Delta ambush and our fallen heroes 

Let’s spare a moment of silence to salute the gallantry of our 17 fallen heroes that were recently killed in Okuama community of Delta state.

Amidst tears and a sense of sympathy, the remains of the slain military personnel were laid to rest at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, on Wednesday, March 27, 2024.

The men of the Armed Forces met their untimely death after suffering an ambush by a gang of militants, while on their way for rescue and peace operations in a Niger Delta community.

It is gratifying that the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Gwabin Musa, emphasised that the sacrifice of 17 military personnel will not be in vain.

The CDS gave assurance to the grieving families of the slain soldiers during their burial at the Military Cemetery in Abuja.

While making his address at the burial ceremony, the CDS said, “To our fallen heroes, we say, ‘thank you’, thank you for our unwavering commitment to duty, your sacrifices, and your love for our nation. You served bravely, and your courage will never be forgotten.

“We will honour your memory by continuing to fight those who seek to undermine our peace and security. We will remain steadfast in our resolve to build a nation worthy of your sacrifice. This sacrifice will not go in vain.

Furthermore, the Defence Chief also reiterated that the military will continue to hunt down the perpetrators of the heinous act and bring them to justice.

“To the perpetrators of this violence, who seek to sow divisions among our people, take this from me: our resolve will not wither, we will hunt you down, we will bring you to justice, and we will restore peace and security in every nook and cranny of our dear nation.

“Your evil actions may cause pain and suffering, but they will never extinguish the spirit of unity and resilience that burns within us,” the CDS said.

Recall that after the issuing of an order by the CDS to investigate the unfortunate incident, the troops have already arrested some suspects connected to the murder. 

Additionally, the Nigerian Army has equally taken custody of the Delta monarch, who surrendered himself after being declared wanted, along with the other seven persons. 

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was also at the burial site, awarded posthumous national honours to the 17 military personnel and pledged to provide succour to the families of the departed heroes. 

The president says the federal government will provide scholarships up to the university level for all the children, including the unborn, while at the same time gifting houses to the families of the slain soldiers.

He therefore directed the military authorities to ensure that the benefits of the departed are paid to their families within three months.

Tinubu described the late Commanding Officer of the 181 Amphibious Battalion, Lt. Colonel A. H. Ali, as a courageous military officer who led by example during his lifetime.

“Before the dastardly attack, Lt. Colonel Ali, as the Chief of Army Staff narrated to me, achieved great operational exploits, fighting terrorists and insurgents in the North East and North West before his deployment to the Niger Delta.

“Ali kept faith in his military calling until the end.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, we honour the sacrifice of Ali and the other gallant patriots who died that day. They will forever be remembered as heroes who answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price,” the president said.

Reaffirming the government’s commitment to justice, President Tinubu vowed to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to account.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, we honour the sacrifice of Ali and the other gallant patriots who died that day. They will forever be remembered as heroes who answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price,” the president said.

Meanwhile, the modern battlefield has evolved, in which non-state actors (NSAs), like insurgent groups or militias, pose a growing threat to military personnel. Unlike traditional state-on-state conflicts, NSAs often employ guerilla tactics, surprise attacks, and ambushes, making it difficult to anticipate and defend against them. 

This necessitates a reevaluation of military force protection strategies to ensure the safety of our soldiers and the value of their efforts.

Because NSAs often have a significant advantage in surprise and knowledge of the terrain, They blend in with civilian populations, making it challenging to distinguish them from innocent populations. This increases the risk of attacks and casualties among military personnel.

Ambushes and attacks can have a devastating psychological impact on troops. Fear and anxiety can erode morale and effectiveness. Protecting soldiers fosters a sense of security and allows them to focus on their mission.

Also, military casualties take a heavy toll on public opinion. High numbers of losses can erode support for operations and create pressure for withdrawal. Protecting our troops demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and strengthens public trust.

Strategies towards enhancing the protection of troops suggested the urgent need for improved intelligence gathering. Enhanced intelligence capabilities can help identify potential threats and predict NSA activity, allowing for proactive measures to be taken.

There is also a need to arm our troops with sophisticated equipment. Equipping soldiers with better body armour, communication devices, and surveillance technology can significantly improve their ability to defend themselves and maintain situational awareness.

Also, training programmes that emphasise tactics against criminals, including counter-ambush drills and urban warfare techniques, can equip soldiers with the skills needed to survive these encounters.

Notwithstanding, protecting military personnel from non-state actors is not just about safeguarding lives; it is about maximising the effectiveness of our forces and ensuring their sacrifices are not in vain. 

By prioritising force protection strategies, we empower our troops to fulfil their missions with greater confidence and efficiency, ultimately leading to a safer and more secure world.

Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi, an NDA research student, is the author of “National Security Strategies: A Young Writer’s Perspective.” Email: [email protected]