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President’s silence on horror Kaduna drone attack on civilians is deafening

7 December 2023
Reading time: 7 minutes

‘It is a clear-cut homicide and confirms there are three terrorists in our nation, the Nigerian army, the Boko Haram and the bandits. May God help us’

Nigerians are still reeling over the “wrongly analysed and misinterpreted” drone strike by the Armed Forces that killed at least 85 people and wounded 68 or more others in the Tudun Biri community in Kaduna State on Sunday.
Some media put the death toll at 88 and witnesses said 126 people, including women and children, had been killed in the strike.

One angry X – formerly known as Twitter – online user posted: “What happened in Kaduna doesn’t require investigation [it] is a clear-cut homicide! and this confirmed that there are three terrorists in our nation, the Nigerian army, the Boko Haram [Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād – JAS] and the bandits. May God help us.”

Idris Dahiru, a resident of Tudun Biri in the Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, told BBC Hausa that he lost 34 members of his family in the “aerial accidental bombing” on Sunday evening and that 66 of his loved ones were receiving medical treatment at Barau Dikko Hospital.

Brigadier-General Nyema Nwachukwu, director of army public relations, posted a press release on the official X account of the Nigerian army, @HQNigerianArmy, which said Lieutenant- General Taoreed Lagbaja, the chief of army staff, had paid a condolence visit to the Tudun Biri community.

Lagbaja arrived at the community in the early hours of Tuesday, December 5, accompanied by principal staff officers from the army headquarters and Major-General Olufemi Akinjobi, the general officer commander of 1 Division, where he met Dangaladima Zazau, the district head of Rigasa, a suburban settlement close to the Kaduna metropolis, architect Aminu Idris and other leaders and members of the community.

He said Lagbaja, in an emotion-laden speech, expressed regrets on the unfortunate mishap, describing it as a very disheartening occurrence.
Lagbaja said the general area of Tudun Biri and adjoining villages had, in the recent past, been “infested with armed bandits, who terrorised the communities, until troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces started conducting operations to sanitise the area and make it habitable”.

He pointed out that the troops were carrying out aerial patrols before the drone strike when they observed a group of people and “wrongly analysed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits”.

Nwachukwu said Lagbaja was in Tudun Biri to personally witness the site of the mishap and to convey sincere regrets and unreserved apologies on behalf of the Nigerian army to the district head and people of the community, as well as the government and the entire people of Kaduna State.

Lagbaja had ordered a thorough inquiry into the incident to ascertain and identify areas of deficiency that led to the inadvertent disaster, adding that the findings and overarching outcome of the investigation would “guide the Nigerian army in meticulously and professionally seeking and applying lasting solutions to identified lapses and deficiencies in both the human and artificial intelligence variables” that would forestall a future recurrence.
This was not the first such incidence, said security analysts, in which the Nigerian Armed Forces had bombarded innocent civilians “by accident” or “misfire”. They said it had been happening for years in counterinsurgency operations in the northern part of the country.

In 2017, a Nigerian Air Force fighter jet on a mission against JAS insurgents had mistakenly bombed a refugee camp, killing more than 100 refugees and wounding aid workers. A Red Cross worker said 20 volunteers with the aid group had been killed.

A tally of previous media reports had shown at least nine incidents of miscalculated airstrikes between September 2021 and January 2023. Zamfara, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger and Nasarawa were some of the states where these had occurred.

Mustapha Mohammed, a security analyst in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, told RNI that the misfire from the military drone strike in Kaduna State was “very worrisome” and a shame to the Nigerian Armed Forces for killing innocent people whom they were supposed to protect from insurgents.

He said Sunday’s drone strike occurred while the Tudun Biri community was celebrating Maulud [also known as Eid-e-Milad an-Nabi, an observance of the day when the Prophet Muhammad was reported to have been born]. The military mistook the celebrants as “terrorists”.

Mohammed said even though the military had claimed responsibility for killing the innocent civilians accidentally, there was still a need for the federal government, military chiefs and other relevant security agencies to investigate the lamentable incident and to pinpoint the causes of the errors to determine whether any negligence or misconduct occurred.

Those responsible should be investigated and tried in a court of law for their negligence and misconduct, so that it would be a lesson to others.

He said the wounded victims and families of the dead should be compensated.
Mohammed said the military need to “avoid such grave mistakes and misfires” by conducting both land and air operations based strictly on intel to ensure flawless operations with high precision.

If the military continued misfiring and bombing innocent civilians “by accident”, it would lose its reputation, prestige, trust and the confidence of innocent people who relied on it for the safety and security of their lives and property, he said.

Angry and bitter Nigerians posted their fury on social media platforms, particularly X, expressing grave concerns about the “shocking news” of the unintended loss of lives and injury of some Muslim faithful by the drone strike.

Bashir Ahmad, a media aid to former president Muhammadu Buhari, said on his X handle @BashirAhmaad: “Haba! You can’t kill 126 innocent souls – a hundred and twenty-six civilians – and just call it a mistake. I can’t even remember a time when the troops killed such a number of terrorists anywhere in this country at once. @HQNigerianArmy Nigerians are waiting to hear from you how this ‘mistake’ will be corrected and what measures you’ll put in place to prevent a recurrence.”

Abdulsamad, X handle @ELSaMaD_s, said: “These incidents have raised concerns about the use of drones by the Nigerian military, which has been accused of killing civilians in the past. The Nigerian military has defended its use of drones, saying that they are a necessary tool in the fight against Boko Haram and other armed groups. However, the incident in Tudun Biri village has highlighted the dangers of using drones and it is important for the Nigerian military to take steps to ensure that they are used safely and responsibly.”

Omar Ladan, X handle @omarladan_, said: “We aren’t illiterate! Which kind of drone plane are they using? ? Is that the 1960s’ models?? Are they drunk? Murdering a whole village! What happened in Kaduna doesn’t require investigation [it] is a clear-cut homicide! and This confirmed that there are three terrorists in our nation, the Nigerian army, the Boko Haram and the bandits. May God help us.”

Adnan Abdullahi Adam, X handle @realadnantweet, said: “It really pains me. I am asking how a trained pilot of military aircraft cannot differentiate between civilian villages & terrorists’ enclaves ? It seems there’s something sinister behind this, but only God knows.”

Kawu Garba, X handle @KawuGarba, said: “President [Bola] Tinubu should have sympathy for the first time towards northerners & address the nation about the people mistakenly bombed by the Nigerian army. This silence is annoying. Are our lives not of any value? The presidency wouldn’t have been quiet if this was in Lagos.

“We deserve better. 80 days ago, an unspecified number of girls were kidnapped at Federal University Gusau in Zamfara state. Recently again, more than 100 women and children were kidnapped and many killed. The silence of the presidency and all our leaders is concerning.”


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