By Sam Eyoboka, Umoru Henry, Emma Ovuakporie, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Emma Elebeke, Joseph Erunke, Victoria Ojeme, Olayinka Latona & Gabriel Olawale
ABUJA— THE regular Wednesday meetings of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, could not hold, yesterday, due to the accidental bombing of the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs’ camp in Rann, Borno State, by the Nigerian Air Force, on Tuesday.
A presidency source, who craved anonymity told Vanguard that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is still distraught, consented to the shift.
Consequently, the President has dispatched a high powered team made up of Ministers and government functionaries to Maiduguri on a condolence visit.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, confirmed the trip on his twitter handle @FemAdesina, yesterday.
According to Adesina, the delegation consists of Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed; Minister for Defence, Dan Ali; Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari and the Service chiefs.
This came as the United Nations dispatched medics to Maiduguri and airlifted injured aid officials and promised more assistance.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has said it would probe the incident amid calls for investigation from a host of eminent Nigerians as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, urged caution.
The Senate also observed a minute’s silence for victims of the bombing.
Reps to constitute investigative panel
VISIT—Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari (right); Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (left) and others during a sympathy visit to a victim of Tuesday’s accidental bombing, at a hospital in Maiduguri, yesterday.
Disturbed by the incident, members of the House of Representative, yesterday, said a 10-man investigative panel would be constituted to dig deep into the remote causes of the air mishap by the Nigerian Air Force.
Members of the panel will be selected from committees on IDPs, Refugees and Initiatives from the North East, the Air Force, Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Assistance, the Army and Health Services among others.
This development was, however, sequel to a motion brought to the floor of the House by Rep Sani Zorro, APC, Jigawa under matters of public importance entitled: ‘Expression of Sympathy Following Yesterday (Tuesday) Accidental Bombing Of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, Camp At Rann, Kale-Balge Local Government, Borno State.’’
In his submission, Zorro noted “with regret and sadness the deaths of yet to be ascertained number of internally displaced persons, IDPs, and injury suffered by hundreds of others including humanitarian workers following the accidental air raid on the IDP site.
“There is need to ascertain whether the air strike was in accordance with observance of strict Rules of Engagement(ROE) under air law and as enshrined under International Humanitarian Law, IHL, otherwise the Law of Armed Conflict, LOAC.
“Just recently, we celebrated the gallantry of our armed forces for their exploit in taking over the dreaded Sambisa forest and rooting out the Boko Haram terrorists. But today we are in mourning mood wearing long faces due to an unfortunate mishap of air strike that claimed the lives of innocent IDPS, soldiers and aid workers among others.”
In his contributions, Rep Anayo Nnembe, PDP, Ebonyi said: “This unfortunate incident happened because the Air Force didn’t do due diligence because if the Air Force can bomb the IDPs, one day it would come and bomb the Aso Rock and NASS Complex. They have not done well and they should sit up and put their acts in order.”
Other Reps, Abdulrazak Namdas, APC, Adamawa; Oker Jev, APC, Benue; Deputy Majority Whip, Rep Pally Iriase, APC, Edo, Owan Federal Constituency; Aminu Shehu Shagari, APC, Sokoto; and Chairman of Air Force Committee, Rep Samson Okwu,PDP, Benue were divided in their contributions.
The presiding officer, Yakubu Dogara, put the debate to a voice vote and the ayes had it. Immediately after that, a minute silence was observed for victims of the air attack.
UN dispatches medics, airlifts injured aid officials
Menawhile, the UN Humanitarian Air Service, UNHAS, says it has mobilised emergency response following the accidental air strike.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, said this in a statement issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN OCHA.
Kallon described the accidental air strike as “an unfortunate tragedy that befell people already suffering the effects of violence,” disclosing that “UNHAS today dispatched a helicopter with four medical personnel and 400 kg of emergency medical supplies and also airlifted eight Nigeria Red Cross workers injured following a military air strike that hit Rann locality of Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state.’’
We remain committed to delivering help — UNICEF
In like manner, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, yesterday, stated that it remained committed to delivering aid to the more than four million children and their families in the North-east region, who need help, despite the deaths of some internally displaced persons and aid workers in the Air Force accidental bombing in Borno State.
UNICEF, in a statement by its Director for Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine, said it is deeply concerned by the loss of lives in the Tuesday tragic incident.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi also expressed shock at the bombing and stressed the need for the Nigerian authorities to urgently identify the failings that led to the tragedy.
We did not lose any official – MSF
Also, Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF, an international humanitarian non-governmental organisation best known for its life-saving projects in war-torn regions, yesterday, provided more updates on the incident, saying that none of its staff was killed, although those of a firm it hired were not that lucky.
Some victims of the error bomb attack at an IDP camp in Borno State, yesterday. Photo: AFP.
It said according to The Cable: “No MSF staff members were wounded or killed in the attack. We have unfortunately received the sad information that three employees of a Cameroonian firm, who were hired by MSF to provide water and sanitation services in the camp, lost their lives during the attack,” Hugues Robert, MSF’s programme manager for Nigeria, said in a statement.
Christians call for utmost caution
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday, expressed outrage over the incident and called on the government and the military command to be more careful to avoid costly errors.
Chairman of CAN in North West zone, Bishop David Bakare, described the incident as unfortunate saying, “it’s sad that we could add a friendly fire to an enemy fire that has been raging against us.”
He maintained that it is high time “we do things a little more professionally than we have done. Much as we could accept that this is an accident, it is still important for us to note that this is one accident too expensive for a nation that has been facing several security challenges.’’
We must ensure there‘re no fifth columnists – Thompson
Founder of Macedonia Initiative, a non-governmental organisation established for the rehabilitation of persecuted Christians, Rev. Ladi Thompson, also urged the Federal Government to investigate all the parties involved in the bombing saga with a view to ascertaining the veracity of the error claim.
Lamenting the huge casualties in the said NAF misadventure, Thompson said: “As a nation, we need to look in carefully and look at the parties involved, who have the instructions, we need to look at the chain of command. If we are able to access all these, it will not be difficult to know whether it was just a logistic mistake or we are still dealing with a fifth columnist.”
Minister cautions NAF, says error not true reflection of professionalism
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has cautioned the Nigerian Air Force to take necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties, as it carries out its challenging task of keeping Nigerians safe.
In a statement by the Special Assistant to the Minister, Segun Adeyemi, yesterday, the minister regretted the NAF accidental bombing at the IDP camp, describing it as a tragedy.
Mohammed, who had on Monday led members of the BBOG and the media on a two day fact finding operational tour to Yola, where the Air Component of the fight against Boko Haram is based, said he was particularly saddened because the accidental bombing was not a true reflection of the level of professionalism that he witnessed during the visit.
‘’It therefore came to me as a rude shock to learn, a few hours after leaving Yola, that one of the fighter jets has accidentally bombed civilians, including aid workers,’’ he said.
Fayose sympathises with victims, calls for probe
Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, while commiserating with families of the victims of the “accidental” air strike by men of the NAF, said it was strange that the military could “mistakenly” bomb an IDP camp that it created and aware of the location and called for thorough investigation by both the military authority and the international community to ascertain what actually happened.
He chided President Buhari for jumping into conclusion that the air strike was a mistake, saying; “by saying it was accidental, the President already foreclosed investigation, which he ought to have ordered before jumping into conclusion.”
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, yesterday, Governor Fayose maintained that “it is obvious that the Federal Government is still deceiving Nigerians on its handling of the Boko Haram insurgency because it is strange that the same Boko Haram that they said had been defeated were the ones they claimed the military wanted to attack with fighter jet.”
“I sympathise with those hapless Nigerians who escaped death from the hands of Boko Haram insurgents only to be killed by the same authority that should be protecting them… I also call on all necessary authorities in Nigeria as well as the international community to investigate the incident with a view to unravelling whether or not the air strike was a mistake. And if it was indeed a mistake, what led to it must be unravelled.”
Ekweremadu seeks thorough investigation
Also speaking on the issue, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, called for thorough investigation of the accidental bombing.
He urged the men of Operation Lafiya Dole, and the Nigerian Armed Forces not to be demoralised by the unfortunate incident but rather brace up for the challenge of ridding the nation of every trace of terrorists and insurgents.
The Deputy Senate President, in a statement, by his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, expressed deep grief and condolences over the unfortunate development.
Ekweremadu, who sympathised with the victims, their relatives and the government and people of Borno State, called for more help from other States of the federation, well-meaning Nigerians, and both local and international humanitarian organisations to mitigate human suffering and fatality occasioned by the sad incident.