Kaduna drone killing: Some politicians in northern Govt Houses sympathetic to terrorists

Col Hassan Stan-Labo is a retired officer with a wealth of combat operational experience spanning his duty tour of Liberia, Sierra Leone, West Darfur and Bakassi Peninsula as part of the Army’s Elite Infantry (Special Forces) Corps.

Now a security consultant, defence strategist, resource fellow and Convener, ‘FIX NIGERIA NOW!’ Stan-Labo speaks, in this interview, on the accidental drone attack in Kaduna State that killed scores of civilians last week.

The errant drone, according to the military, was targeting terrorists allegedly operating in the area. “Yes, the incident has sparked national outrage as expected. The bitter truth however remains that some Nigerians (including highly placed politicians in the immediate past administration) were sympathetic to terrorists”, he said, adding: ”It was no surprise to find outright complicit directives and actions at cross purposes with the national interest emanating from Government Houses across northern states or even the Presidency as witnessed in the last administration. The retired Special Forces officer also said the military acted professionally in the Kaduna drone incident: Excerpts:

 The army has apologized over the drone attack on the civilian population in a Kaduna community which apparently killed many people. What immediately struck your mind after hearing the news?

Knowing what the consequences may be, I did wish it had not happened because all sorts of meanings would be read into it including the unthinkable. It’s really a sad experience for the community and bereaved members of the affected families. May the souls of the deceased persons rest in peace! It was quite professional and the proper thing to do by the Army owning up immediately to the mishap, tendering due apology and the physical visit to the affected communities by the leadership of the military. It served to calm nerves within the community.

For the benefit of our readers, what is the difference between fighter jet which many people are familiar with and drone, and why was it necessary for drone to be used in this particular instance instead of fighter jet?

Fighter jets (in layman’s term) are combat warplanes used in the engagement of enemy forces. Their functions vary according to their make, configuration, specifications, purpose, etc. On the other hand, drones are unmanned modern technological air assets integrated into military inventories world wide as unmanned flying platforms designed to play similar roles as manned air assets. In today’s modern warfare, drones have become veritable high utility platforms given their performance level and the zero human cost advantage.

Most countries with a long history fighting terrorism have adopted the use of drones in view of its high level efficacy in the fight against terrorism. Most drones today are multi-purpose built for enhanced functions such as surveillance, attack, logistics move, info acquisition, etc. However a good reading of the battle in conjunction with several other factors informs on the application of resources and its employment by the Field Commander.

 An accident apparently happened. Why do you think the drone attack horribly went wrong? And what was the margin of error that could have made the killing of civilians impossible?

 These are very technical questions that can only be answered by those manning the operations cell and with responsibility for that particular air asset. What Intel were they acting on, what were the imageries they were trailing after, what is the movement pattern or character of the group, etc? But like I earlier said, incidents as these could occur in battles or field operations.

The incident has predictably sparked national outrage. But while the army was apologizing for the accidental attack, it also said many terrorists were killed in a way that it appeared like they were blaming the locals for allowing alleged terrorists to embed with them. What is your take?

Yes, the incident has sparked national outrage as expected. The bitter truth however remains that some Nigerians (including highly placed politicians in the immediate past administration) were sympathetic to terrorists. It was no surprise to find outright complicit directives and actions at cross purposes with the national interest emanating from Government Houses across northern states or even the Presidency as witnessed in the last administration. Religion, tribe and ethnic considerations often weighted far and above national interest considerations constituting globs in the fight against terrorism. This became responsible for the lackluster attitude, indecisiveness, slow response and poor outing by the military under the Buhari administration. In Zamfara we witnessed an unholy romance between terrorists and government officials degenerate into open calls for a grant of amnesty. How ridiculous! In Kaduna State, terrorists became handy tools in furthering the state government’s genocide activities against indigenous Christian minorities in Southern Kaduna under the watchful eyes and endorsement of the Buhari Presidency.

Tell us about incidents like this across the world where civilians were accidentally targeted?

Drone strikes just like every conventional air combat strike could occur with human errors resulting in collateral damages or outright target miss. Speaking professionally, incidents of this nature occur in battle fronts either by combat aircraft or drones. I recall vividly while serving as the Ground Force Protection Platoon Commander at Lungi International Airport, Sierra-Leone, which was then the ECOMOG Air Tactical HQs.

We did witness how attempts to clear rebels embedding with fishing communities along the maritime coastline often resulted in collateral damages as innocent and peaceful communities get bombed accidentally. Similar developments were to be seen during my tour of duty in Liberia, The Darfur (Sudan) and while at The Bakassi where Cameroon air force pilots often times bombed their own fishing villages in protection of their maritime coastline assets. As we speak, Israel’s IDF is bombing hospitals and worship places in Gaza and Rafah. Same is ongoing in the Russian – Ukraine war.

 Have we had incidents like this in Nigeria before?

 Yes but not of this magnitude. During the Civil War and in our present war against terrorism we’ve had the course to suffer Blue on Blue actions.

You are from Kaduna. How prevalent are the activities of terrorists in the area where this incident happened to justify the use of drone?

 I am from Southern Kaduna but this incident took place in the northern part of Kaduna. Though the entire Kaduna State has been a war zone of activities, the hub of terrorist activity is to be found in the Southern part of Kaduna where I come from. The presence of terrorists had become a fine line of alibi in the hands of government in its bid to eliminate the Christian indigenous minority tribes through well orchestrated genocide action under the watchful eyes of the Presidency by the previous administration. The use of drones does not require any special justification. It is an air asset at the disposal of the Operations’ Commander who engages them in line with the dictates of the battle. The employment of the asset is informed by his sense of judgment, discretion, resource management and determination to retain the initiative while remaining proactive. With seasoned and tested hands like Gen CG Musa and Lt Gen T Lagbaja, I don’t expect any less.

 What are the lessons that our security forces can learn to avert future occurrence of this accidental attack?

 Security is every man’s responsibility and not just that of the military. Citizens must take ownership of their security and endeavor to play by the rules of the game. How do I mean? Distance yourself from the bad guys so no one comes knocking on your door asking for them. Lessons all stakeholders should learn would include see and something say something, avoid the bad guys but keep an eye on them, proper liaison between communities and security agencies, continuous patrol, continuous training, good border protection management protocol, mop-up of small arms & light weapons, halt arms proliferation and prevent non-state actors access to automatic weapons.

 The Buhari administration did very badly on security. What is your take on the attitude of the Tinubu government to providing security for Nigerians?

If you say the Buhari administration did very badly on security, it would sound as though there were areas in which that administration performed. I say with every sense of responsibility that this country had no political leadership in the last eight years. Gen Buhari was an absentee President all through his tenure. The Buhari administration took us decades back. The man just wanted power but knew nothing absolutely about governance, administration or management. Now we realise how much work Gen Idiagbon did running this country and ascribing all credits to Buhari. Frankly I would rather not discuss him and the monumental failure he represented especially when I look around and see persons of northern extraction who could have been of blessing to this country in that position. As for President Tinubu we need more time to assess him even though the red lights we see are clearly indicative of the administration’s loss of touch and sensitivity with the people. The financial rascality we see ongoing in an economy that begs for frugality in spending is really disturbing and scary. On security for Nigerians, he is lucky to have picked some very good hands. The proactive attitude of his Service Chiefs and entire security team is so far a big plus for him. However it is too early to assess him.

You were involved with the Obi campaign which unfortunately didn’t turn out positively. Tell us your story and your next step.

 Yes I was highly privileged to have been involved in the campaigns of such a great and well respected   Nigerian as Peter Obi, the only Nigerian politician whose style of politics resonates with me comfortably enough to have attracted me into partisan politics. Our bold attempt at the Presidency did not turn out positive because our mandate was stolen with the unfortunate endorsement of the judiciary. Obi may have lost but he left the ordinary voter on the street today better informed on the intrigues and deceitfulness of the political class. Our country has gone through a circle of serially failed leadership emanating from a selection process that throws up the very worst amongst us into sensitive leadership positions. 

This has gone on for too long not because we lack men with the right attributes of competence, capacity, capability and character but because such men deliberately avoid the political space which had become playground for rascals and thugs. Obi’s plans to transform Nigeria from a consumer nation to a production nation, his governance cost savings strategy, his plans for energy re-growth, food security and unemployment would have seen us grow. I stepped into politics with a determination to commit my patriotic zeal and desire to help fix Nigeria. That determination is not lost, it remains alive for God’s appointed time. My hope for a better Nigeria is never diminished for in the fullness of time we shall reclaim back our ownership of Nigeria.

Source: The Vanguard


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