Tragedy of the Tudun Biri 126


It is indeed a tragedy, the bombing of Maulud celebrators in the village of Tudun Biri, Igabi local government area of Kaduna state, as is the deliberate bombing of innocent Palestinians in Gaza; babies roasted in hospitals, with innocent civilians mostly; killed and maimed, and not the militant Hamas or any other violent group. 

Ordinary were people killed in their thousands by intended weapons, meant to annihilate human life without remorse, be that human life violent or not, young or old, militant or not. Humanity has lost its face, its meaning, and it definitely is demeaning these days to be called human, when co-travellers like you, are in the business of massacre, genocide and destruction of the very being that is revered as the most precious gift of nature.

I have come across an admission by a public servant, excusing himself from commenting on the ‘accidental discharge of the decade’ in Kaduna state, citing his office as a reason not to publicly denounce or protest the massacre. He chooses to use other channels to communicate as a system person. I probably agree with that, even if not wholly, but perhaps partly. 

Well hey..guess what? as a public affairs analyst or commentator, and luckily one who is not shielded or encumbered by his office from commenting on the evils of our society, accidental or not, I am at liberty to give it a go. This time, the ‘go at’, is directed at a very cherished and respected institution, the Nigerian military, which is definitely the most patriotic government establishment ever, with the most committed Nigerians risking their lives for God, country and us – the ordinary citizenry.

In ‘NAF @ 56: the reinvention of one of Africa’s finest forces’, on May 19, 2020, I celebrated the exploits of the Nigerian Airforce thus: the latest onslaught on the terrorists of North-East Nigeria has been a huge success with the launch of over 1700 combat hours by the Air Task Force (ATF), of Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD). The ATF hit 33 targets of the Boko Haram camps. 

This was done via 889 air interdictions, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Battle Damage Assessment (BDA), Close Air Support as well as Tactical Airlift Missions. The Chief if Air Staff Air Marshall Sadique had in the last one year procured and inducted 22 brand new aircraft (fighter jets and helicopter gunships), with 17 additional being expected including 12 brand new Super Tucanos and J-17 Thunder Jets. 

On May 22, 2021, in ‘Lt. Gen. Attahiru: adieu to the chief of counter-insurgency’, I also waxed thus: the last 48 hrs has been a mish-mash of the most incredibly good news; the fall of Shekau the dreaded Boko Haram warlord in the hands of ISWAP; and then the bizarre news of the loss of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Attahiru in a plane crash in Kaduna. He was the Theatre Commander of the Boko Haram counter-insurgency unit tagged Operation Lafiya Dole in 2017. He was a very gallant commander whose exploits at the time were well documented. 

He had a tour of duty with the United Nations in Sierra Leone as a military observer. He was company commander in NIBATT 19 ECOMOG operations in Liberia. He had the unique privilege of having commanded with distinction all through the chain of command of the Nigerian Army. Prominent among those appointments are commanding officer 146 battalion Nigerian Army (operation harmony IV) in the Bakassi Peninsula, Commander 13 Brigade Nigerian Army (Operation Pulo Shield), General Officer Commanding 82 Division Nigerian Army; to touch from a long list of career posts of meritorious service.

My love, admiration and respect for the Nigerian Army, as well as my position as one of their ardent cheer-leaders does not stop me from protesting or detesting such fatal error that led to the dropping of bombs on 126 civilians, killing them in a raid that was clearly not well worked out. The tactics, surveillance, Intel and other components of a successful aerial raid were just not right. The army has since taken responsibility which is the first step to redressing this very bad incident, to put it very lightly. 

This incident brings to question whether air battle should be left to the Nigerian Airforce, especially with raids of this kind of proportion. The Nigerian Army had been recently equipped with a few fighter-craft which may be the norm across the world today. However, this should be limited to certain levels of operation which do not interlope into the jurisdiction and operations of the NAF, which has gone through a lot of advancement in its reconnaissance operations. 

First and foremost is to pay compensation, quickly and urgently, to families of the slain people of Tudun Biri. This very ‘comatose economy’ has growing unrest among the populace and such an unfortunate incident can be a wildfire if not properly ameliorated via due and timely compensation. Not even the magic wand of good governance as solution to insecurity, according to the Chief of Defence Staff, can have any meaningful impact if errors and mistakes like this from the Nigerian Army persist. 

There has to be a thorough investigation of the incident. There must be an evaluation of tactics deployed, personnel involved and information exhausted in the operation that mistakenly bombed 126 innocent civilians. People are incensed and are insinuating all sorts of sabotage in the operation. The army must come clean in its inquiry to get to the bottom of the error. The culprits in the error must be punished. It is foolhardy to think that an army would deliberately bombard its innocent citizens. 

But people are very wary of the actions of public officers these days where inhumanity is running human lives aground, either directly or indirectly. The citizenry must be cautious in its reactions as the army commits to a process where the truth of what happened is revealed and dealt with. The army needs the cooperation of the communities they operate in, to bring an end to terrorism. To build on this confidence, the loss of the 126 lives must be atoned for. May their souls rest in peace, never to haunt the nation over their unfortunate demise. Amen.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi. 

UNI Agric Markurdi
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