The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar, has met with families and victims of the accidental air strikes that occurred on Jan. 24, 2023, near Rukubi in Doma Local Government Area (LGA) of Nasarawa State.
The Director, of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force (NAF), AVM Edward Gabkwet, disclosed this on Sunday in Abuja.
At the meeting in Lafia on Jan. 26, the CAS expressed regrets over the incident, saying the incident reports showed that innocent civilians might have erroneously been killed or injured in the process.
He said that the unfortunate incident was not deliberate but was targeting suspected terrorists and cattle rustlers given the heightened level of insecurity in the area at the time.
Abubakar said that the primary responsibility of the NAF remained to safeguard the lives and properties of all Nigerians, adding that NAF would not deliberately engage in acts that would put the lives of Nigerians at risk.
He informed the families and victims that the interface reflects NAF’s commitment to conflict resolution and reconciliation and a step towards addressing grievances, fostering understanding as well as rebuilding trust between NAF and the civilian population.
Earlier, the air chief met with Gov. Abdullahi Sule and solicited his support in interfacing with the representatives of the victims.
The interface, according to him, was to assist in answering some important questions, promoting accountability, and transparency and allowing NAF to learn valuable lessons to mitigate similar incidences, going forward.
He said that the need for accountability and transparency was to demonstrate NAF’s commitment to taking responsibility as well as underscoring its humanitarian concerns for civilians negatively affected by ongoing air operations.
“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 are also strategically imperative to our operations,” he said.
In his response, Gov. Sule expressed delight over the visit and commended the CAS for revisiting the earlier report of the incident and for his efforts at making amends.
According to him, this is the first time a military organisation is owning 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 of this matter is the peak of professionalism, worthy of emulation and commendation,” he said.
On his part, the Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Muhammed, praised the CAS for the initiative to make amends.
“That you have come here to meet with us and accept responsibility for what happened a year ago is exemplary and something our leaders must imbibe.
We have wholeheartedly accepted your apology,” he said. (NAN)