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The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has officially acknowledged its role in an airstrike that resulted in the deaths of 54 civilians in January 2023, marking a rare instance of acceptance of responsibility for such an incident.

The incident occurred during an aerial bombing in Nasarawa state, where ethnic Fulani herders were killed and injured as they unloaded cattle. This is the first time the NAF has publicly accepted responsibility for the casualties.

Nigerias Alpha Jets

Air Marshal Hasan Abubakar, the chief of air staff, visited the affected communities after reviewing reports of the incident. The NAF statement acknowledged that innocent civilians might have been mistakenly killed or injured, emphasizing that the strike was not intentional but aimed at suspected terrorists and cattle rustlers due to heightened insecurity in the area.

The Nigerian Air Force, which often combats Islamist insurgents in the northeast and criminal activities like banditry in other regions, is supported by the United States and Western powers. However, civilian casualties in such operations have been a concern, with few instances being publicly addressed by the NAF. For example, an army drone attack in Kaduna state in November killed at least 85 civilians, prompting President Bola Tinubu to order a comprehensive investigation.

In response to the 2023 incident, the Air Force plans to meet with representatives of the victims, aiming to answer critical questions, promote accountability and transparency, and prevent similar occurrences in the future. However, the NAF’s statement did not mention any compensation for the victims.

After a meeting, local community leader Sidi Bage Muhammed stated, “We have wholeheartedly accepted your apology.” As of now, representatives of the victims have not publicly commented on the Air Force’s statement.


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