A Microscopic Assesment of Kaduna Drone Attack: Intention, Reality and Way Forward By Olayemi Esan

On the night of December 3, there was a drone attack on own civilian in Kaduna state’s Tudun Biri village, while some residents in a queue were seen moving from one location to another, hence,  the Nigerian army troops were carrying out aeriel patrols when they observed these group of people and accidentally troops wrongly analyzed and misinterpreted their pattern of activities to be similar to that of the bandits. The military believed it was “targeting terrorists and bandits,” the Nigerian people have realized that the face of war is forever changed. No longer can we think of combat being fought solely on faraway shores.

A few years ago, a Nigerian Air Force Ch-3 combat drone made history when it was used to destroy a Boko Haram logistics base in Sambisa forest. Since then, Nigeria has steadily utilized unmanned systems in its fight against terrorism across the country. Three years ago,  the Nigerian Army launches UAV command, Nigerian Army on October 7, 2020 launched a UAV Command that will deliver responsive, persistent and precise UAV capabilities to achieve the NA’s mission. 

The Army in the year 2020 established its own UAV Command under a new ORBAT 2016 (Order of Battle). The command deliver responsive, persistent and precise UAV capabilities to achieve the NA’s mission. Also, the new UAV command is to raise, train and sustain a UAV force which will ensure task competency to deliver precise and timely Air Imagery Intelligence. Three Aerosonde 4.7 Fixed Wing UAS vehicles were delivered to Nigeria as part of a foreign military sale (FMS) contract approved by the US State Department. It would be recall that Nigerian Army DJI Phantom Drone the Nigerian army’s 32 Artillery Brigade of the Owena Barracks in Akure procured two DJI Phantom 4 commercial-grade drones for use in combating kidnapping and banditry in the region.

The Nigerian Army took delivery of the Chinese-made Ziyan UAS Blowfish, a miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in July this year during the Nigerian Army Day Celebration 2023 which is designed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The Nigerian Army has been using UAVs for a number of years now, but the Blowfish is another Chinese-made UAV operated by the military. The UAV is used for a variety of ISR missions, including monitoring the activities of terrorist groups, tracking illegal arms shipments, and providing early warning of potential attacks.  

The addition of the Blowfish to the Nigerian Army’s UAV fleet is a significant boost to the military’s capabilities. The UAV’s small size and long range make it ideal for operating in difficult terrain and in areas where there is a high risk of detection. The UAV’s sensors will also provide the military with valuable intelligence that can be used to plan and execute operations.  The deployment of the Blowfish is a sign of the Nigerian Army’s commitment to modernizing its equipment. The UAV is a versatile and capable platform that will be a valuable asset to the military.

Of a truth we cannot shy away from the fact, that bandits live among us and we must acknowledge that many of the Nigeria’ enemies are among us, even as others plot against us from afar. The community is infested with armed bandits, who terrorised the communities, until troops of the Nigerian Army started conducting operations to sanitize communities, local government areas and make it habitable. With this sobering reality in mind, it's important to pray for the courageous troops who are actively serving our country each day ­ not only at bases around the world, but also here within our borders. 

Like the tradition when a gravely mistake is done, security and public analysts would not shed their swords but critic and announced unguided judgement on National Television on our troops and the military leaders who daily place themselves in harm’s way in order to defend the way of life we hold dear, and they desperately need our prayer and support. 

A Public Policy Expert, Professor Usman Yusuf on Tuesday, queries the young operator of the drone,  had a chain of command that gave him authority. Didn't they have intelligence? He opined that the bombing Showed Incompetence From the Military but he ignorantly relayed his analysis with religion affiliation, Niger Republic Coup and ethnicity, and this balls down to his biased mindset on the unfortunate incident that took place on Sunday night. Despite his effort to change the narrative, Nigerians flagged their supports for our heroic men and women in our armed services who are securing our liberty both at home and abroad. Amongst these group is peace advocacy group, Women Action Alliance, Convener, Miriam Sanni, who said the military would not deliberately attack innocent citizens. Commiserating with the state government and the people over the incident, the group urged trouble-makers to desist from taking advantage of the situation.

Another group is Better Nigeria Network BNN, in Abuja at a press briefing commended the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, for visiting the communities to apologise and console victims. 

Rev John Hayab, Kaduna State Chairman of CAN said the Nigerian Army Taking Responsibility for their Error is a Sign of Change. "We received the news of the accidental bombing in Igabi LGA with sadness. However, we cannot argue with the professionalism of the Chief of Army Staff, we hold him in high esteem. When a man does good things consistently, when there is an error you'd know it wasn't deliberate."

Notably, less than 24 hours of the regrettable incident at Tudun Biri community in Kaduna state,  President Bola Ahmed Tinubu swiftly dispatched a high-level delegation led by the Honourable Minister of State for Defence, Dr Bello Matawalle, Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa, Chief of Army Staff,  Lt General Taoreed Lagbaja, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence,  Dr Ibrahim Abubakar Kana, the delegation met with Deputy Governor Dr Hadiza Balarabe, members of Kaduna state security committee, and religious leaders to express solidarity and empathy during this challenging time and convey heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Kaduna.

During the visit, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Taoreed Lagbaja who in an emotion laden speech expressed regrets on the unfortunate mishap, describing it as a very disheartening occurrence immediately donated a sum of ten million Naira (10million Naira) and several provisions for the upkeep of affected victims at the Barua Dikko Teaching Hospital Anguwan  Rimi, Kaduna.  The presidential delegation also visited the Kaduna Nursing Home to extend well-wishes to the wounded.

The Chief of Defence Staff,  CDS, General Christopher Gwabin Musa painstakingly explained in detail on Arise TV Newsnight programme. He said "Thank you very much. As you know we operate in a joint operations Jointness is what we operate on now and which means everybody has a role to play. The army has a role, the army aviation have been established. The Air Force has its own and the drones are also designed enablers for Modern Warfare and so the pilots are well trained and well prepared for the operation. 

"I just want to remind individuals that it is a war we're fighting and we make mistakes. As human beings we all make mistakes and this is just one of them. It was not deliberate. They were on after receiving and an information on the threat of attack within the general area and they followed up and they saw that some individuals moving similarly just like the terrorists also move and then they went to congregate under a tree just the way they used to do. I think from there they felt it was bandits so they reacted. 

"It was based on intelligence, but I think they just missed it and we just want to convey to Nigerians to understand that mistakes are human and it is highly regrettable and we will make amends, I will ensure that we look back and see where these mistakes came from, and then to be able to make sure that we get them properly and to avoid such mistakes. It is our duty to protect civilians, not to harm them, especially our own citizens."

Security experts, public Policy analysts, United Nations UN though condemned the accidental drone attack. The UN human rights office said it deplored the attack, noting that it was the latest of at least four airstrikes that have resulted in significant civilian fatalities since 2017.  “While we note that the authorities have termed the civilian deaths as accidental, we call on them to take all feasible steps in future to ensure civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected,” says UN Human Rights Office spokesperson, Seif Magango said in a statement.

Accidental attack does not happened only in Nigeria, in 2016, the U.S. military unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against ISIS. The incident threatened an already fragile U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that has largely held in the five-year-old Syria war​ despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides. In 199 the US military accidentally dropped a 500-pound bomb on Puerto Rico. The accident killed one civilian and injured four others when not one, but TWO jets flown by troops training to go to Kosovo misfired their 500-pound cargo. 

Drones have been part of warfare since the 19th century, arguably, when the Austrians used pilotless hot-air balloons to bomb Venice.  Development of pilotless flying machines such as those operated today began almost as soon as the Wright brothers demonstrated powered flight with the first remote control planes developed during the First World War.

Advocates say the drone programme has saved American lives and reduced the need for messy ground operations like the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But it has also killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians, according to data collected by the Bureau and the NGO Airwars - a reality which experts have warned could have a radicalising effect on the very societies US drones are trying to eliminate extremists from. 

The Nigerian Army is gearing up to be a major operator of fixed-wing aerial assets, despite the role being primarily domiciled within the domain of the air force. The application of the Ziyan Blowfish UAV for counter insurgency despite the accidental attack on civilian in Kaduna will not stop because it is to monitor the activities of terrorist groups, track illegal arms shipments, provide early warning of potential attacks, conduct reconnaissance missions, evaluate damage after an attack, and supporting ground troops in combat operations.

Olayemi Esan is writing from Abuja, she is the Managing Director, an editor-in-chief of SpyeTV News, a Defence Correspondent and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations NIPR. You can reach her via yemiesan04@gmail.com or 08035132961

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