The Tudun Biri accident must be thoroughly investigated to prevent a reoccurrence

Last Sunday, the Nigerian Military in yet another accidental air strike killed dozens of people in Tudun Biri village, Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. While the exact number of the dead remains a matter of speculation, available reports indicate that they are more than a hundred. No fewer than 60 people were also reportedly injured. We commiserate with the families of all those who lost their lives in this ugly but avoidable tragedy, while wishing the injured a speedy recovery.  We also call on the federal government to ensure adequate compensation for families of the victims and provide the survivors with necessary care and attention.

We are concerned that this tragedy keeps recurring. In the past, similar unfortunate strikes killed several people in Rann, Borno State in 2017; Sububu, Zamfara State in 2021; Kurebe village in Shiroro local government of Niger State in April 2022; Southern Kaduna in June, 2022; Mutunji community in Zamfara State in December, 2022, and Kwatiri, a rural community in Nasarawa State in January, 2023. As much as we do not agree with those who impute ethno-religious motives to these unfortunate incidents, the collateral damage is enormous and must be condemned. In discharging its constitutional mandate to defend the country and protect its citizens, the military must not use its resources to hurt innocent Nigerians.  

From information available, the Kaduna air strike was carried out by the Nigerian Army using an armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The use of armed UAVs has become the norm by almost all armies across the world because of their effectiveness and the ability to guarantee force protection. Since its introduction in the Nigerian Army in 2012, first as a platform for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capability, the deployment of UAVs has helped tremendously to improve operational efficiency and decimate bandits across the Northeast, Northwest and Northcentral. This unfortunate tragedy marked the first time such would happen since the introduction of drones into the combat operations of the Nigerian Army. It must therefore be viewed seriously, so that adequate measures could be taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

 We welcome the pronouncement of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja during his visit to the village. Expectedly, he regretted the unfortunate incident, apologised, and promised to carry out a thorough investigation of the circumstances that led to the incident. Beyond this, it is hoped that such an investigation would identify lapses, especially in terms of training, acquisition of effective modern UAV platforms as well as putting efficient command and control system in place before a strike decision is taken.  

At the political level, it is heartwarming that the federal government has promised to rebuild the bombed community. “The government will get to the root of the issue, and anyone found culpable will be punished accordingly,” said Vice President Kashim Shettima, at the scene of the accident. He spoke about a presidential initiative being planned as a “a complete package of solutions; non-kinetic responses to the problems of banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest.” Since the devil is usually in the details, we are looking out to hear more about this initiative.

However, it is time the federal government carried out detailed security challenges plaguing the country and institute an effective strategic plan capable of stemming the prolonged violence. Sri Lanka’s war with the Tamil Tigers provides a model on how to permanently deal with insurgency and banditry in Nigeria. Until we take a bold step to deal with the threat, we will continue to witness ugly incidents that put the life of our people in peril.

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