Nigerian Army, Families of Soldiers Killed by Boko Haram at War!
Since July 2009 that Boko Haram became radicalised with violent uprising, the headlines are all about the over 5,000 people killed, scores of them were Nigerian army officers. But what is not really making the headlines is the quiet but intense war between families of the deceased soldier and the Nigerian Army. In many cases, for every soldier killed by the Boko Haram there was a fight between the Army and the family of the deceased over where the body should be interred.
Lieutenant Mayowa Areago was shot dead on Sunday, 9 November 2014 while on a combat mission against Boko Haram in Borno State. His family wanted his body brought back to Abuja to be buried, but the Nigerian Army turned down their request. After days of altercation and angry exchanges with the Nigerian Army, the family of Lieutenant Areago backed down, telling the military to bury him wherever they wanted.
The case of Lieutenant Areago is similar to another young Nigerian army officer, Lieutenant A. Mudassir. In April 2014, Boko Haram had raided Chibok with impunity, and abducted 276 school girls. On 14 November 2014, they returned to seize the entire town. Lieutenant Mudassir with his troops was killed on 16 October 2014, on their way to recapture Chibok.
These are just two of many instances where the refusal of the Nigerian Army to release the bodies of the deceased to their families had put the Army on a collision course with the families of the dead soldiers. The families of the heroic soldiers did not want their dead sons to be buried in towns outside their ancestral homes. The families argued also that it was painful enough to have lost sons, usually very young and bright Army officers, in such a brutal manner. But more painful when they were denied a proper burial.
Another angle to the argument advanced by these families was that, in the case of many soldiers who died during the Boko Haram insurgence in the north, most of these Army officers were Muslim, and the tenet of their religion stipulates that they should be buried within 24 hours of their demise.
But the Nigerian Army was holding on to a standing order of the Nigerian Army that every soldier signed to, which stated that in the event of the death of a soldier in active service the Nigerian Army has first right over his body and is responsible to how the body is buried. The Army contended that the standing order was sufficient evidence of how the deceased wanted to be buried.
But there is also the other side to the controversial coin. The truth, which the military is often not willing to tell the deceased family, is that in some cases the corpse is lying behind the enemy lines, and attempting to transport it through the those lines will be a great risk the Army are not willing to take, as they may end of with more causalities. So it was safer to bury the body at a more convenient location.
This was the scenario that played out in the case of Lieutenant Mudassir. The initial plan by the Nigerian Army was to take Mudassir’s corpse from Bulabulin down to Maiduguri, the State capital. Xclusive Magazine gathered that because of the continuous vicious attack by Boko Haram around that route, Lieutenant Mudassir’s body had to be taken to Biu for burial.
Even at that the corpse laid at Bulabulin, a small settlement by the road side in Maiduguri, for about three days, as the Army needed escort vehicles to move the corpse down to Biu. The insurgents are heavily armed and are stationed along the route to Biu. Many northerners had questioned the rationale behind taking the body through the risky route to Biu when it can be buried in Damboa.
For the family of Lieutenant Mudassir at least there were their son’s remains to give them closure. The family of Colonel Hope Yakubu Giwa are not so lucky. Col Giwa was killed during a Boko Haram ambush at Bazza, a suburb of Michika Local Government in Adamawa State on the 11 September 2014. He was reported to have been in the same convoy with the injured Lt. Col. Adeboye Obasanjo, the son of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has since been discharged from the hospital. Col Giwa’s remains are lying within the Boko Haram controlled territory and therefore could not be retrieved to be properly buried by either the military or the deceased family.
The manner of the death of these young Nigerian Army officers, having been killed while fighting with far less sophisticated weapons against better armed Islamic militants, elicited angry response from a Nigerian on Twitter:
Soldiers & officers of d Nigerian armed forces deserve better dan this madness. They deserve honorable burials like d men of honor they are
— AS Aruwa (@MusadiqZ) November 18, 2014