President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has vowed that any person found wanting in the drone bombing that killed over 100 people at Tudun Biri village of Kaduna State will be punished accordingly.
The president, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, shortly after visiting the victims at Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital to condole them over the unfortunate incident, also gave assurance that all the victims will be cared for under the FULAKO Initiative which will commence this month.
The FULAKO Initiative is the President’s unique response as a non-kinetic solution to the challenges in the North West.
Shettima said the community will be the first to be rebuilt under the new initiative, adding that the federal government remains committed to the fight against banditry across the region.
“The President Bola Ahmed Tinubu sent us to commiserate 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 are averted. Government will go to the root of the issue and anyone found culpable will be punished accordingly,” he said.
According to him, the president is deeply concerned and deeply touched by what happened.
“Like the late Dele Giwa rightly said, ‘you don’t talk about the numbers, one life lost in cold blood is as gruesome as a million lost’. The heart of the president is with the bereaved families.
“The president called me more than 17 times on this matter when he was outside the country. As directed by Mr President, an investigation is being conducted with a view to preventing recurrence of the incident and we expect the report to be submitted very soon,” Shettima stated.
The vice president expressed gratitude to religious and community leaders who served as stabilising forces in this trying moment, adding that some persons tried to make political capital out of the incident but that the community and religious leaders “chose to act in the path of decency, on the path of moderation, on the path of maturity and we cannot but thank them profusely.”
He went on: “Most importantly, the president has approved the commencement of the FULAKO Initiative by next month. Beneficiary states are Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, and for the purpose of equity and justice, we deliberately included Niger and Benue States.
“Now, the president has directed that the FULAKO Initiative should be kick-started here in Kaduna State, and Tudun Biri will be the first benefitting community.
“Under the initiative, we are going to build houses, clinics, schools, veterinary hospitals, empowerment initiatives, solar energy and so on. It is a complete package of solutions; non-kinetic responses to the problems of banditry and kidnapping in the North West.
“I can assure you that the President means well for the North. The president means well for the nation,” Shettima said.
Vice President Shettima commended the governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, for bringing the religious leaders together under one umbrella, saying that it goes to prove the saying that what bound the people of the two main faiths were more than what divides them,
The vice president was accompanied by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas; minister of defence, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and the All Progressives Congress’ national chairman, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, among other government officials.
Defence Headquarters Confirms 81 Dead, 70 Injured
Also yesterday, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said 81 civilians were killed and 70 others injured and receiving treatment following the bombing.
The director of defence media operations, Major General Edward Buba, said the figures were obtained from the leader of the community and the doctor where the injured victims are being treated.
Addressing journalists at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja yesterday Maj. Gen. Buba stated that 81 persons were buried.
He said troops within the week under review killed 80 terrorists, arrested 304 terrorists and rescued 44 hostages.
Also, the troops arrested 152 suspected oil thieves and seized stolen products worth N347,173,500.
He said, “ As for those who received treatment in the hospital, I recall the interview with the doctor and he said 71 after which one person died, making it 70. So, we can say 81 killed and 70 receiving treatment.”
The director also denied claims that the lack of synergy between the services in the military led to the mishap in Kaduna State.
According to him, a strong synergy exists between the Nigerian Navy, Air Force and Army.
“Our operations in the country are joint, meaning that we are operating in a joint environment where you have the army, the Navy, and the Air Force. When we talk of cooperation, we have not had it better than this,” he said.
Buba said the military had learnt from the incident and was working towards improving its operational capabilities to avert such situations in the future, just as he condemned attempts to give the mishap a religious and ethnic coloration.
He said, “The Armed Forces of Nigeria is a professional force. And within our ranks and files, we have members from every part of this country. At this time, when we are at war, it is not just the military that is at war. The whole country is at war.”
Artificial Intelligence Will Check Civilian Casualties – US Army
The United States Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence and Stability has said the deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help the Nigerian military to reduce the incidence of accidental bombing to the barest minimum.
This is because AI technology would differentiate between civilian populace and armed terrorists.
The principal deputy assistant secretary, Paul Dean, disclosed this during a meeting with select journalists in Abuja yesterday.
The centre said that the adoption of AI by the Nigerian military will not only improve its capabilities but will prevent the military from running foul of international humanitarian law.
He said, “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.”
“AI, I think, will be of enormous value to global stability. We want to encourage the positive applications of artificial intelligence in the military.
“We are convinced that when states commit themselves to using this technology in a predictable, transparent, stable, and responsible way, the international community will be in the position of maximizing the advantages while reducing the risks of an irresponsible approach.”
Dean also said his organisation was willing to partner with the federal government to curb the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the country.
Northern Elders Want GOC Redeployed
Meanwhile, the apex northern sociocultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has commended the visit of the chief of army staff (COAS) to the scene and victims of the Sunday bombing incident at Tudun Biri; it, however, rejected the response of the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) to the subject matter.
ACF said it was constrained to recommend that the General Officer Commanding of 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, along with his immediate subordinate officers, be redeployed to allow for unfettered investigations.
ACF, in the statement signed by the national publicity secretary, Prof. T. A. Muhammad-Baba, said it warmly welcomed the visit of the minister of state (Defence) along with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and other top government officials to the Tudun Biri community, on December 6, 2023, where the delegation also attended the funeral rites of some of the 126 victims of the incident.
It posited that the visit was very appropriate and gave the federal government as well as the Nigerian Army the needed human face.
“ACF considers the visit a welcome departure from earlier rather insipid response to the incident by officers of 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna.
“The COAS had announced a donation of N10 million to the community which ACF considers as grossly inadequate, firmly believing that it is the federal government, not the Nigerian Army, that should take responsibility for full compensation for deaths and injuries to victims arising from the incident.
“Still, ACF urges the army chief, as a sign of good faith, to follow up with additional steps to ameliorate the pains and suffering of the community. The plaintive Tudun Biri community must not be left alone in its recovery process.
The ACF described the statement of the Defence Headquarters of the Armed Forces, released on 5th December 2023, as inappropriate
“Without necessarily wishing to join issues with Defence Headquarters, the statement, as credited to the director of defence media operations, left much to be desired in its choice of words and even outrightly contemptuous,” it said.
Ex-Defence Chief, Gen. Agwai, Calls For Caution
Meanwhile, a former chief of defence staff, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (retd) has called for caution as Nigerians continue to trade blames over the accidental bombing of innocent civilians in Tudun Biri village.
Speaking at the graduation lecture of the Executive Intelligence Management Course (EMIC), 16, National Institute for Security Studies (NISS), Abuja, an education arm of the Department of State Services (DSS), Gen. Agwai said all life matters and he totally condemns the killing of innocent lives in Kaduna.
He said, “However, we should condemn with caution in order not to demoralise the military in operations. We admit that there are mistakes in operations and this is why we call for caution so that the military will not be demoralised.”
Gen Agwai, who is the guest lecturer of the event, also said if the criticism is not properly handled, the military could become afraid of carrying out operations for fear of mistakes and this will not be good for the country in the fight against insecurity.