On the night of December 3, 2023, Nigerian military drones “mistakenly” attacked a village called Tundun Biri in Kaduna State. This horrible incident in which the Nigerian Army bombed civilians isn’t the biggest news in the country right now. But it should be, so we took it upon ourselves to compile everything to know about it.
An Eid-el-Maulud celebration
It all started when locals of Tundun Biri village came together to celebrate the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) North-West Zonal Office, the bombing started around 9 p.m. Observers recounted that the first bomb ended over 30 lives on the spot. As people raced to help the injured and dead, a jet dropped another bomb.
The death count
As of December 5, NEMA has the official death count at 85, with 66 injured and receiving treatment at the Barau Dikko Hospital. However, an anonymous officer revealed that the army received at least 126 dead civilian bodies.
President Bola Tinubu is currently at the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai, but he conveyed his condolences through his spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, condemning the drone attack. He also called for a thorough investigation into the “bombing mishap”.
The Nigerian Army’s response
The General Officer, Commanding 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Valentine Okoro, admitted that the attack came from the Nigerian Army. As the commander of the division that caused the mishap, Okoro gave a statement to Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna’s Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs. Apparently, it was an error made while the drone operators were on a routine mission against terrorists. The Army spokesman, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, said the aerial patrol troops mistook the celebration for terrorist activities.
On December 5, the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, visited the village to commiserate with the families of the deceased and apologise to the village. He also promised to cover the hospital bills. But who will answer for the bombing of these innocent people?
CAN, Amnesty International and other NGOs
The Kaduna chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Amnesty International, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), among other non-govermental organisations, have condemned the military’s mishit. The chairman of the CAN Kaduna chapter, Reverend John Hayab, said they’ll continue to pray for the government, while the AYCF National President, Shettima Yerima, charged the government to launch an investigation.
Not the first bombing mishaps
In 2023, there have been three bombing mishap cases. The first happened in Niger State on January 24. The second killed over 40 herders in Nasarawa State two days later. According to research, at least 425 Nigerians have perished due to military “error” bombing between 2017 and 2023.
The Nigerian Air Force denies involvement
Although the Nigerian Air Force is behind the first two cases of bombing civilians by mistake this year, it quickly disassociated itself from the Tundun Biri incident. On Monday, December 4, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) released a statement through its Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet. According to him, NAF had nothing to do with the attack and hadn’t operated in the state or its surroundings in a while. “The NAF is not the only organisation operating combat-armed drones in the Northwestern region of Nigeria.”
On December 7, protesters marched to the National Assembly and demanded the immediate resignation of Badaru Abubakar, the Minister of Defence. In Zaria Local Government Area, Kaduna State, a group of youths took to the streets to protest the brutal bombing.