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Kaduna village bombing: One accidental bombing too many

The disaster has since attracted global attention and also condemnations from the pan-Northern political and cultural association, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and the Jama’tu Nasril Islam, who have called for those found culpable to be probed and punished.

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On the night of Dec. 3, a group of Muslims gathered to celebrate the Maulud festival in Tudun Biri village, Igabi local government area of Kaduna State, when Nigerian military drones aimed at armed groups accidentally hit them, killing scores of men, women, and children numbering over 84 and injuring several others.

The disaster has since attracted global attention and also condemnations from the pan-Northern political and cultural association, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and the Jama’tu Nasril Islam, who have called for those found culpable to be probed and punished.

Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, the Nigerian Army’s spokesperson, signed an official statement on December 5 claiming responsibility for the drone attack.

According to the Army, they were on “aerial patrol when they observed a group of people and wrongly analysed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits, leading them to carry out the drone strike.“

The statement stated that the general area had before now been subjected to numerous attacks from terrorists operating in the area, hence the aerial patrol.

Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu ordered an investigation into the military drone strike, saying the “bombing mishap” was worrying and “painful.”.

Timeline of erroneous bombings by the military

The tragic bombing of Tudun Biri village is the latest in a series of erroneous airstrikes by the Nigerian military in the course of its anti-terrorism war.

Over the years, Nigeria has recorded several accidental airstrikes by the Nigerian Air Force, which have killed innocent citizens across the country.

Persecondnews recalls that in January 2017, NAF jets fired two bombs on Rann town, which harboured hundreds of internally displaced persons, in Borno State, killing 126 people, including refugees and aid workers.

In April 2020, 17 people were killed in another NAF air strike in Sakatoku village, Damboa LGA, Borno, including women and children. The missiles landed far from the intended target of Boko Haram terrorists gathered 12 kilometres away in Korongilum village.

In April 2021, an Air Force jet, in a battle with Boko Haram, reportedly missed a target in Mainok, Borno State, killing at least 30 soldiers who were preparing to attack the insurgents in the area.

Similarly, in June 2021, an offensive aerial bombardment by the NAF Alpha reportedly killed some wedding guests around Genu town in Niger State.

In December 2022, the Nigerian Air Force claimed responsibility for an airstrike by the NAF in Mutumji community, Maru LG of Zamfara state, which mistakenly killed about 64
persons.

On January 7, 2023, the Nigerian Air Force claimed responsibility for a deadly airstrike on Kwatiri, a rural community in Nasarawa State, where about 39 people were bombed.

There are several more, including the killing of 13 residents in Kunkuna village, Safana LGA, Katsina State, in July 2022; seven children killed in July 2022 in Nachade village, Maradi, by NAF jets; and 30 vigilantes killed mistakenly in Galadima Kogo, Shiroro LGA, Niger State, in January 2023.

A report by research organization SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence titled “Air Force Mishaps” in February 2023 revealed that over 300 civilians have been killed in accidental airstrikes by the NAF since 2017. The report also revealed that no compensation has been paid to the victims’ families.

U.S. proposes the deployment of AI in Nigerian military operations.

The United States Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence, and Stability has advised the Nigerian military on the need to deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) in military operations in Nigeria.

According to the U.S. bureau, it will enable the Nigerian military to significantly reduce the occurrence of accidental bombings, as AI technology can distinguish between the civilian population and armed terrorists.

Speaking at a roundtable with journalists recently in Abuja, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Paul Dean, disclosed that the adoption of AI by the Nigerian military will not only enhance its capabilities but will also ensure compliance with international humanitarian law, preventing unintended civilian casualties.

He said: “So first of all, deep condolences on the tragedy that happened over this week. I do think your question raises the very salient point that artificial intelligence will help militaries improve their operations in a very tangible way.

“Artificial intelligence will help militaries deliver on their international humanitarian law obligations. It will help militaries improve efficiency, eliminate biases, and improve overall decision-making.

“And this, I think, will be of enormous value to global stability. We want to encourage the positive applications of artificial intelligence in the military.

“This initiative that we and our partners launched just last month is centred around achieving just that, maximising the tremendous value of artificial intelligence in military applications, and at the same time, ensuring the international community has coalesced around a series of norms of responsible behaviour to make sure that we are reducing the risk of unintended consequences or negative applications.

“So we are convinced that when states commit themselves to using this technology in a predictable, transparent, stable, and responsible way, the international community will be in a position to maximise the advantages while reducing the risks of an irresponsible approach.”

Further speaking, Mr. Dean said his organization was willing to partner with the Federal Government to curb the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the country.

“We are here to cooperate in areas of mutual interest and concern regarding the prohibition of chemical weapons, the pursuit of nuclear stability, the responsible use of outer space, and the use of risk reduction measures to advance issues of regional security,” he added.

Villagers threaten to sue FG, demand N33bn compensation

The people of Tudun Biri in the Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State have threatened to sue the Federal Government for the killing of scores of their kinsmen.

Despite President Bola Tinubu’s order demanding an investigation into the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident and vowing to punish whoever was found culpable in the error drone bombing of the village, a villager identified as Dalhatu Salihu, on behalf of his kinsmen, through their lawyer, Mukhtar Usman, allegedly filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Kaduna, demanding the sum of N33 billion as compensation.

In addition, they are also demanding an apology be published in at least three national newspapers, saying that the suit was to enforce the fundamental rights of the survivors of the incident.

Among the reliefs sought by the villagers is “a declaration that the act of striking dead, by way of aerial bombardment of the deceased victims herein while celebrating the Islamic Maulud at their village of Tudun Biri in Igabi Local Government Area on the 3rd day of December 2023, by the personnel under the command and supervision of the 3rd respondent (the Chief of Army Staff) amounts to a violation of the deceased victims’ fundamental rights to life as enshrined in Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article 10(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification Enforcement) Act (Cap 10) LFN 2010 and hence ultra vires the respondents, illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.”

The Northern Lawyers Forum has also threatened legal action against the government, although there is a rebuttal of the development.

However, no date has been fixed for the hearing.

FG offers to compensate victims, families with the “Pullako Initiative.”

The Federal Government says it will compensate families and victims of the December 3 bombing at Tudun Biri village, Kaduna State.

The Vice President, Kashim Shettima, who visited the community to condone with them, said President Bola Tinubu has directed that the “Pullako Initiative” be kick-started in Tudun Biri village immediately as part of compensation.

He said the Pullako package includes houses, clinics, schools, veterinary clinics, empowerment initiatives, and solar energy, among others.

As payment for the damage the drone misfire caused, Shettima promised to provide amenities in the Tudun Biri community.

“Most importantly, the President has approved the commencement of the Pullako Initiative by next month.

“The Pullako Initiative is the President’s unique response as a non-kinetic approach to the challenges in the North West.

“Beneficiary states are Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna, and for equity and justice, we deliberately included Niger and Benue states,” the Vice President said.

Shettima also visited the victims at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital in Kaduna, where some of the casualties, most of whom are women and children, are receiving treatment.

He also directed the management of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to mobilise and provide adequate support to the victims.

Shettima thanked religious leaders and elders of the community for not yielding to what he described as a plot to politicise the incident and inflame passions.

Senators donate December salaries to victims, Northern federal lawmakers pledge N350m to rebuild the community.

In a demonstration of their grief over the accidental bombing, all 109 of the nation’s 109 senators announced the donation of their December salaries to the victims.
The money, according to the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, will be handed over to Kaduna state governor, Gov. Uba Sani.

In the same development, the Northern Caucus of the House of Representatives also pledged N350 million to assist the Federal Government in rebuilding the Tudun Biri community.

The group denounced the incident and declared their readiness to help the government bring about normalcy in the area in a statement that Kano lawmaker Alhassan Doguwa signed.

The statement said: “The Northern Caucus is to provide for various developmental projects ranging from the provision of health care facilities, blocks of classrooms, water boreholes, and a community town hall worth N350 million to support the Federal Government’s efforts in rebuilding the community.

“The caucus has announced a monetary donation by Mr. Speaker and that of the Northern regional caucus of the Federal House of Representatives amounting to the sum of N45 million in cash.

“Against the backdrop of such unshakable recurrent mishaps, the caucus has resolved to pay a condolence visit to commiserate with the government and the leaders of the Tudun Biri community to commiserate with survivors of the unfortunate incident.

“The visit is aimed at securing first-hand insights into what transpired and enabling it to garner useful information to forestall future occurrences.

“The caucus commends the Tinubu-led Federal Government for promptly reaching out to victims and for taking charge of the victims’ welfare.

“The caucus has pledged to follow up with the Federal Government to ensure appropriate compensations for the victims and the community as promised by the Federal Government. The caucus is poised to provide the legal framework for compensation and also ensure that the families of those who were killed are adequately captured in the compensation scheme.

“The caucus appeals to the affected community and the leaders to remain calm and law-abiding while thanking the government and governor of Kaduna State for keeping to their responsibility of protecting law and order in the state,” the statement said.

Stakeholders are, however, of the view that the alleged legal action should be put on hold and allow the Tnubu administration to implement its “Pullako Initiative” and allow peace to reign.

They are also of the opinion that nothing should be done to demoralise the army in the fight against insurgency and banditry in the country while urging the military to use the artificial intelligence suggested by the U.S. in the operations to avoid civilian casualties in the future.

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