Islamic Scholar Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, based in Kaduna State, asserted that the recent bombing in Tudun Biri of Igabi Local Government Area, which resulted in over 120 casualties, was intentional and not a mistake by the Nigerian Army.
The tragic incident occurred on Sunday night during a celebration of Maulud, claiming the lives of innocent citizens, including women and children, with over 60 others sustaining injuries in Igabi Local Government area.
Expressing his views during his weekly lecture at the Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna, Sheikh Gumi criticized the military for targeting non-combatants, emphasizing that it was incorrect to aim at women, children, and the elderly during wartime. He questioned the military’s decision to assume they were families of terrorists.
Highlighting the questionable circumstances, Sheikh Gumi raised concerns about the first bomb and the subsequent one that targeted those evacuating the bodies 30 minutes after, challenging the narrative that it was a mistake.
He emphasized that some of the military’s actions in the forest had been exposed by God, indicating that innocent villagers have become victims of security bombardments in the region, a concern he claims to have been voicing without much attention.
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.”
Military Tensions Rise Amidst Drone Operation Fallout
Tensions are escalating within the Nigerian Army and Nigeria Air Force over the recent drone bombing in Tudun Biri, sparking dissatisfaction and concerns about the lack of synergy between the two forces.
Sources indicate that the air force is displeased with the army’s decision to deploy its unmanned drone, leading to the tragic incident. The Nigerian Army has acknowledged responsibility, attributing the airstrikes to inadvertence and the targeting of terrorists.
While the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoheed Lagbaja, visited the scene to express condolences and support the victims, there’s growing discontent among air troops attached to various operations. These troops argue that the army’s attempt to incorporate air operations signals a “lack of trust.”
In September 2023, the Nigerian Army reinstated its aviation unit, intending to procure 12 attack helicopters. Despite the initiative to enhance ground troops’ capabilities, the recent incident has intensified tensions between the army and air force.
The Nigeria Air Force swiftly distanced itself from the Kaduna massacre, emphasizing that its officers hadn’t conducted operations in the last 24 hours. Frustrated air force officers argue that they possess superior training and equipment for precise air operations compared to other military services.
Some air force officers stress the need for collaboration, emphasizing the distinct roles of each service. On the other hand, army officers defend their capability to handle drones, asserting that occasional mistakes don’t diminish their overall proficiency.
Insiders reveal that the tragedy in Tudun Biri might have been avoided if army officials had heeded warnings from air force counterparts who cautioned against targeting a gathering that didn’t appear to involve terrorists.
As tensions rise, the fallout from the drone operation underscores the imperative for improved coordination and communication between the Nigerian Army and Nigeria Air Force in joint operations across various theaters.
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 well taken 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 Offers Support to Mitigate Accidental Bombings in Nigeria
The United States has expressed its willingness to assist the Nigerian Military in minimizing accidental bombing incidents. The offer involves deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance the military’s capabilities, with the aim of preventing violations of international humanitarian law.
Paul Dean, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence, and Stability, conveyed this commitment during a roundtable media chat in Abuja. He extended condolences for recent tragedies and highlighted the potential benefits of AI in military operations.
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 stressed the importance of responsible AI adoption, making operations predictable, transparent, stable, and responsible. He mentioned ongoing initiatives aimed at maximizing the advantages of AI while reducing the risks associated with irresponsible use.
By collaborating with the Nigerian government, the United States aims to address the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the country, reinforcing the potential of technology to bring about positive outcomes in military endeavors.