Daily Trust (Abuja)

23 November 2012

Nigeria: Six Years After Saving Crash Survivors, Child Hero Awaits Army's Promise

Makurdi — Six years ago, precisely on September 17, 2006, Detimbir Chia helped save the lives of some of Nigeria's top military officers involved in a plane crash at the Ngokugh Hills of Benue State.

With a single phone call using a GSM set he found at the crash site, the boy, then 13, alerted the world to organise a rescue mission to site, which saved eight out of 18 people on board. His bravery had become a popular tale.

Detimbir was working at his family farm located several miles from his village when the military aircraft heading for Obudu Cattle Ranch crashed on the Ngokugh hills of Mbakunu, Shangev -Ya, Kwande Local government area of Benue State.

The crash scene was within his sight, but instead of taking to his heels from the devastating scene, the boy summoned courage, approached the helpless victims, picked one cell phone among the many scattered items at the scene and called his father, Chia James Anakula, who at that time was the only person in his village that owned a GSM handset.

Chia then alerted relevant authorities who organised a rescue operation that saved some eight persons out of the 18 passengers on board. The ten who died were senior officers of the Nigerian Army

The boy, now 19, recalls how fire billowed on the aircraft and how luggage scattered everywhere; and how his father also mobilised villagers to the site for initial rescue operation.

Apparently overjoyed by the courage of the young, the then Chief of Defence Staff, General Owoye Andrew Azazi, promised to make Detimbir's dream of becoming a soldier a reality. Azazi who visited the scene of incident on behalf of the military promised the boy an unhindered admission into the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) as a way of rewarding him.

Today, Detimbir and his family are still waiting for that promise to materialize even as they have decided to leave matters in the hands of God following sufficient conviction that the military, after all, don't seem interested in fulfilling their side of the deal.

When contacted yesterday, Director of Defence Information Colonel Mohammed Yerima said he was not aware of the matter. "I was not around when the matter was discussed," he said.

Following Azazi's promise to the young man, former Benue State governor George Akume offered Detimbir a scholarship which led to his relocation from the obscure village on transfer from his former Government Secondary School, Koti, Shangev -Ya, to Command Secondary School, Makurdi, where he completed studies in 2011.

Interestingly, Detimbir passed his WEAC examination with seven credits including the compulsory university requirement of Mathematics and English.

Consequent upon which he proceeded to obtain the NDA form to qualify him for the mandatory entrance examination into the academy and expectedly, his name was short listed for interview.

Few days thereafter, the young man headed for the academy's campus hoping to begin his military career in earnest. Sadly he was turned back at the screening exercise on the ground that he failed to scale through the routine medical examination for new entrants.

Disappointed, Detimbir returned back to his guardian, Chief Emmanuel Viashima, who expressed dismay over the development just as he concluded that the Nigeria Army had failed to live up to their honour.

According to Viashima, the state government, under the administration of former governor, Akume, had appointed him aas guardian to the boy until the completion of his education and since then, Detimbir has stayed with him.

He expressed shock on account of his ward's rejection at the defence academy on medical ground after performing excellently in all previous qualification examinations.

He said: "The military has failed us. This boy did very well in the entrance examination; in fact, he took fourth position in the exercise which had over 100 participants from Benue State alone.

"I went with him to Kaduna for the screening and left him there to seek medical attention in Abuja. After one week, Detimbir called me to say he had been asked to return home and that he was told that the rejection was because of High Blood Pressure (HBP).

"I became disappointed because I had taken him for medical check up before the exercise and he was given a clean bill of health. It is not just one hospital, even on his return, we tried to confirm again and the results showed the boy was perfectly fit."

In addition, Detimbir's guardian disclosed that he made frantic effort to get in touch with relevant personalities at the Defence headquarters but was ignored, except for Brigadier-General G.N Nimyel who made positive moves to help remedy the situation.

"We went back to Abuja but the general has said we should go back and that the boy would write the next session examination with a promise to pave way for him since he (Nimyel) had written to the Defence headquarters about the development," Viashima disclosed.

But Detimbir still wears a cheerful countenance despite all these he calmly assured our correspondent during a chat with him in Makurdi that God's will would surely prevail.

Narating his experience, the young man said: "We were over a 100 who sat for the NDA examination. 50 out of the number passed and I was among nine of us who were shortlisted from Benue State having come fourth position from the state.

"We proceeded to the NDA old site in Kaduna for screening, the first aspect was the credential screening, after that, they dropped me and asked me to return home on account that I had HBP.

"At first, I was very angry; I cried but my uncle (Viashima) calmed and counselled me to allow the will of God prevail in my life. I can't do otherwise because my uncle has tried to contact highly placed people, yet no positive result.

"I would just appeal to relevant authorities to help make my dream come true," he said, adding that he aspires to reach the rank of a General. "I hope that I will be given the opportunity next time," Detimbir said.

Corroborating him, his guardian Viashima said the boy had told Azazi about his dream of becoming a top military officer and the latter agreed to help him achieve that.

Detimbir's father, Chia who spoke to our correspondent by telephone enjoined the military to assist his son realize his long time heart desire to serve the nation.

When contacted on the matter, the state government through its spokesman, Cletus Akwaya said though he was aware of the boy's predicament, it could do virtually nothing to help him as the military was solely responsible to pave a way for the admission.

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