Falana requests NHRC to investigates Rann’s IDP camp killings

                           Falana

Lawyer and activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate the January 17 bombing of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in Rann, Borno State in which 234 persons were allegedly killed.

The request was contained in a petition dated January 17titled “Request for investigation into the bombing of IDP Camp in Rann, Borno State on January 17, 2019” sent to the Executive Secretary of the Commission.

The killings occurred after a Nigerian Air Force jet was reported to have bombed a camp in Rann, Borno State, where thousands of families displaced during the offensive against Boko Haram militants were kept in shelter.

According to Falana, a Non Governmental Organization, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that its staff in the area had seen at least 200 people wounded and 50 dead following the bombing and expected the death toll to rise.

But the chairman of Kale-Balge Local Government Area, Babagana Malarima, had refuted the claims that only 50 prople died, saying, “we buried 234 persons in Rann after the bombs were dropped on the IDP camp. We have two other injured persons that died while in hospital in Maiduguri.”

Falana argued that instead of reporting the tragic incident to the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) which is saddled with the responsibility of investigating aircraft accidents in the country, the authorities of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) decided suo motu to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the bombing of the IDP camp.

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“Although the report of the inquiry was not made public, the Nigeria Air Force blamed the bombing of the camp on an accident. “

According to Falana, “In a statement credited to the NAF spokesperson, Air Commodore Olatunkubo Adesanya, it was said that “no NAF pilot leaves his base with the intention of going to kill the same set of people he greatly sacrifices day and night to protect.”

Apart from expressing its deepest regrets to all concerned, Falana noted that the NAF promised that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent a recurrence of the unfortunate incident.

He also noted that the NAF claimed that that the IDP camp was not properly marked in an attempt to cover up the humanitarian disaster

While soliciting the understanding and support of all Nigerians and members of the international community regarding the tragic incident, he regretted that the panel of inquiry and the NAF Authorities failed to address the payment of compensation to the people who were injured and the families of those who were killed in the bombing incident. However, it was announced that the NAF Chief of Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar had directed appropriate NAF officials to intensify humanitarian intervention schemes for Internally Displaced Persons at at Rann and other parts of the North East region.

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“It is our view that the finding of the military panel that the accident occurred due to the failure of the authorities to mark the IDP camp at Rann confirmed that it was a case of official negligence. However, the tragic incident cannot be blamed on failure to mark the camp in an area that is fully controlled by the army and cited a report by MSF’s head of emergencies to buttress his view.

According to Hughes Robert, MSF’s head of emergencies, “The whole camp is controlled by the army and no one can come in or out without being checked, so that’s a shock, as well as the fact that this was a very densely populated place that was full of civilians who already lived there and internally displaced persons who had come there.”

“Having confirmed that the NAF pilots were aware of the IDP camp at Rann, the failure to mark it cannot explain the negligence of the pilots involved in the bombing incident. In any case, the marking of all IDP camps in the North East region ought to have been done by the NAF.

“When the United Nations building was attacked in Maiduguri by the Nigerian Army a few months before the bombing of the Rann Camp it was also said that the incident occurred because it was not marked! Are Nigerians to believe that the members of the Armed Forces in the 7TH division located in Maiduguri are not aware of the offices of the UN and other international relief agencies in the same city?”, he noted.

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“Regrettably, the cry of the council chairman, Mr. Malarima for payment of compensation to the families of the deceased, as well as the injured ones has fallen on deaf ears”, he lamented.

The lawyer used the occasion of the second commemoration of the over 100 civilians that were killed January 17, 2017 in a mistaken air strike by men of the Nigerian Air Force of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ in the North-East to request the NHRC to investigate the latest incident.

“We are compelled to call on the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the air crash with a view to preventing the reoccurrence of such humanitarian disaster.

“In addition, the Commission should ensure that the survivors and the families of those who were killed in the bombing incident are compensated by the insurance company which insured the NAF plane,” the petition stated.

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