Nigeria, March 28 -- When Lt. Colonel Abdullahi Hassan Ali, 49, assumed duties as commanding officer of the 181 Amphibious Battalion of the Nigerian Army, all his mother, Hassana, could do was pray.

Three years ago, Ali's younger brother, Jamilu, a captain, had been killed in action by bandits in Katsina State. As an officer in the North-East, Ali himself had escaped death a number of times in battles against Boko Haram insurgents.

His father had died after retirement from the Army. After his death, Ali's ageing mother has been nursing her loss, in addition to coping with the death of her son in Katsina, and later, the deaths of her daughter and son-in-law in a road accident.

But Ali, a soldier's soldier promoted to the rank of lieuten...