Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has called on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to compensate victims of the accidental bombing in Rann, Borno state.
At least 120 people were wounded and 52 killed in January 2017 when a Nigerian air force jet accidentally bombed an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in the town.
In a letter dated January 17, 2019, and addressed to the executive secretary of the commission, Falana called for further investigation, accusing the air force of trying to cover up the humanitarian disaster.
“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 Nigeria 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 Nigeria Air Force blamed the bombing of the camp on an accident,” the letter read.
“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, the NAF claimed that 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. 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 Rann and other parts of the North East region.
“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. 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.”
He said having confirmed that the air force 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.
“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. 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 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 letter read.
After an expository series on the plight of the victims, TheCable had also requested that the families of those attacked be compensated by the military.
But only a few have received some form of compensation.