When the news that the Nigerian Airforce had mistaken a camp for internally displaced persons in Rann, Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State for a terrorist camp and bombed it, the shock was palpable all over Nigeria and beyond. It is sad that the IDPs who are already suffering from a lack of adequate care because of mismanagement of funds were now also bombed by the very military meant to protect them, leading to scores of deaths of IDPs and aid workers.
Thankfully, the Nigerian government did not try to downplay or even deny the incident as it has become a tradition when negative events happen; it has instead admitted it happened and blamed it on an error. This is very plausible as in the heat of war action, bad decisions like this do happen – such as the bombing of a hospital run by the medical aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) by the United States military in Yemen in August last year.
However, merely admitting this accident does not go enough – the Nigerian government needs to go over and beyond this admission.
First, it needs to ensure that those who were injured in the bombing are given the best of medical care so that the casualty rate does not exceed what it is already. There is need to make sure that all hospitals and medical personnel in the state and beyond are mobilized and put to the task of tending to their injuries. No expense should be spared in this regard.
Next, the Nigerian military needs to launch an inquiry into how such an error occurred. Was it a fault from the pilot of the fighter jet? Or was it as a result of wrong coordinates given? Even worse, was it as a result of poor intelligence that wrongly identified an IDP camp as a terrorist hideout?
It is important that the root cause of this issue is arrived at lest this mistake repeat itself. The essence of such an inquiry will be to identify what exactly went wrong, make amends and if necessary, discipline the personnel involved.
Furthermore, the best way the Nigerian government, both at the federal and state levels can honor the memory of those lost in this unfortunate incident will be to ensure that IDPs, not just in that camp but wherever they might be are sufficiently taken care of. This means that governments must ensure that all funds are judiciously spent, and all avenues of corruption are blocked. It is disheartening to continue hear of reports of supplies for the IDPs diverted by government officials and sold in the open market or funds meant for their upkeep misappropriated.
Governments must also give non-governmental organizations working with the IDPs maximum cooperation rather than demonize them since they ought to be working towards the same goal.
Lastly, we should not relent in this war against terrorism and ensure that every inch of the Nigerian territory is safe so that the internally-displaced persons can go back home and get their lives back on track.
We pray that such a calamity does not happen again, and our thoughts and prayers remain with the unfortunate victims.