By Sunday Isuwa, Abuja and Francis Okoye, Maiduguri
Seven months after over 126 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were killed when a military fighter jet mistakenly bombed a camp of the displaced persons near Rann, Borno State, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday released its report on the remote cause of the incident.
According to the military, lack of appropriate marking of the area was responsible for the mistaken attack.
Defence spokesman, Maj Gen John Enenche, said the bombing near the IDPs’ camp at Rann in Kala-Balge local government area of Borno State on January 17, 2017 by the Nigerian Air Force was an erroneous airstrike.
He said the bombing of the IDPs was caused by lack of appropriate marking of the area near the camp where the IDPs were struck.
Briefing journalists on the report, Enenche said, “Hitherto, people were not expected to amass at that location. Furthermore, the location was not reflected in the operational map as a humanitarian base. The normal pattern for Boko Haram terrorists to form up, before attacking innocent civilians and troops is to amass.”
“Hence, it appeared as a place that could equally be used for enemy activities. Thus, when mass movement was noticed through aerial satellite observation, it was taken for Boko Haram Terrorists activity, which needed to be neutralized with speed”.
Accordingly, the Defence Headquarters recommended that all locations where humanitarian activities take place in the theatre of operations should be marked appropriately for ground and aerial identification in line with international best practices.
“The geographical and spatial coordinates of all areas of humanitarian activities within the theatre, should be provided to the Theatre Command Headquarters.
There should be timely and mandatory exchange of information between stakeholders, for all activities in the Theatre of operation”, Enenche said.
On the armed clashes between some officers of the Nigerian Army and those of the Police in Damaturu, Yobe State, on April 11, 2017 as well as that of the Nigerian Navy and Police personnel in Calabar on May 30, 2017, the Defence Headquarters called on both services to establish a board of inquiry to investigate the incidents and come up with their reports.
Enenche said, “However, some of the services and commands that were directly affected also constituted their boards of inquiry in line with service regulations.”
“It was recommended that strict centralized operational and administrative control should be exercised, on all security agencies serving under Operation LAFIYA DOLE. Offenders in the incident are to be sanctioned appropriately, to serve as deterrent to other personnel in the Theatre of Operation”.
Noting that the Nigerian Navy and Police have been mandated to institute further investigation to identify erring personnel for sanctions, the Army spokesman added that security services should periodically remind their personnel to always comply with standing regulations at all times and places.
NEMA, Aid Workers Abandon Borno IDPs To Fate
Meanwhile, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) taking refuges at the Bakassi camp in Maiduguri have recounted their ordeal in the hands of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and camp officials.
The IDPs, who expressed their feelings yesterday when the director general of NEMA, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, paid a monitoring visit to assess the progress of food distribution in the camp, lamented that they have been famished.
The Bakassi IDPs camp is one of the largest IDPs camp in Borno, hosting over 36,000 displaced persons from Marte , Gwoza, Guzaumala, Monguno and Nganzai local government areas of the state.
The IDPs complained bitterly of inadequate feeding, diversion of food items by the camp managers, saying the harsh living condition in the camp has forced them to look for desperate means of survival.
An IDP from Marte local government area, Modu Bukar, while narrating their predicament in the camp, said the last time any of the government agency brought food to them was during the last Muslim fasting, adding that since then, no food has come to them except the ones that were brought during the NEMA DG’s visit on Thursday.
He said most of the female beggars presently in Maiduguri are mostly IDPs who found their way out of the camp to look for means for feeding their families.
Citing hunger and starvation, Bukar, the Marte IDP revealed how their women have resorted to street begging, housemaid jobs, while the men fetch firewood for sale in a bid to escape the biting hunger in the camp.
He said, “The camp has been experiencing shortage of food for the past one month. The situation has forced our women and Men to look for desperate means of survival. Most of our women collect pass in the morning to move into the town to beg so that they can get something to feed their family”.
Hadiza Umar, an IDP from Monguno told LEADERSHIP Weekend that many of their women now take permission to move out of the camp for the purpose of street begging because of the difficult condition in the camp.
“There is no food here. As at 3:00pm today, most of us have not taken both breakfast and lunch, notwithstanding that we are not fasting. We thank God for these items brought to us by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons. My appeal to them is to ensure that the items enter the hands of every one of us before departing the camp”, she said.
On why she appealed to the commission to share the items before leaving, Hadiza revealed that the camp officials have turned them to business venture She added that if the items did not get to them through the commission, the camp officials will divert the rest, saying that such has been the culture, even on food items from various donors.
On the same sentiment, Ali Maina, an IDP from Marte said their survival presently in the camp is based on self-help, just as he noted that the condition has pushed their women to street begging and menial jobs for survival.
“As dangerous as it is, our men move out of the camp as early as 4:00am in the morning in search of firewood, after which they will sell and buy food for their family. Sometimes, we trek up to 10km to the outskirts of Maiduguri, notwithstanding the fear of likely encounter with Boko Haram terrorists. Some of us have died in the process .We appeal to government at all levels to scale up humanitarian aid to IDPs camps in Borno”, Maina said.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend contacted the Media officer of NEMA, Mr Sani Datti, he dismissed the allegations, describing as mere lies.
Mr Datti described the IDPs as ingrates because the agency has been doing everything possible to meet their needs.
Effort to speak to the Chairman, Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Engr Ahmed Satomi, was futile as calls put to his line were not picked; he equally did not reply the text message sent to him.
Speaking at the IDPS camps, the DG of NEMA, Maihaja, said the agency has deployed several measures to avert diversion of food, both in the IDPs camps and on the road.
He added that the technological method implored has helped in tracking down trucks trying to divert relief materials enroute destinations to insurgency-ravaged states for delivery of relief materials.
Maihaja noted that out of 1031 trucks of grains allocated to NEMA from the federal government, 400 trucks have so far been received and delivered to the various IDPs camps in the Northeast.
His Words: “We have come with members of the presidential committee on Northeast initiative (PCNI) following allegations of starvation by the IDPs to monitor the progress of the distribution of food and non-food materials provided for the camps.
“The essence is to find out whether all the conditions prescribed for the distribution of food to the IDPs are met by camp officials and to ascertain if the distribution is going on as scheduled.
“The feeding pattern of issuing vouchers to the IDPs for collection of foods has helped stopped the menace of food diversion in the camps. Also, the technological measures implored by NEMA to track trucks of foods enroute most of the insurgency-ravaged Northeast states for delivery of relief materials has equally curtailed diversion of food, which was previously prevalent. As of today, I can tell you that no case of diversion has been reported”.
On the complaints by the IDPs of inadequate feeding in the camps, Mustapha Maihaja said in as much as human wants are insatiable, complaints of such will always arise.
He said, “For the fact that the displaced persons are away from their original homes, they can’t always get what they want, but what they need. Government is assiduously working to make the lives of the IDPs better improved before resettling them back to their communities”, he noted.