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Nigerian Military Should Provide Details of Investigation into Deadly Airstrike

Ensure Transparency, Reparations for Victims

Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, center, with other community leaders at the grave side where victims of an army drone attack were buried in Tudun Biri village, Nigeria, December 5, 2023.   © 2023 AP Photo Kehinde Gbenga

The Nigerian military authorities said this week they had completed investigations into an erroneous Army airstrike in Tundun Biri Community, Kaduna state, which killed 85 people and injured dozens more in December 2023. Two officers have been indicted over the attack and will face court martial with the military’s disciplinary process.

While this announcement may mark progress towards accountability, authorities should provide answers to many of the outstanding questions about the investigation. This includes the terms of reference, those responsible for conducting the probe, the methodology, the findings – including those implicated. The army should also disclose measures recommended or put in place, if any, to prevent more erroneous airstrikes.

Since 2017, more than 300 people have been killed in strikes that security forces claimed were intended against bandits or members of the Islamist armed group Boko Haram but instead hit local populations.

Following the Tundun Biri airstrike in December, army authorities claimed responsibility for the incident and apologized to the community, while Nigeria’s president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, ordered an investigation to be carried out.

Human Rights Watch documented the loss, devastation, and trauma resulting from the December airstrike as well as a prior erroneous airstrike by the Air Force in January 2023, which killed 39 people.

Survivors and loved ones of those killed in these airstrikes have yet to receive compensation and services to help them through their loss, injuries, and trauma. The military’s announcement about the investigation’s conclusion did not mention any steps towards such efforts.

Far too many people have been killed by erroneous airstrikes by the Nigerian military. Authorities should build trust in their efforts towards accountability by ensuring transparency in the process and prioritizing reparations for victims.

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