Tudun Biri Airstrike Tragedy: Beyond the Apology

Dec 21, 2023 | Press Releases


On Sunday December 3rd, Nigerians were jolted by the news of a tragic drone strike by the Nigerian Army which killed no fewer than 100 civilians and injured several others who were celebrating Maulud at Tudun Biri, Ijabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

According to the Nigerian Army which claimed responsibility through the General Officer Commanding 1 Division and Force Commander Operation Whirl Punch, Major General Valentine Okoro, the Army was on a “routine mission against terrorists” when the incident happened. 

A follow up statement by the Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba which described the death of civilians as “needless tragedy”, explained that “terrorists often deliberately embed themselves within civilian population centres for the civilian population to bear the consequences of their actions”.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant – General Taoreed Lagbaja, who had visited Tundu Biri to commiserate with the people had tendered an unreserved apology and disclosed that he had ordered a thorough inquiry into the incident.

President Bola Ahmed Tinub,u in his reaction to the tragedy, has ordered a “thorough and full-fledged investigation into the incident”, amid calls from different quarters for punishment for those found culpable. This has also been followed by a declaration from the President that such an incident should never reoccur. 

The National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity, NAS/PC wishes to commiserate with the people of Tundu Biri over this monumental loss. Our thoughts are with families that lost loved ones in this tragedy. We acknowledged intelligence reports which confirmed that terrorists indeed would have struck in the area if the drone attack had not taken out the masterminds. In this regard, we recognise the sacrifices of our Armed Forces in combating insurgency in all shapes and forms which has taken its toll on their psyche since 2009. We salute their courage and commitment to keep Nigeria safe from terrorists.

However, the misadventure in Tundun Biri is one too many. Hapless Nigerians in northern Nigeria cannot be victims of terrorists’ attacks and still suffer from accidental bombing from the military paid to protect them. Arguments that there are always collateral damages involving civilians in war against insurgency are hollow, unhelpful and insensitive. Such excuses give room for scant regard for rigorous intelligence gathering by military authorities which has been identified as a crucial missing link in the war against insurgency.

The Nigeria military should have learnt from previous experiences of such accidental bombings to avoid the grave error in Tudun Biri. Reports from the Nigerian Media indicated that in the last nine years no fewer than 416 innocent Nigerians in Borno, Zamfara, Yobe, Niger, Nasarawa and Kaduna states have been victims of deadly accidental bombings by the Nigerian military. This is clearly unpardonable. The military can do better than allowing this grave error to reoccur again causing heartbreaking deaths of the already traumatised people in northern Nigeria. 

Equally distasteful, unpatriotic and irresponsible is the attempt by tribal jingoist and religious zealots to twist the narrative of the erroneous bombing as an agenda against a particular set of people and religion, thereby promoting base sentiments. Such lines of thoughts have continued to embolden insurgents in their criminal enterprise and have prolonged the insurgency. Leaders of thought and clerics should be circumspect in public utterances by not fanning embers of crisis and reinforcing the fault lines in our country.

Without doubt, the failure of intelligence is a major factor in the misdirected airstrike tragedy in Tundu Biri. This has been accentuated by the lack of coordination on the part of the military high command. The needed synergy among the various arms of the military that should help in crushing insurgency is missing. We encourage President Tinubu, who at the beginning of his government called for coordinated efforts among the security agencies, to initiate sweeping changes in Nigeria’s intelligence services including the use of modern technology to strengthen its operations against terrorists without civilian casualties. An in-depth review of the insurgency will stimulate a strategic overhaul of anti-insurgency efforts and more efficient tactics. 

Clearly, impunity on the part of some military commanders have been responsible for the recurrence of the sad episode of accidental bombing. The failure on the part of the system to identify and punish those who have been careless with responsibilities that has led to the deaths of innocent people in air attacks is the reason why such a cataphoric incident would happen again.

We advocate that the intended probe should not be a cover-up. It should unveil those who dropped the ball and allowed this grave error to occur.   Accidents are inevitable but clear cases of negligence in operations should be punished without let, to serve as a deterrent. We shall therefore hold the Chief of Defence  Staff, General Christopher Musa to his words that the report of the probe would be made public.

The civilian authorities tasked with supervisory roles of the military led by the Ministry of Defence should buckle-up and perform their functions. In several instances the military have been allowed to exercise sweeping powers in operations without supervision. This should not be allowed to continue.

The Federal Government should demonstrate the sincerity of its commiserations and apology by ensuring the probe into the incident is unhindered and commencement of adequate compensation for the people of Tudun Biri. President Tinubu should ensure his administration is different from previous administrations that failed to conduct a probe into accidental bombings and neglected victims. Tudun Biri should mark a turning point in military accountability for unnecessary loss of lives. Enough should truly be enough!

Abiola Owoaje
NAS Capoon


You may also like…