Ibrahim Sakaba, a lieutenant-colonel, died alongside at least 117 of his fellow soldiers following a catastrophic invasion of their base in northern Borno State on November 18.
Colleagues have hailed the bravery of all the soldiers who lost their lives in the attack. But they hailed Mr Sakaba in particular for his leadership at the Nigerian Army 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, where Boko Haram terrorsits launched a surprise attack against them at about 6:00 p.m. that Sunday.
In the hope that the Nigerian Army would formally announce the passing of Mr Sakaba and other slain soldiers in the Metele attack, PREMIUM TIMES held back his identity while breaking the news on Tuesday morning.
But a week after the incident, no formal announcement has been made by the military, and no clear indication his families or those of other departed soldiers have been notified.
A senior military colleague who knew Mr Sakaba described him as a selfless commander.
Mr Sakaba “had sometimes ago refused to advance for an operation due to unserviceable and lack of equipment but was threatened with court martial,” the senior officer said while recalling how his fallen colleague risked his career in the preservation of the hundreds of personnel he supervised at the 157 Task Force Battalion.
The officer declined to be named to avoid a backlash from top military brass who havel been reluctant to publicly comment on the latest setbacks.
Mr Sakaba was briefly detained during the August incident, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. The Nigerian Army and Defence Headquarters did not return PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments on how the military handled the incident at the time.
Perhaps for its strategic role as a formidable asset in Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations — especially how its personnel have repeatedly driven jihadists away from the larger Metele area towards the border with Chad Republic — the battalion has come under repeated attacks by Boko Haram.
The base was raided on October 8 by Boko Haram, during which at least 18 soldiers were killed and eight wounded, PREMIUM TIMES learnt when it first broke the news at the time. The Army confirmed the attack, but significantly downplayed its severity, especially the scale of personnel and equipment losses.
Mr Sakaba, who was born on December 20, 1975, was first deployed in Borno State in 2014 while a major. His service number is N/10744.
Married and blessed with a son, Mr Sakaba graduated as an infantry officer in 2001 from the Nigerian Army 48 Regular Course at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).
Shortly after his deployment as a staff officer at the Nigerian Army 7 Division, Maiduguri, in 2014, Mr Sakaba was involved in a skirmish with M.Y. Ibrahim, now a major-general, who was the acting general officer commanding (GOC) of the division at the time. Mr Sakaba was subsequently posted out of the Division the same year.
His appointment as the commander of 157 Task Force Battalion was his second as a lieutenant colonel, and it was characterised by his relentless complaints about poor military hardware and acute shortage of welfare supplies to his men, military sources said.
Bala Na’Allah, the Senate majority leader, was amongst the first persons to acknowledge Mr Sakaba’s heroism.
During the senate plenary on Thursday, Mr Na’Allah described the fallen officer as his cousin and the finest soldier he had ever known. The senator consequently urged his colleagues to adjourn plenary in honour of the commander and his men who lost their lives in services to their country.
The army in its first reaction to the Sunday attack on Friday evening said reported casualty figures were untrue, although it did not provide its own figures or details of how the attack occurred.
President Muhammadu Buhari commented on the attack on Saturday, vowing to ensure the end of the insurgency and as well as care for the soldiers deployed in the volatile North-East.
Atiku Abubakar, the main opposition presidential candidate, condemned the attack and offered what he saw as solutions to the 10-year campaign by the jihadists. Mr Abubakar said there should be increased and prioritised focus on both military expenditures and the timeframe required to approve them.
He also announced scholarships for five selected families of the fallen soldiers and urged the government to set up a trust for the care of the families of our fallen heroes.
In a video circulated this weekend, Nigerian soldiers deployed in the war-ravaged North-East blamed obsolete equipment and pervasive corruption amongst top military brass for the massive losses in personnel and equipment which insurgents have inflicted on the Nigerian military since their latest evil campaign of raiding bases began in July.