Kaduna State-based renowned Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, said that the Sunday’s bombing by the Nigerian Army using drone in Tudun Biri of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State which claimed over 120 lives was intentional.
Innocent citizens, including women and children, were struck dead on Sunday night as they were celebrating Maulud while over 60 others were left injured in the community located in Igabi Local government area of the state.
The scholar said it was wrong to target women and children, including the elderly during war, saying yet the military decided to do otherwise, thinking they were families of terrorists.
Sheikh Gumi, who spoke while delivering his weekly lecture at the Sultan Bello Mosque, Kaduna, questioned that if the first bomb dropped on the people was a mistake as claimed, what of the second bomb that targeted those evacuating the bodies 30 minutes after as claimed by the villagers.
According to him, it was God that exposed some of the atrocities committed by the military in the forest, saying he had been calling on the people that innocent villagers are victims of the security bombardments in the forest but nobody listened.
He said, “I kept telling you not to invite people who see war as a solution but people refused to listen. Here it’s now. War is never a joke because it affects everybody. I warned you on this but you keep saying they should be killed.
“It’s you that will be killed. That bomb was meant to target the families of some people so as to kill their children and wives. I have been to a village where women and children were massacred in a remote forest.
“Many people have been bombed. Nobody said anything until it came nearer to the city. I have been saying that whatever is between us, whether it is bandits or Boko Haram, there should be peaceful negotiation.”
Officers grumble over ‘lack of synergy’ between army, air force
There is growing disquiet in the Nigerian Army and Nigeria Air Force, following the recent bombing of innocent citizens of Tudun Biri.
Credible sources told the Daily Trust that the air force was disappointed with the army for dispatching its unmanned drone that led to the ill-fated operation.
The Nigerian Army had since admitted responsibility for the bombing while explaining that the airstrikes were inadvertent and the operatives were targeting terrorists.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoheed Lagbaja had also visited the scene of the incident to commiserate with the district head, clerics and relatives of the victims, where he supported the victims with relief materials including cash reward of N10m.
However, days after the sad Tudun Biri incident, findings reveal that air troops attached to different operations across the theatres are grumbling over the incident, arguing that Nigerian Army’s attempt to include air operations in their activities in theatres depicts “lack of trust”.
It would be recalled that in September 2023, Nigerian Army revived its aviation unit with the possible procurement of 12 attack helicopters as approved by the President, Bola Tinubu.
The COAS had at the opening of the maiden Nigerian Army Aviation Seminar in Abuja, said the 12 MD 530F Cayuse attack helicopters would operationalize the Nigerian Army aviation unit, which was set up to improve ground troops’ agility, responsiveness, and efficacy during operations.
According to him, acquiring the helicopter would also contribute to the overall operational success of joint and coalition troops.
But when the Kaduna massacre happened on Sunday, the Nigeria Air Force quickly came out to dissociate itself from the incident, insisting that its officers had not carried out operations in the last 24 hours.
NAF, in a statement issued on Monday by its spokesman, Edward Gabkwet, an Air Commodore, berated those attributing the incident to its organisation, noting that it was not the only organisation operating combat armed drones in the North western region of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, expressing their frustrations, some visibly angry officers of NAF maintained that they (air troops) have more adequate training and equipment to carry out air operations “with precision” than many other services in the military.
“Every service or security agency has its dedicated role(s) even though all of us underwent the same training. The truth is, air troops are more conversant with air operations than any other troops whether in flying of drones or attack helicopters”, one of the NAF said.
Another NAF officer argued that air operations require a lot of technical know-how and intelligence gathering before someone could think of striking enemies.
He said, “Those who define roles for each of the services are not daft. The most important thing is for us to work together. Honestly, I don’t think army officers should delve into air operations.”
But some army officers argued that there was “no big deal” in flying drones to fight enemies, adding that this was not the first time they would be flying it (drones).
“The fact that we made a mistake this time around doesn’t mean we are not capable of flying a drone against enemies. We’re capable and we have the capabilities to fly it,” the army officer said.
A source conversant with officials in both the Army and the Air Force said what happened in Tudun Biri could have been avoided.
“Before dropping the bomb on the Maulud celebrants, some army officials actually hinted at some air force officials and they were cautioned on the grounds that the gathering did not seem to be that of terrorists.
“They told them (army) that terrorists don’t converge in large numbers within a community. Also, wherever you see terrorists or bandits coming together, you will see many motorcycles. There were no motorcycles at the site of the Maulud on that day…It was really unfortunate,” the source said.
Daily Trust reports that scores of air troops are currently attached to the Operations Hadin Kai, Delta Safe, Hadarin Daji, Dakata Barawo, Whirl Punch, Whirl Stroke, among others.
The operations, according to the military high command that is coordinating all the operations, were to complement efforts of both land and maritime troops with a view to fighting oil theft, banditry, terrorism and other criminalities.
We’ve learnt our lessons, our operations remain joint – DHQ
Addressing journalists on Thursday, the Director, Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, re-expressed the regrets of the military high command over the drone attack.
Buba, a Major-General in the Nigerian Army told newsmen that the military would learn from this experience and improve on its operational processes, adding that they would continue to conduct its operations in accordance with international laws and rules of engagement.
While dismissing the insinuation that lack of inter-service synergy could have led to the mishap, he said that military operations were being conducted nationwide jointly with the Army, Navy and Air Force.
“On the incident that happened, I can assure you that the military learns from its experiences and will continue to make improvements as we go along.
“It is an incident that has happened and like I mentioned in my brief, we are determined to deal with it squarely.
“There will be need for protocols, there will be need for processes to be improved upon and this I assure you, we will put in place to ensure that in future we have near to zero occurrences,” he said.
On the casualties figure, Buba said that the records from the community put the death toll at 81, while about 70 were receiving treatment at the hospital.
He described as faulty, erroneous and unpatriotic, insinuation by some groups that the attack was targeted at a particular religion, saying it was a dangerous speculation at time the nation was at war. The defence spokesman called on all Nigerians to support the military with useful information to carry out its operations without hitches.
Tinubu vows to punish anyone found culpable
In the meantime, President Bola Tinubu yesterday assured the nation that whoever is found culpable for the bombardments of Tudun Biri village.
The president also assured that all the victims will be taken well care of under the Folako Initiative, which will commence by this month, stressing that the community would be the first to be rebuilt under the new initiative.
Tinubu, represented by the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, who stated this shortly after visiting the victims at Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital to condole them over the unfortunate incident, explained that the federal government remains committed to the fight against banditry across the region.
“The President Bola Ahmed Tinubu sent us to commensurate with the people of Kaduna over the tragic incident .The calibre of people that are here with me is a testimony on how deeply touched the president was by the incident.
“The president was deeply touched by what happened. We would like to assure the people and government of Kaduna State that the government will take measures to protect and preserve the interest of our nation.
“The victims will be well taken care of under the Fulako Initiative, which will commence by this month and this community will be the first to be rebuilt in the North West zone.
“All measures will be taken to ensure that future occurrence is averted. Government will go to the root of the issue and anyone found culpable will be punished accordingly,” he said.
US volunteers to help Nigerian military reduce accidental bombing
Meanwhile, the United States says it is ready to help the Nigerian Military in the areas of reducing the incidence of accidental bombing to the barest minimum in the country if allowed to intervene.
It specifically said it would help in the area of deployment of Artificial Intelligence to improve the military’s capabilities, saying such would afford the military from running afoul of international humanitarian law.
The United States Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence and Stability stated this in Abuja yesterday while fielding questions from selected journalists at a roundtable media chat.
Speaking during the chat, the Centre’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Paul Dean, said his organisation was willing to partner with the federal government to curb the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the country.
Dean said, “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 on achieving just that, maximising the tremendous value of Artificial Intelligence in military applications.”
The US official maintained that adoption of technology would make operations predictable, transparent, stable and responsible, which he said would reduce the risks of an irresponsible approach.
He added, “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 the position of maximising the advantages while reducing the risks of an irresponsible approach.”