By Faith Berewa
The VIP visits have stopped. The news cameras are gone. But for the families and the community of Tudun Biri in Igabi Local Government of Kaduna state still reeling from the deadly military strike that left about 120 dead and many injured, the grief is still raw. Whole families virtually wiped out. Many still shell-shocked. It’s about six weeks now since the incident happened and like all news stories, the tragedy is all but stale.
The tragedy should not be confined to pages of history, a number among the many ‘mistaken’ strikes by our military. An institution that was supposed to protect turned into a deadly arsenal. A gathering that was meant to be a celebration, left in its wake, death, devastation, anguish. The Nigerian Army claimed responsibility for the tragic event, with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja during a visit to the community, described it as “a very disheartening occurrence and tendering the sincere regrets and unreserved apologies on behalf of the Nigerian army.” According to the COAS, Troops were carrying out aerial patrols when they observed a group of people and wrongly analyzed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits before the drone strike.
Kaduna State is one place that has borne the brutal force of the activities of bandits and terrorists despite its playing host to numerous military and security institutions such as the Nigerian Defence academy, Headquarters 1 Division Nigerian Army, Defence Industries Corporation. Nigerian Air Force Training Command HQ, Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, Nigerian Military School, Zaria, Nigeran Army School of infantry Jaji, Airforce Institute of Technology, Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria, Nigerian Army School of Artillery, Kachia, Police College and so forth.
Lest we forget, the abduction of students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in 2021, took place within sniffing distance of the Nigerian Defense Academy, HQ NAF Training Command, NAF Base, Airforce Institute of Technology, HQ 1 division Nigerian Army.
Sadly, the Tudun Biri tragedy is not the first of such tragic incidences. According to Rights Groups, over 400 innocent people, mainly women and children have been killed by airstrikes that security forces claims were Lintended for bandits or terrorists in the last seven years. Some of these fatal incidences include; an airstrike by the Nigerian Air Force on 18 December 2022 that killed 64 people in Zamfara state. In early 2023, 47 herders and truck boys were killed in Doma local government of Nassarawa State. Dozens of vigilantes were killed by another military airstrike in Galadinma Kogo, Niger state in January 2023.
In 2017, about 115 civilians were killed and many injured in a devastating air strike on an IDP camp in Rann village, Bornu State. The tudun biri drone strike is the deadliest since that of Rann. This incidence has become one too many. This tragedy is a big stain on the professionalism of the Nigerian military, and calls to question its operational strategy, the intelligence gathering mechanism and synergy among the various security agencies.
Something is fundamentally flawed in the approach and methods employed in the fight against insecurity, given the fact that our security agencies have not being able to deal with the hydra headed insecurity issues in the land. The Tudun Biri drone strike galvanized northern citizens, political class, elites, groups, various State Governments, showing support to the community and expressing outrage and, rightly so, with some using the calamity to play the ethnic and religious card.
The North’s righteous indignation at the devastating occurrence must not stop at anger, condemnation, condolence visits, investigations and compensations. The sad avoidable incidence and its attendant reactions should serve as a catalyst by the north to demand, push and deliberately work for an end to insecurity ravaging the region. The northern voices should be louder and clearer about one thing; enough of terrorism in a region that has crippled its socio-economic life. The north should ask; why is insecurity intractable? Why has our region been brought to its knees by non-state actors? Enough of our schools being raided and our students abducted and deprived of education. Enough of our citizens living as internally displaced in inhabitable conditions in our own land, enough of northerners subjected to sub-human conditions. There must be an end to killings, kidnappings, devastation in our region.
Meanwhile… in a press release by the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff “has ordered a thorough inquiry into the incident to ascertain and identify areas of deficiency that led to the disaster, adding that the findings and overarching outcome of the investigations will guide the Nigerian Army in meticulously and professionally seeking and applying lasting solutions to identified lapses and deficiencies in both the human and artificial intelligence variables that will forestall future occurrence.”
Let’s hope this will be the last.
One Too Many….
I have refrained from criticizing the Nigerian military, for I have gratitude, deep respect, admiration for the Nigerian military. I take pride in what the Nigerian Armed Forces have done in keeping the peace and restoring democracy in far flung places such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Gambia.
I have written about it before. It is beyond belief the Nigerian military has not been able to come to grips with the pervading insecurity, causing national shame and embarrassment to an institution I hold so dearly. It is inconceivable that our highly trained men and women has not been able to crush hold- outs in the bush terrorizing citizens.
The Christmas eve barbaric massacre of innocent civilians in Plateau state more than meets the eye. For over two decades now Plateau State has become a tinderbox of violence expressed through savagery ,conflict, murder.
It is unacceptable that innocent Nigerians would be slaughtered as if we do not have a government whose primary duty is security of citizens. How can hundreds be massacred systematically without the security agencies coming to their defense? How can whole communities in three local governments be attacked and inhabitants gruesomely hacked to death?
With the huge resources at the disposal of our security agencies over the years, insecurity has not reduced. Citizens are left at the mercy of savages.
The north has become a killing field where bandits, kidnappers and terrorists hold sway. Death, destruction, carnage in Zamfara, in Katsina, Kogi, in Southern Kaduna, in Birnin Gwari, in Taraba, in Niger, in Benue, in Bornu, in Nasarawa, Sokoto, in Yobe… Even the Seat of Government is not spared.…
The verdict? The government and our security agencies have failed, woefully.
The usual official line of expression of anger, shock, condemnation and limp Order to security agencies to go after the criminals not enough.
I have refrained from criticizing the military considering their sacrifices in defending and keeping the nation safe. But this is not acceptable. I want to echo the Sultan, who served in the military and knows the workings of the military, “why can’t we be proactive and stop such attacks before they happen? What happened to our intelligence gathering mechanism? Can anyone tell me nobody knew such attacks were coming up….?” There are reports of the attackers sending warnings to d communities.
Yet, no preemptive action taken by our security agencies to stop the carnage.
And, That Chief of Defence Staff interview…
The Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa’s interview on Channels TV regarding the Plateau massacre is very telling …
My takeaways from the interview.
1) “The area where this thing happened is not a small area….and we cannot be everywhere….”
One will ask, how did the terrorists get there and in such numbers? Plateau State sits on a mine bomb of violence, hostilities, atrocities, conflict over the last two decades, so our security agencies ought to be alert to any attacks.
Also, with the number of people murdered and the scale and scope of the horrendous attacks, it is utterly implausible that such gruesome attacks will take place without any inkling by our intelligence and security agencies.
2) The CDS spoke on “leveraging a lot on getting technology, getting helicopters…. getting those enablers that will enable us respond as quickly as possible….”
Am not getting it… our military is playing catch-up. As the sultan stated, bandits and terrorists are always a step ahead. Sure, our military should modernize and be equipped with weapons and arsenal to crush these evil forces; but, a decade and half later, with billions of dollars spent on fighting insurgency and terrorism, we are still talking about … “getting” whatever. The CDS statement is no consolation.
3) Thirdly, and the most telling and pivotal in the interview was this statement…. “The truth about it is that challenges we are facing are political challenges…decisions need to be taken…. directives are issued and we work on the directives… What we are facing is a political decision, not a military decision on what to be done…”
My fellow Nigerians, This IS it!!! This is the reason why we are where we are in the fight against terrorism!
Let’s read between the lines; “don’t blame us if the security situation seems unassailable. Blame the political class, blame our political leaders. The principle of civilian supremacy over the military dictates all our actions. We abide by this doctrine.”
On that statement, our armed forces, has delivered a powerful message to our political leaders, at the local, state and especially to our President who is the Commander- in- Chief of the Armed forces. Mr. President Its time to do things differently. It’s time to take the gauntlet by the horn. The soul of the Federal Republic is at stake. The killings, insurgency, anarchy has to stop. You are the Commander- in- Chief. The powers to secure the country lies within you. The buck stops at your table. You can put a stop to this madness. Mr. President sir, you know you can.