ABUJA — Nigerian authorities have been battling the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, for a decade in a conflict that has cost the lives of an estimated 35,000 people. In a ceremony over the weekend, Nigeria marked Armed Forces Day by remembering the soldiers killed in the battle against the insurgency.
The special remembrance event for troops took place in the Nigerian capital, and with smaller ceremonies in states like Borno, Adamawa and Yola — the epicenters of Nigeria’s decade-long war against the Boko Haram insurgency.
During the event in Abuja, about 200 widows of fallen soldiers and their relatives received food and financial support.
Like many of the women, Olubunmi Adetunji’s husband, a soldier, was killed while fighting Boko Haram in Maiduguri in April 2016. Since then, the defense ministry has been helping her care for their four children.
Widows and relatives of soldiers killed in battle stand behind food items they received from defense ministry authorities as part of a special remembrance event in Abuja, Nigeria, Jan. 11, 2020. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)“I thank the defense headquarters and the army headquarters for what they have been doing in my life because since 2016, I don’t know how much they sell rice in the market. They provide rice, provisions, even the children’s sponsorship, they call us every year to pay the sponsorship,” Adetunji said.
A concert to honor fallen soldiers, tagged “Tribute To Our Heroes,” debuted with top Nigerian entertainers, musicians and comedians performing.
Lere Osanyintolu, a personnel official at the defense ministry, said the ministry plans to make it an annual event.
“The aim of this project is to let you know that the chief of defense staff, armed forces of Nigeria and, indeed, the nation at large has not forgotten you and that you’re never alone as you’re always in our prayers,” Osanyintolu said.
Security expert Kabiru Adamu, who heads an Abuja-based security consulting firm, said events like the concert help boost morale and inspire confidence.
“The insurgency has been going on for about 10 years now, so I think this is a very good development,” Adamu said. “There are issues regarding the relationship between the military and the public in the locations where they are fighting. So this type of morale-boosting activity like the concert, I think it’s a very good development.”
As the military continues to battle Boko Haram, millions affected by the fight who are living in camps are hoping to return home.