December 10, (THEWILL) – Calming frayed nerves in the days ahead will be as important as physically providing succour to victims of the Kaduna bombing tragedy, with the figures of the dead still rising as some of the injured, who are recuperating at Barau Teaching Hospital, Kaduna die and more corpses are discovered.
On Tuesday, December 2, 2023, 20 bodies were recovered by a search team and buried, according to an Imam in Tubun Biri, Alhaji Ahmed Sanusi. On Friday, one of the 76 injured victims at the hospital also died.
While the Imam put the current figure of the dead at over 100, the Governor of Kaduna State, Uba Sani, on Friday said that after consulting with community and religious leaders, the authentic figure was 86, with 75 still undergoing treatment at the hospital. He confirmed that one victim in the hospital died on Friday.
Tempers are still flaring as the trend of events evokes passion and adds fuel to fire. As of Saturday, December 9, one full week after the Nigerian Army accidental bombing of Tudun Biri in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State at 9:pm on Sunday, something concrete is yet to be done apart from visits to survivors at the hospital, speeches promising the provision of succour and the desire to investigate and punish culprits.
“We don’t want any religious bigots here. No politician will take part in dealing with the people. That is why we are dealing directly with the people through their community and religious leaders,” Governor Uba Sani said on Friday, while disclosing the nature of the meeting Vice President Kassim Shettima, who led a Federal Government delegation to the state, had with community and religious leaders at the Kashim Ibrahim Government House in Kaduna the previous day.
For the governor, whose state has been a hotbed of bloody sectarian conflict until recently, “peace”, which was a scarce commodity during the recurring bloody violence under the administration of his predecessor, Nasir el-Rufai, is so desirable that the people had to become the centre of attention and concern by government.
A visibly angry Sani on Friday who said he had been trying to “calm the people down and make them understand that the government will fight for justice,” condemned the statement by the Director of Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, that the bombing incident occurred because terrorists always mingled with residents of the community, adding that he would write to the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Toareed Lagabja, to ask that the statement be withdrawn.
“It is careless. The community is calm because Gen Lagbaja had earlier taken responsibility for the error bombing. If you visit the hospital and see what is happening, you would condemn statements like this, “said the governor who added that in spite of the gaffe, he would continue to give his support to the military in their fight against insurgency and banditry in the country.
The Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, who attended the meeting convened by the governor during the VP’s visit, Reverend Joseph Hayap, said that temper was still high over the bombing. He praised the governor for wanting to avoid divisive persons and groups in the undergoing healing process. That ‘wise’, step would douse the building tension over the incident, he said.
“I am happy with the governor for pledging that he will not allow politics to affect the successful process of attending to the victims,” Hayap told THEWILL on Friday night.
He however expressed disgust with the use of the words, “error bombing,” in questions over the incident.
He queried, “We should interrogate what the military claims to be intelligence. Mistake bombing is becoming a yearly occurrence. There was a mistaken bombing that destroyed a church in Kaduna a few years ago. Where is their professionalism? Can we have innocent Nigerians killed regularly and say it is a mistake.”
Investigation shows that “error bombing,” has gone on for too long to warrant urgent attention and concern for the root causes of what appears to be a deadly pattern.
BLACK HISTORY OF “ERROR BOMBING”
According to a study forwarded to THEWILL on Friday by Beacon Consulting Limited, a renowned enterprise security risk management company, similar bombings, though prevalent in parts of the North because of the ongoing fight against terrorism and insurgency there, did not start with the Kaduna tragedy.
Starting in 2014, Nigeria has recorded 18 such incidents of armed reconnaissance drone strikes on civilians in seven states with 417 casualties. The states are Borno and Yobe in Northeast, the theatre of Boko Haram terrorism, followed by the North Central states of Niger and Plateau, the centre of insurgency and sectarian violence, respectively. Next is the Northwest insurgency states of Kaduna, Zamfara and Jigawa.
In terms of numbers, Borno had been struck seven times. That was in Daglum in February 2014, killing 20 persons. In the same month, another 20 died in similar circumstances in Kayamla in Konduga Local Government Area and another 10 in Sambisa in Damboa LGA. This was followed in 2017 by a similar incident in Rann in Kala/Balge LGA, where over 100 died. In April 2020, it was the turn of Sakotoku in Biu LGA, of the state. About 17 persons died. There was respite for three years until April 2021, when Mainok in Kaga LGA was hit, leaving 30 dead. In September of that year, it was the turn of Kwatar Daban Masara in Kukawa LGA, where 20 were killed.
Yobe, the neighbouring state to Borno, was hit twice in September 2021, first at Buhari in Yanusar LGA, where 12 were killed and over 20 injured and the second was at a Yobe village where 10 persons were killed.
Next in order of numbers is Niger State, another hotbed of insurgence, which at a time held sway in 500 communities in Kaure and Shiroro LGAs. Four “error bombings,” have taken place in the state. Shiroro LGA has been the most-hard hit LGA in the state.
In April and August of 2020, Kurebe in Shiroro LGA was hit twice, first by a military drone, leaving eight dead, followed by another attack in Galadima Kogo that led to the death of six people. Genu on Rijua LGA in the state was affected in 2021, and two persons were confirmed dead.
Jigawa lost one person to the menace in Kakuna, Safana LGA, in July 2022. Zamfara’s Tangara village in Anka LGA lost six persons in July, 2022. Before the latest incident in Tudun Biri, Igabi LGA of Kaduna State, the state experienced a similar fate in Sabon-Gida village in Giwa LGA in March 2023.
“The north-western Nigeria threat terrain has since prompted the use of UAVs as attack vectors, particularly against threat elements associated with banditry. Despite their effectiveness in counter-terrorism efforts, drones can also cause collateral damage to civilians, as depicted in the map, which shows 18 documented armed reconnaissance drone strikes on civilians across seven states in the North,” said Beacon Consulting Ltd in the study sent to THEWILL by its Security Communications Officer, Mr Felix Chukwuebuka Ugwu.
It added that, “These cases have been due to misinformation from generally credible sources (intelligence errors), target misidentification, environmental factors and communication gaps. The incident further raises concerns about the proliferation of drones within Nigerian security agencies and the lack of guiding principles for their usage within certain institutions.”
WHAT NEXT AND WAY FORWARD
Vice President Kashim Shettima, who led a high-powered Federal Government delegation to Kaduna on Thursday and held a peace meeting with community and religious leaders, disclosed that the Federal Government would ensure that those found culpable are punished and the finding of the panel on enquiry into the incident would be made public.
Regarding the Fulako Initiative, which will commence by next month in the Tudun Biri community, the Vice President said, “The Fulako Initiative the government has been designed as a non-kinetic solution to the challenges in banditry in the North-West. It will kick-start next month, first in the affected Tudun Biri community
“The beneficiary states are Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna and for the purpose of equity and justice, we deliberately included Niger and Benue.
“Now, the President has directed that the Fulako Initiative should be kick-started here in Kaduna State, and Tudun Biri will be the first beneficiary community.”
According to him, under the initiative, the Federal Government will build houses, clinics, schools, veterinary hospitals, empowerment initiatives, solar energy plants and so on.
”It is going to be a complete package of solutions; a non-kinetic response to the problems of banditry and kidnapping in the North-West.
”Under the initiative, 500 houses will be built in the northern part of Kaduna State and another 500 in the southern part of the state,” Shettima stated. ”Government will go to the root of the issue and anyone found culpable will be punished accordingly.”
On his part, Gov. Uba Sani, who said the state government would take care of the wounded and also provide proper medical care and support to the victims.
“We will also take care of the orphans by giving them support and ensure that they are properly taken care of,” he said.
The State Chairman, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Prof Shafiu Abdullahi, called on the government to ensure that proper compensation is paid to the victims, while those responsible are punished to avoid such incidents in future.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, who has admitted alongside the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Lagbaja, that, “the mistake is highly regrettable,” said at the weekend, “We will make amends and avoid a repeat of the incident. We are going to review what has happened and ensure that we are more precise in the future. We appeal to all Nigerians to cooperate as security is everybody’s responsibility.”
Reverend Hayab said all divisive statements should stop henceforth while attention should focus on solutions to prevent a recurrence of the “error bombing.”
Beacon Consulting called on the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government to work together to find a permanent solution to the problem.
It called on the Federal Government to re-evaluate its existing framework for the acquisition of combat UAVs to ensure that these platforms are operated safely and responsibly by institutions with proven competence in intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.
“Particularly, competencies in associated intelligence, such as imagery and geospatial aspects, which ultimately support effective target acquisition best practices, should be embedded in the framework and mainstreamed across the UAV eco-space in Nigeria.
Next, it suggested that the coordinating elements in the Nigerian security sector should work with the National Assembly and other law enforcement agencies with weaponised UAVs to make clear standard operating procedures and guidelines for when and how drones can be used by security forces, particularly the military, during domestic operations.
“In doing this, it is important to note the crucial role that human intelligence assets, such as those managed by the Nigerian Police Intelligence Units and the various agencies and departments in the Ministry of Interior, can play in target acquisition. This minimises the risk of civilian casualties.”
It also urged the government to invest in training and equipping security forces with the necessary skills and technology to operate drones safely and effectively.
The company said the military, specifically the army, can improve its “intelligence-fusion capabilities to ensure that drone strikes are attended to as a collective, with support from a central command co-ordinating such operations. This allows the support of experts and other decision-makers along the chain of command, supporting the accuracy of target missions.”
According to the security management firm, strategic communication imperatives must be deployed in managing military and other security operations as a way of ensuring the whole of government and the whole of society approach.
Finally, government and military institutions should prioritise transparency and accountability in their investigations into incidents, including drone-related ones.
“Establishing a robust process for holding personnel accountable for mistakes is crucial not only for preventing abuses but also for repairing strained civil-military relationships. This approach supports the success of counterinsurgency missions by fostering collective local intelligence gathering,” it said.