Nigeria’s Probe of Drone Strike Not a Guarantee of Accountability

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday ordered security agencies and state authorities to investigate a bombing that reportedly killed at least 120 Muslim worshippers in northern Kaduna state on Sunday.

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency announced that 85 people died in the bombing, mostly women and children, and said 66 others were seriously injured. Amnesty International said at least 120 people were killed, citing reports from field staff and local residents.

In his statement, Tinubu described the bombing as unfortunate, disturbing and painful. He called for calm and said survivors must receive proper medical attention.

The Nigerian military said a drone on routine patrol wrongly profiled and bombed local villagers in Tundun Biri while they were gathered to celebrate Maulud — the birthday of the Muslim Prophet Muhammed.

Nigerian forces often target the hideouts of armed groups with aerial bombardment.

Jabir Ibrahim, whose farm is near the site of the drone attack, said the government is making empty promises with its call for an investigation.

“Nothing will happen. It’s just noise,” he said. “The government will just go there, make noise and say unnecessary and useless things, and leave after two days. Nothing more. They’re just saying it for people to calm down.”

The Nigerian military also has ordered an investigation and promised the outcome will guide future operations to eliminate gaps in human and artificial intelligence.

Authorities also promised to compensate families.

But rights group Amnesty International says authorities have reneged on past promises made to families of errant military bombing.

“It’s becoming an impunity on the part of government not to hold those who do this accountable,” said Aminu Hayatu, Amnesty International’s conflict researcher. “And in the end, we will not hear the story again. The families of those who become victims of these airstrikes are not compensated in any way. It is really worrisome.”

Hayatu insisted that the government be held accountable this time.

“The civilians who have become victims are supposed to be protected by government,” she said. “We have consistently called on government to be accountable and transparent in the investigations — who is behind the airstrikes and what judicial procedures they will be subjected to.”

Nigeria is struggling to quell a 14-year-long insurgency in its northeast, as well as kidnap-for-ransom attacks by armed groups in the northwest and central states.

In January, 39 civilians were erroneously bombed in Nasarawa state near the capital, and authorities promised to investigate. But rights groups like Amnesty International are still demanding accountability for that strike and others.

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