Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), demanding a probe of the January 17, 2017 bombing of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Rann, Borno State, by a fighter jet of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
In the January 17 letter addressed to the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Falana said the tragic incident was not reported to the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which is saddled with the responsibility of investigating aircraft accidents in Nigeria.
He also said victims and the families of those that died in the attack were not compensated as promised by NAF authorities.
The letter read, “On January 17, 2017, dozens of people were killed while several others were injured 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 sheltering.
“A non-governmental organisation, Medicins Sans Frontieres, said 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, said, ‘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 the hospital in Maiduguri.’
“Instead of reporting the tragic incident to the Accident Investigation Bureau which is saddled with the responsibility of investigating aircraft accidents in Nigeria, the authorities of the Nigerian Air Force decided suo motu to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the bombing of the IDP camp.
“Although the report of the inquiry was not made public, the Nigerian Air Force blamed the bombing of the camp on an accident. 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, the NAF promised that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent a recurrence of the unfortunate incident.
“To cover up the humanitarian disaster, NAF claimed that the IDP camp was not properly marked! While soliciting the understanding and support of all Nigerians and members of the international community regarding the tragic incident, the panel of inquiry and the NAF authorities have 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.”
Falana said the reasons given by the military panel that investigated the accident that it occurred because the camp was not marked showed 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. 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 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 ought to have been done by 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?”
Falana said the cry of the council chairman, Malarima for the payment of compensation to the families of the deceased, as well as the injured ones, had fallen on deaf ears.
He said, “In marking the second anniversary of the unfortunate 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 a 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.”