By our reporter, Lafia
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has taken responsibility for the January 23, 2023 airstrike at Rukubi Community, Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, which claimed the lives of 37 civilians.
Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, while condoling with the families of the victims at the Palace of the Emir of Lafia on Friday, said the airstrike on civilians was not deliberate.
Abubakar said that series of criminal activities and terrorists attacks, including the abduction of primary school pupils at the time, necessitated the air operation in the area.
He explained that the Air Force, acting on intelligence that some terrorists on motorcycles were operating in the area and carried out an airstrike, which unfortunately killed innocent civilians.
According to Abubukar, the airstrike was conducted after series of intelligence, sighting terrorists elements on motorcycles operating in the area.
“Thereafter, there was a lot of outcry by well meaning Nigerians that a number of innocent civilians may have been killed during the airstrike.
“This agitated our minds because there is no military the world over; no matter what, the military is employed and paid to protect the lives and property of citizens and whenever the military is accused of killing innocent civilians its painful to us.
“So, we had to go back and initiate a detailed and more thorough investigation into that incident, sadly it revealed that truly, a number of innocent civilians were killed in the airstrike.
“This is what prompted our visit to Nasarawa State today to offer our condolences to the government and the families of those affected and bring closure to the unfortunate accident,” he said.
He also said that the visit would help the Air Force to be accountable and ensure transparency in all their operations.
The Chief of the Air Staff, while saying the visit would help NAF to be accountable and ensure transparency in their operations, said it had taken measures to ensure such incident did not repeat in future.
On his part, Gov. Abdullahi Sule, thanked the Chief of the Air Staff and the Nigerian Air Force for the initiative to condole with the families of the victims and seek to bring closure to the unfortunate incident.
The governor also commended the Air Force and other security agencies for their roles in keeping peace in the state and promised to continue to support them in their operations.
Responding on behalf the the families of the victims, Retired Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad, the Emir of Lafia, expressed gratitude to the Federal Government and Chief of the Air Staff for the condolences.
He said the families and the people of the state have accepted the apology by the leadership of the Nigerian Air Force, noting that it would go a long way in the healing process.
The Emir expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Air Force under the leadership of the Chief of the Air Staff for the visit, and described the visit as novel.
“That an authority like the Nigerian Air Force having conducted an authorised duty but an accident occured on the line of duty, for them to accept and come back to apologise is something that has not happened before,” he said.