Community and religious leaders from the Northern part of the country on Tuesday frowned at Sunday’s killing of over 90 innocent villagers by military drones at Tudun Biri in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
While calling for a full-scale investigation into the incident, they also demanded compensation for survivors and families of the deceased.
Daily Trust reports that the victims, among them women and children, were struck dead as they celebrated Maulud while over 60 others were left injured.
The Defence Headquarters earlier Tuesday said the drone attack on the community was based on information about untoward activities of terrorists in the area.
This was contained in a statement by the Director of Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba on Tuesday in Abuja.
Buba said the Nigerian Army Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) detachment had at about 2200hrs on Sunday, observed movement of terrorist at Ligarma, known to be a terrorist-infested area of Kaduna State.
He said the aerial surveillance captured movement of groups of persons synonymous with the terrorist tactics and modus operandi.
Buba explained that the observed advance of the terrorist that were gathered, posed a threat to key infrastructure within reach of their activities.
According to him, the threat was eliminated to prevent the terrorist from unleashing terror on innocent civilians.
“It should be noted that, terrorist often deliberately embed themselves within civilian population centres for civilian population to bear the consequences of their atrocities.
“Nevertheless, the Nigerian military does its best at all times to distinguish between civilians and terrorist.
“The military views every civilian death in the cause of operations as a tragedy as such tragedies are needless and unwanted, which causes the armed forces to take extensive measures to avoid them,” he said.
But while appearing on Trust TV’s Daily Politics programme last night, Senator Shehu Sani, who is from Kaduna State, described the military’s statement as highly insensitive.
He said the language used in the statement was unfair to hundreds of families affected by the tragedy as it appeared that the military attempted to justify its action of dropping the bombs to punish many innocent people because of the crime of a few criminals, it there were any among the deaths.
Senator Sani called for a thorough investigation by the National Assembly saying similar injustices were brushed over in the past.
A renowned Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi has urged President Bola Tinubu to ensure a thorough investigation and payment of compensation to the families of those killed.
Dahiru Bauchi, who made the call while speaking with newsmen in Bauchi, said: “We want the government of President Tinubu to stand firm to ensure justice for the affected people killed while celebrating Maulud, and punish the officers that carried out this dastardly act to prevent future occurrences.”
He commiserated with the immediate families of the deceased and the entire Muslim community and prayed to Allah to forgive them and grant them eternal rest.
The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) said it was in utter disbelief that the military would act in such a manner knowing fully that before any operation is carried out due diligence is usually done, backed with irrefutable intelligence.
The Secretary-General, JNI, Professor Khalid Abubakar Aliyu in a statement expressed condemnation and called for a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the devastating and most unfortunate event.
The National Chairman, Council of Ulama, Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Ikamatis Sunnah (JIBWIS), Sheikh Sani Yahaya Jingir, called on the military and the federal government to fully investigate the incident, saying that the killing of innocent Nigerians, by the military was unacceptable and should not be allowed to go scot-free.
The cleric who made the statement Tuesday during a press briefing at his residence in Jos, emphasised that Allah would hold all those who were responsible for the incident accountable.
On its part, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has urged the federal government to adequately compensate the victims of the army bombing. The ACF National Publicity Secretary, Professor Tukur Muhammad-Baba in a statement noted that such incidents of accidental or inadvertent military actions have happened in other communities in the past, with tragic consequences on civilians.
“Communities in the northern states have enough problems with banditry to have to again worry about becoming hapless victims of the misbegotten strategies of those who should be helping to wipe out the scourge of banditry and terrorism,” he said.
Similarly, the President General of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Comrade Shettima Yerima commiserated with victims and their families and called for a thorough investigation saying, “The perpetrators of this so-called mistake must be made to explain beyond reasonable doubts how people carrying out religious activities could be mistaken for terrorists.”
Former Vice President and 2023 Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has called on the Federal Government to investigate the bombing of civilians at Tudun Biri.
Atiku made this call via his X handle on Tuesday while commiserating with the victims and families of the attack.
“Ironically, the victims of this unfortunate incident were celebrating the Maulud anniversary. The incidence of miscalculated air strikes is assuming a worrisome dimension in the country. We need to develop counterinsurgency strategies that will insulate the civilian population from tragic incidents of this nature.
“I call on the authorities to launch a thorough investigation into this tragedy to avert future occurrences.”
The presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, said, “This incidence of ‘mistaken’ air strike is another gory episode of security agencies leaving unintended harm to the poor masses they should protect in the country.
“The concerned authorities need to approach this with all sincerity and determination to ensuring justice is done, and any future occurrence is avoided.
“Consequently, I join other well-meaning individuals in calling on the government to adequately compensate the bereaved inhabitants of Tudun Biri for the immense trauma they have endured.”
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the last general elections, Peter Obi on his X handle said, “While our military continues to fight impressively against insecurity in many parts of the country, they must exercise utmost caution and professionalism to avoid this kind of embarrassment to both the military and the country.
“Any incident that leads to harm or loss of lives of the innocent people they are meant to protect should be avoided. Though the mishap is one too many, the security agencies should work with reliable human intelligence reports on the ground before any offensive attack to avoid innocent casualties as has been reported in this case,” Obi said.
Emirs Sanusi, Bamalli call for calm
The 14th Emir of Kano and Grand-Khalifa of Tijjaniyya, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has called on the adherents of the movement to maintain calm and restraint over the tragedy.
Sanusi, who addressed the sect’s followers in a short video widely shared online, condoled the families of the victims and prayed for the convalescence of the injured.
He added that since the Kaduna State government had ordered for discreet investigation into the matter and the military claimed responsibility for the bomb attack, there was a need for calm and support from the government to unravel what led to the unfortunate incident.
On his part, the Emir of Zazzau, Mallam Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli has sued for calm while applauding the swift intervention of the Kaduna State government after the drone attack. Bamalli who is also the Chairman, Council of Emirs and Chiefs in the state made this known in a voice message sent through the emirate’s Media and Publicity Officer, Abdullahi Aliyu Kwarbai.
While commiserating with the families of those who lost their loved ones and those who sustained various degrees of injuries in the unfortunate attack, the Emir urged the community members to remain calm and be law-abiding.
Govt officials visit bereaved families
A delegation of the state government led by Deputy Governor Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe visited the affected village and condoled with the families of the victims.
It comprised the State Police Commissioner, the DSS Director, and leaders of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Fityanul Islam, and Council of Shari’a in Nigeria, among others.
Dr Balarabe said the government had already ordered an investigation into the incident with a committee charged to get a comprehensive list of those who lost their lives and those injured in the incident for possible compensation.
The District Head of Rigasa, Architect Aminu Idris reiterated the importance of support for the victims. He also appealed to the villagers to see what happened as the will of Allah and pray that such never happened again.
It was unintended – Army Chief
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreeq Lagbaja, stated on Tuesday that the airstrike resulting in the death of over 80 villagers in Kaduna’s Tudun Biri village was unintentional.
He said that the military was conducting operations in the area, leading to the unfortunate incident.
Lieutenant General Lagbaja said this during a brief conversation with the State Chairman of Jama’atul Nasril Islam, Professor Shafi’u Abdullahi, and other scholars in the state, shortly after returning from the affected village.
“The incident was not intended; it was one of those unfortunate things. When I was GOC here, we used to carry out operations in the Riyawa and Rima areas. So it was not intended. We pray to Allah to grant them rest, and we share in your grief,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lagbaja had visited the victims of the drone attack to tender the army’s unreserved apology. The army chief also donated N10 million to the injured survivors of the accident for their upkeep, as he paid them a visit at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital Kaduna.
He disclosed that an inquiry has been set up saying, “The inquiry committee will ensure a holistic view and recommendations that will be worthwhile going forward.”
Tinubu orders probe
On his part, President Tinubu has directed a thorough and full-fledged investigation into the bombing.
The president, in a statement on Tuesday by his spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, called for calm while the authorities looked “diligently” into the mishap.
He sympathised with the families of the victims, the people and the government of Kaduna State over the incident. The president also directed swift and comprehensive medical attention for surviving victims while praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased.
Attack product of recklessness
In a statement yesterday, Amnesty International “Strongly condemns air strikes by the Nigerian Army launched on Tudun Biri village in Igabi LGA of Kaduna State.
“Over 120 civilians have been killed and dozens injured. Launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone’s standard.
“The air strike on the village community while holding a religious gathering on Sunday 3 Dec. 2023 must be investigated. Such reckless use of deadly force is unlawful and lays bare the Nigerian military’s shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect.
“The air strikes on Tudun Biri village are an unlawful and excessive force on a catastrophic scale. It is yet another tragic example where Nigeria’s Armed Forces are found applying deadly military tactics to law enforcement situations.”
We lost our breadwinners –housewives
However, survivors of Tudun Biri village have continued to narrate their ordeals. Many housewives in the village said almost all members of the village and neighbouring areas lost their loved ones in the blast that occurred on Sunday night.
Daily Trust gathered that the victims, mostly women, children and adults have been buried in a mass grave in Tudun-Biri while others were buried at Sabon Layi, Wasara and Gara communities.
Rahinatu Zubairu, a housewife in tears, said she couldn’t believe what happened to her family because her brother lost 12 members of his family, including his wives.
“It was a serious incident that befell our family. My brother and his infant baby are the only surviving members of his family of 14. This is a calamity,” she said. According to her, some people lost daughters, husbands, and sons in the attack.
She said at their neighbouring villages, Wasara and Sabon Layi, she knew families that lost loved ones. She appealed to the government to come to their aid because all their breadwinners had been killed.
Another older woman, Aisha Hussaini, said two of her sons and her husband were killed that night.
“How can I live with this? I’m from Katsina State; it was marriage that brought me to this community. I have two boys; one of them has a wife. He died in the blast alongside his younger brother and father.
Another woman, Aisha Tudun Biri, described the incident as devastating, adding that it was a big loss to the communities affected, particularly Tudun – Biri who buried about 80 of their community members apart from those who died in neighbouring communities.
Idris Dahiru said he lost 34 of his family members in the aerial bombardment while many were receiving treatment.
By Maryam Ahmadu Suka & Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna), Abubakar S. Moh’d (Zaria), Ahmed Mohammed (Bauchi), Muideen Olaniyi, Abbas Jimoh & Dalhatu Liman (Abuja)