IN what appeared like a tragic iro- ny, a Nigerian Air Force Fighter jet on a mission against Boko Haram insurgents, accidentally dropped its payload on an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp at Rann, Borno State, killing scores of civilians.

The fatal incident elicited an initial reaction of shock from Nigeria and across the world, espeically because most of the victims were displaced people who escaped being killed by terrorists in their homes. Apart from those killed among  aid workers and volunteers, more than 200 others were injured. Though the military high command had taken responsibility and apologised, the incident raises a fundamental question over the Air Force’s inability to differentiate IDPs camp from that of insurgents.

Several individuals, groups and organisations expressed sympathy over the national loss. President Muhammadu Buhari called off the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting the following day as a mark of respect for the dead and dispatched a high powered team made up of Ministers and top government functionaries to Maiduguri on a condolence visit.

We commend President Buhari for this prompt show of concern, including making pledges of Federal help to the Borno State Government “in attending to this regrettable operational mistake.”We praise the United Nations for promptly dispatching medics to Maiduguri and airlifting injured aid workers and officials.

This handout image received courtesy of Doctors Without Border (MSF) on January 17, 2017, shows a man carrying a child after an air force jet accidentally bombarded a camp for those displaced by Boko Haram Islamists, in Rann, northeast Nigeria.
At least 52 aid workers and civilians were killed on January 17, 2017, when an air force jet accidentally bombed a camp in northeast Nigeria instead of Boko Haram militants, medical charity MSF said. / AFP PHOTO / Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) “AFP PHOTO /

The concerns of commentators over the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) perceived error of judgement in the discharge of its operational duties are understandable. The House of Representatives expressed its readiness to set up a 10-man panel to probe the incident. Some individuals including the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, also called on both the military authorities and the international community to thoroughly investigate the tragic bombing of the IDPs in order to bring those found wanting to book. A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Thompson Founder of Macedonia Initiative, also advocated probe of the national disaster.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while  saying the incident is not a “reflection of the Air Force’s professionalism,” advised the Nigerian Air Force to take necessary measures to avoid civilian casualities as it carries out its challenging task of keeping Nigerians safe. President Buhari also warned the military against a recurrence of such operational mistakes.

We recommend that given-the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, caution should be exercised to avoid a resort to fault finding and blame game. We commend the NAF for admitting the operational error and setting up a panel to probe the incident. We call on the House of Representatives not to politicise the issue but allow professionals  do their job. We commiserate with the families of the victims, the Borno State government and the Federal Government over the unfortunate incident. We urge all concerned authorities to ensure that everything is done to save the lives of those on the danger list.

 

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