Nigeria’s slammed for failing to prevent civilian casualties in military operation

 Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday slammed the Nigerian government for not doing enough to prevent civilian casualties in “erroneous” military airstrikes that have killed over 300 since 2017.

“The authorities have taken no concrete actions to provide justice or accountability or to ensure that its operations going forward better protect civilians,” the global rights body said in a statement.

“Since 2017, over 300 people are reported to have been killed by airstrikes that security forces claimed were intended for bandits or members of Islamist armed group Boko Haram, but instead hit local populations,” it added.

HRW’s call follows a Dec. 3 incident in which Nigerian military airstrikes killed at least 85 civilians and injured 71 others during a religious gathering in the northwestern state of Kaduna.

The nonprofit urged Nigerian authorities to “thoroughly and impartially” investigate the airstrikes and “adequately compensate” the survivors and the families of those killed during the operation.

“It’s unconscionable that the Nigerian military continues to kill people just trying to go about their lives in erroneous air strikes,” HRW researcher Anietie Ewang said.

“This attack calls for much needed scrutiny into the activities of the security forces to prevent any further killings and provide redress for victims.”

Survivors in Tundun Biri village told HRW that the first bomb struck around 9 pm, killing approximately 56 people, mostly women and children, during the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad.

Subsequently, around 11 pm, a second bomb dropped, killing many responders from nearby villages who rushed to identify and carry the bodies of their relatives.

“I was hugging my son, who had a broken leg, when they dropped the second explosive on us. I lost all my five children and their mother,” a victim said.

Another survivor reported losing 14 family members, including a 17-year-old daughter.

“We know the government won’t do anything because it is the military that is involved,” he said.

In recent years, central and northwestern Nigerian states have grappled with attacks by criminal gangs, described by the government as “terrorists” and “bandits,” engaging in robberies and mass kidnappings for ransoms.

Such attacks persist despite the Nigerian government’s increased deployment of security forces in the regions to curb the violence.

The insecurity is further compounded by the attacks of Islamist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State in the region

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga