a link belt of machine gun ammunition and one AK-47 rifle magazine.
He said:”During the clearance operations, the troops made spectacular discovery of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) making factory at Geram. In the factory, they found several already primed suicide bombers’ vests. They also discovered a well equipped motor vehicles and motorcycles workshop and spare parts warehouse at Chukungudu village.”
The operation, which claimed the life of a soldier, saw the troops recover three vehicles and several newly acquired motorcycles.
He added that in line with rules of engagement, the IED factory, vehicles and motorcycles were destroyed.
Separately, in continuation of the ongoing clearance operation against Boko Haram terrorists, troops of 27 Task Force Brigade, Nigerian Army, also embarked on a joint Operation nicknamed “Operation Karya Gwuiwa.”