Government Drone Misfire Kills 120 Church-Goers

A drone unit of the Nigerian Army accidentally bombed Tudun Biri in Kaduna State, leading to 120 casualties—the worst military blunder in the nation in six years.

Unintentional military strikes killed more than 425 individuals, including children and women, between September 2017 and 2023. Inadequate standard operating procedures for identification, poorly calibrated aiming devices, fighter pilots’ lack of judgment, mistakes in identifying targets and duplicating coordinates, and haste to obtain results are contributing causes.

The proliferation of non-state armed organizations is mainly responsible for the dramatic increase in violence in Nigeria during the last several years. There are terrorist organizations like Boko Haram, rebel groups like the Niger Delta Avengers, separatist movements, and criminal gangs like robbers. Since 2009, more than 35,000 have lost their lives, and over 1.8 million have been displaced due to the Boko Haram conflict. In ungoverned regions, bandits are a loose confederation of criminal organizations that engage in abduction, armed robbery, molestations, plunder, and assaults on merchants, farmers, and tourists.

In response to growing insecurity, Nigeria has sent its armed troops and assets to regions prone to conflict to conduct multi-domain operations. Under several code names, 80% of Nigeria’s military is now deployed nationally, primarily for regular police duties. Following the loss of life among soldiers due to terrorist attacks, the state has decided to engage in aerial warfare. Insurgents, terrorists, and bandits have been killed or captured by state troops when assets used for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and bombing of woodlands where they hide were deployed.

A synchronization of unmanned aerial vehicle procurement and standard operating procedures in military deployment is necessary to prevent the escalation of inter-service distrust and rivalry in Nigeria’s security operations, as was shown in last week’s incident. The Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF) opposition to an Army Aviation unit reflects their worries about resource allocation and operational encroachment.

Operational equipment, including software, rangefinders, compasses, and maps, should be upgraded to improve pilots’ ability to strike targets. Pilots must undergo training and retraining to lessen the impact of pilot mistakes.

The country’s airstrikes must be based on care and precaution to avoid tragedies and stop influential religious leaders and politicians from exploiting events to incite ethno-religious strife.