Minister of State for Defence, Dr. Mohammed Bello, Matawallen Maradun, has said that the Army’s bombing error at Tudun Biri in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, which led to the death of no fewer than 100 persons will not affect the war against banditry and terrorism.
The army had mistaken the villagers for bandits.
Bello spoke during a condolence visit to the victims in Kaduna, while leading a high-level Federal Government delegation, which included the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Taoreed Lagbaja, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr. Ibrahim Kana, among others.
The minister spoke as death toll of the bombing error rose to 127 with the United Nations deploring the sad incident, while a civil society group, the Building Blocks for Peace Foundation, BBFORPEACE, sought a comprehensive revamp of the nation’s security architecture.
Expressing Federal Governments’ condolences to the victims of the mishap, Matawalle said that despite the unfortunate incident, the fight against insurgency and terrorism must continue.
“We are not going to relent in our fight against terrorism because these criminals must be defeated. We are going to continue fighting the criminals till we succeed against banditry and other criminalities in this country,” he said.
He said that President Bola Tinubu had directed that he lead a high-level delegation to pay condolence visit to the good people and government of Kaduna State over the sad event as well as families of the victims, both those that died and the ones receiving treatment in hospitals.
Accordingly, the Minister visited the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital in Kaduna, where injured victims were receiving treatment and the Government House, Kaduna.
The former Zamfara governor assured the state government that the Federal Government will do everything possible to support families of the victims and set up a powerful panel of inquiry to ascertain the cause of the incident to prevent future occurrence.
Responding, Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State, represented by his deputy, Hadiza Balarabe, also offered heartfelt sympathies to the affected families and pledged unwavering support to the families of victims.
She said while they await the findings from the panel of inquiry, the support of Federal Government in taking care of the victims was needed, saying that the state government alone cannot meet their needs.
The state government on its part has been able to maintain calm in the state in the face of the terrible incidence.
“We have had engagement with clerics in the state to seek their support in talking with the affected communities for their understanding in order to douse the tension caused by this sad event,” she said.
Also, some survivors of the Kaduna village drone attack, who were at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital Kaduna, recounted their ordeals.
Hasiya Shuaibu, who lost all her male relatives, said: “I was not there when the incident happened but I had to rush to the village. In fact, all my relatives were there. The drone attack affected our children, our younger and elderly relatives. We have lost an entire generation. Government should come to our rescue.
“Government has not come to assist the village. With this happening, we pray they would assist the village and our remaining people. Although, for me and many others, it could be the end of our stay in the village because we lost all our breadwinners.”
Another victim, Malam Idris Yalo, said: “I’m traumatised. I couldn’t eat since then. While we are in hospital, one of our relatives affected by the drone attack died. He was buried on Tuesday.
“We thank the state government. They were kind to our people in the hospital. We were sleeping on the bare floor but they have now provided us with beds and mattresses. The commissioner just left, she brought food for us.
“Prior to now, we had 66 injured persons in the hospital but the figure has gone up. Seven additional victims were brought here, yesterday. The seven persons were taken to the Army 1 Division medical facility.
Body parts picked up on nearby trees
“Many other victims were not even found. Body parts were picked on nearby trees. My uncle is the Village Head, he told me 85 people died. But many were in pieces and cannot be counted.
“My mother’s younger sister was in pieces.
“After the first drone attack, our forest officer, Bashir, was speeding on his motorcycle to render help. Unfortunately, he and other rescuers were neutralised by the second drone attack about 30 minutes after. Those who went to the scene of attack might have seen the charred remains of his bike. He and his friend, Nasiru, are no more.”
Lamenting, Yahaya Ifira said: “Bandits have chased us from our village and we were taking refuge at Tudun Biri. Before this latest attack, the bandits were not able to attack Tudun Biri. The people fought them fiercely, but now that most of the able men had been neutralised, the bandits could be able to attack the village.”
UN deplores drone strike on civilians
Speaking on the mishap, the United Nations Human Rights Office described the development as “disturbing.”
It noted that it was the latest of at least four air strikes that have resulted in significant civilian fatalities since 2017.
“While we note that the authorities have termed the civilian deaths as accidental, we call on them to take all feasible steps in future to ensure civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected,” Spokesman, Seif Magango, said in a statement.
“They must review rules of engagement and standard operating procedures to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.
“Militia gangs, known locally as bandits, have long terrorised parts of North-West Nigeria, operating from bases deep in forests and raiding villages to loot and kidnap residents for ransom.
“The military said troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and “misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits,’ before the drone strike was launched.
“We are particularly alarmed by reports that the strike was based on the ‘pattern of activities’ of those at the scene, which was wrongly analysed and misinterpreted.
“There are serious concerns as to whether so-called ‘pattern of life’ strikes sufficiently comply with international law.
“We urge the Nigerian authorities to thoroughly and impartially investigate all alleged violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, including deaths and injuries from air force strikes, and hold those found responsible to account.
“The government should also provide victims of any unlawful strikes and their families with adequate reparations,” he added.
Deputy Senate president calls for thorough probe
Meanwhile, Deputy Senate President, Senator Barau Jibrin, has extended his condolences to the families of the victims.
Describing the incident as unfortunate, he urged the security forces to thoroughly scrutinize the matter, and appealed to the relatives of the victims and good people of Kaduna State to remain calm.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, and Publicity, Ismail Mudashir, the Deputy Senate President said: “In this trying time, I stand in solidarity with the affected families and the entire community. I assure them of my commitment to supporting efforts that will prevent the recurrence of such incidents. I pray for a smooth recovery of the injured who are currently undergoing medical treatment.”
PDP demands probe, compensation for victims
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Debo Ologunagba, said the mishap was heartrending and agonising, given that the victims were harmless Nigerians, who were observing their religious rites.
The party said: “The fact that the area was bombed twice raises serious concern and questions, which border on intelligence gathering, information processing, synergy, command and operation control coordination in the security system.
“The PDP calls on the Federal Government to immediately commence an independent system-wide inquiry to dispassionately investigate this sad and unfortunate episode.
“The PDP condoles with the government and people of Kaduna State, particularly the Tudun Biri community and urges the Federal Government to take necessary steps to compensate the families of the dead as well as provide urgent medical attention to the wounded.
“Our party also demands that the Federal Government declares a day of national mourning in memory of the dead.
“While calling for more professionalism in the battle against terrorism, the PDP urges Nigerians and indeed the military not to relent in the fight to end terrorism in our country.”
CSO calls for overhaul of Nigeria’s security architecture
On its part, the BBFORPEACE, called for a comprehensive revamp of the nation’s security architecture.
Briefing journalists, yesterday, Rafiu Lawal, the Executive Director of BBFORPEACE, condemned the incident, noting that the tragedy was unfortunately not an isolated incident.
According to him, the security agencies have been involved in several accidental bombings across Northern states, resulting in the loss of 425 lives between 2017 and 2023.
“These mishaps, including the bombing of an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Borno State and multiple airstrikes in Zamfara and Katsina states, have raised serious questions about the professionalism and competence of Nigeria’s security architecture.”
He warned that the continuous occurrence of such incidents may lead to citizens seeking justice through self-help, if not properly addressed.
Lawal stated: “We implore President Tinubu-led administration to conduct a thorough investigation into this unfortunate occurrence and to ensure the perpetrators face the full weight of the law.
“We call for a total overhauling of the nation’s security architecture. Only a well-coordinated, synergized, and comprehensive security strategy will help address the security challenges we currently face.”