By Abiodun OBA
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Christopher Gwabim Musa, has said that the unfortunate drone bombing of Tudun Bri village in Kaduna State that led to the killing of over 80 civilians and injuries to over 70 others, was never deliberate.
Gen Musa, however, appealed to Nigerians to wait for the outcome of investigations into the unfortunate incident before asking about whether anybody will be punished or not.
He noted that an important aspect of the investigation will be how to prevent such errors from ever happening again and killing innocent civilians.
His words, “On a daily basis, members of the security forces are dying on the frontlines. I want Nigerians to appreciate the people that are there day and night standing up so that we can sleep.”
“Our task and mandate are to protect civilians, not to kill or maim them. Unfortunately, we were chasing some bandits in that general area, and this error happened. As for the officers who committed this error, if they are found wanting, they will face punishment.
“But one important aspect of the investigation that we would be looking forward to is how to ensure that such errors do not happen again and prevent the bombing of innocent civilians.”
Responding to a question, Gen Musa disclosed, “That general area where the unfortunate incident occurred, is where terrorists move and operate all the time. That is the general area from which the Kaduna airport was attacked. That is the general area from where the Nigerian Defence Academy was attacked. A few days before the error bombing, some soldiers were killed in that general area.
“The drones were following the movement of the terrorists. Unfortunately, the error bombing happened. It was never deliberate. It was in the act of trying to clear the terrorists. But we will ensure it never happens again.
On the fight against terrorism, the CDS said he is surprised when some people express the opinion that people don’t want the war to end, saying, “Nobody is benefiting from dying. I am losing men every day, and I have nightmares. The worst thing for a commander is to go and tell a family that their breadwinner is killed.
“Nigerians should stop thinking the war against terrorism, banditry, oil theft, kidnapping is a military war. No, it is a Nigerian project. If all Nigerians say tomorrow, we will not support terrorism, it will stop. Our challenges are man-made. They are not natural disasters. But insecurity is going down. If we want it to end, Nigerians must take ownership of it.”
On allegations that military personnel were compromising in crude oil theft, the CDS said, “The armed forces have been doing a lot in the fight against oil theft in the South-South against militancy, cultism, and kidnapping for ransom, which are all intertwined in that zone.
“It seems everybody and communities are part and parcel of this oil bunkering, with pipes passing through communities, and the communities are protecting the oil bunkers. But that is not an excuse. If any of our personnel is complicit and is caught, he will face appropriate sanctions.
“Our efforts have resulted in a drastic increase in oil production for the country and revenue. In the past, when we arrested the vessels and the products of illegal bunkering and siphoning, we handed them to the appropriate authorities for prosecution, but before you knew it, the next day, they were released.
“The government has now come out with the policy that such instruments of economic sabotage should be destroyed. It may affect the environment, but it has reduced the incidents of oil bunkering, and the nation is better for it.
Regarding the South East, the CDS expressed worry that some people in the region are contributing money to sustain the terrorist activities of IPOB and ESN to kill their people.
“The guys are not human beings. They are cannibals. We have seen them. They eat human flesh. Ekpa is somewhere, with the support of some countries, causing the killing of innocent people and the destruction of the region. But we have put security measures in place to ensure that the yuletide period is peaceful”.