In a span of nine years, the Nigerian military has inadvertently caused the deaths of at least 416 unarmed citizens through accidental airstrikes in 16 communities across the northern region, as disclosed by Daily Trust Saturday’s investigation.

Despite consistent assertions by the military high command and the Nigerian Air Force that collateral damage is inevitable in asymmetric warfare, stakeholders argue that many of these incidents could have been prevented. They contend that collateral damage occurs during crossfire between military troops and enemies, but the magnitude of casualties could have been reduced if intelligence and operations were executed as expected.

The documented incidents between 2014 and 2023 reveal a disturbing trend, with numerous innocent children and women among the casualties. Various organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have strongly condemned these occurrences.

Notable incidents include the accidental killing of 10 citizens in Kayamla village, Borno State, on March 16, 2014, and the tragic airstrike on Rann camp, also in Borno State, on January 17, 2017, resulting in the deaths of 53 internally displaced persons. Daglun community in Borno lost 20 civilians on February 28, 2018, due to similar airstrikes.

In the North West region, Ajia community in Zamfara suffered 11 casualties on April 11, 2019, while Gajigana village and Mainok in Borno recorded 13 civilian casualties on July 2, 2019, and 30 soldiers on April 25, 2021, respectively.

The investigation further reveals incidents in Yobe State, where nine farmers were killed in Buwari village on September 16, 2021, and 20 fishermen lost their lives at Kwatar Daban Mascara in Borno State on September 26 of the same year.

Additional cases include the deaths of six children in Kuragba community, Niger State, on April 20, 2022, and two casualties in Kunkunni village, Katsina State, on July 6, 2022, both attributed to airstrikes. The tragedy continued with the loss of 60 lives in Mutunji community, Zamfara State, on December 17, 2022.

In the North Central region, Galkogo community, Niger State, lost 18 persons on January 24, 2023, and Rukubi community, Nasarawa State, recorded 40 casualties on January 25, 2023.

In response to these incidents, security experts emphasize the timely compensation of victims to alleviate their suffering. Abubakar Umar Garba advises the federal government and military to fulfill their compensation commitments promptly, while Chukwuma Ume stresses the importance of learning from errors through thorough investigations and improvements in armed forces operations.

The United Nations Human Rights Office spokesperson, Seif Magango, calls for a review of rules of engagement and standard operating procedures to prevent future incidents, urging the Nigerian authorities to investigate alleged violations and hold those responsible accountable.

Despite calls for compensation by prominent northern groups and individuals, concerns are raised about the government’s track record of fulfilling promises. Security expert Mukhtar Ismail emphasizes the need for an impartial committee to revisit previous cases and ensure adequate compensation.

The Arewa Consultative Forum demands the removal of the General Officer Commanding One Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, and other officers involved in the accidental bombing of Tudun Biri. The forum emphasizes the necessity of an independent panel of investigators and public disclosure of investigation results. Vice President Kashim Shettima assures that the government will thoroughly investigate the incident and take measures to prevent future occurrences.


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