By Emmanuel Obisue
Nigeria’s Chief of Air Staff, CAS, Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar has met with families and victims of the accidental air strikes that occurred on January 24, 2023 near Rukubi in Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.
At the meeting in Lafia over the weekend, the CAS stated that having reviewed the incident reports concerning the air strikes that were undertaken in January 2023 in pursuit of terrorists near Rukubi, innocent civilians may have erroneously been killed or injured in the process.
Expressing regret over the incident, Air Marshal Abubakar noted that the unfortunate incident was not deliberate, but had targeted suspected terrorists and cattle rustlers in view of the heightened level of insecurity in the area at the time, a statement issued by Air Vice Marshal Edward Gabkwet, NAF’s Director of Public Relations and Information stated.
The CAS maintained that the primary responsibility of the Nigerian Air Force, NAF remains safeguarding the lives and properties of all Nigerians, and would therefore not deliberately engage in acts that put the lives of Nigerians at risk.
Earlier, Air Marshal Abubakar had met with the Governor of Nasarawa State, Engineer Abdullahi Sule where he solicited his support in interfacing with the representatives of the victims, which according to him, will assist in answering some important questions, promote accountability, transparency and allow the NAF to learn valuable lessons to mitigate similar incidences, going forward.
“Our efforts to mitigate civilian casualties as well as take responsibility in the event of accidental strikes are not just a reflection of our values as a Service, but also strategically imperative to our operations,” the CAS said.
“This is the first time a military organization is owing up to mistakes committed over a year ago, and I must commend you immensely. The fact that you have come personally and want a closure on this matter is the peak of professionalism worthy of emulation and commendation,” the governor said in response.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that on January 24, 2023, air strikes by NAF aircraft were undertaken after intelligence revealed the sighting of suspected terrorists on 10 motorcycles transiting through Utagudu, near Rukubi in Doma LGA.