The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, said on Wednesday that though sad, the Tuesday accidental bombing of a civilian population in his state was not unique.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how at least 52 people were killed and 120 others injured after a Nigerian Air Force jet accidentally bombed a Rann camp for persons displaced by Boko Haram, IDPs.
The governor said several wars that shaped the history of mankind were not ended without cases of people dying, not from the bullets of the enemy, but by friendly fire of their own soldiers.
The governor who made this comment when the federal government delegation paid him a sympathy visit at the Government House Maiduguri, said though the state was grieved by the “unfortunate incident”, his government still remains grateful to the soldiers for the role they have played so far in securing Borno from Boko Haram.
“The incidence of friendly fire is as old as the history of mankind. They constituted up to 5 to 20 per cent of all casualties in war. From the war of the Rose of 1471 to the English civil war of 1643, to the Napoleonic wars, to the American war of independence down to the first and second world wars, such incidences like people dying out of friendly firing were very rampant.
“On 3rd May 1945, the RAF fighter pilot attacked three German ships; and unknown to the pilot, those German ships were carrying concentration camp survivors and allied prisoners of war. Ten thousand people perished in that attack alone. And even very recently, there was an incidence in Afghanistan where United States fighter pilots attacked a hospital…killing 25 persons including women and children. So also in Syria when a coalition air strike attacked a wedding convoy killing 25 people; was the case in Iraq.
“We are not justifying the sad incident of Tuesday; but we are going down memory to show the world that such incident usually occurs in times of war”.
The governor said rather than being angry at the soldiers for what happened, he was happy with the soldiers’ uncommon candour by coming out on time to tell the world the truth about the incident.
“We have to commend the military for the way and manner they managed the incident”, he said.
“As bad as the incident was, nobody tried to hide it, nobody tried to sweep it under the carpet. We have to commend the Nigerian armed forces for the forthrightness they displayed by coming out and telling the world exactly what happened. If not for what they did yesterday (Tuesday), people would have resort to the blame game and name-calling; some may even accuse me Kashim Shettima of planting the bomb in Rann to kill his own people.
“And for us in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, we cannot but thank the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for all the support he has given us. Three years ago, Maiduguri was effectively in a circle, you can’t go beyond ten kilometres away from each entrance to the city. The only accessible road was the Maiduguri-Kano road, which was also haunted by incessant attacks by Boko Haram.
“So we in the north-east remain eternally grateful to the government of Muhammadu Buhari for reclaiming our land and for returning peace to us.”
Mr. Shettima sad Boko Haram have been degraded “as such they no longer cause a threat to us.
“Once in a while they may have planted bomb in the streets to attack innocent people; but believe me, we have crossed the Rubicon and the worst is over.”
Earlier, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari, who led the delegation of ministers and service chiefs, had condoled the state government and victims’ families over the incident.
He said the federal government would double its commitment to see that the insurgency comes to an end and displaced persons are moved out of the IDP camp back to their respective communities.
“The President and C-in-C is very distressed about the incident, and has instructed us to embark on this condolence visit. This kind of incident happens occasionally in war, especially when dealing with terrorists like Boko Haram who arbitrarily and in cowardly fashion hide among civilians.
“The President deeply regrets the incident. The Armed forces will take extra care to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The Federal Government is working with the State, Local, and International partners to ensure speedy resettlement of IDPs,” Mr. Kyari said.
The delegation later paid a condolence visit to the Maiduguri temporary palace of the displaced Shehu of Dikwa, under whose domain the attacked Rann IDP camp is located.
Mr. Kyari also visited the office of the International Red Cross, ICRC, and Doctors without Borders, MSF, who lost some officials to the Tuesday bombing.
The delegation finally visited the Maiduguri specialists hospital to see some of the injured survivors that were brought in from Rann by ICRC helicopters.
At the hospital, the Chief Medical Officer, Kwaya Bura, informed the delegation that 54 injured persons were flown in from Rann and most of them were children.
Journalists were not allowed to speak with the victims, as military personnel insisted they were not in the best state to grant interviews.
Similarly, the spokesperson of the Borno State Governor, Isa Gusau, in a statement said the state deputy governor, Usman Durkwa, and the member representing Kala-Balge, Bama, Dikwa and Ngala federal constituency where the attacked IDP camp is located, had been flown in a military helicopter to visit the attacked location.
The road from Maiduguri to Kala-Balge is in a bad state and not completely safe, thus necessitating the airlifts of victims and officials.
“Governor Kashim Shettima has since morning deployed his Deputy, Usman Mamman Durkwa and the House of Representatives member, representing Kala-Balge, Bama, Dikwa and Ngala federal constituency of Borno State, Mamman Nur Sheriff and the Assembly member among other officials to scene of the incident at Rann, Headquarters of Kala-Balge local government area in order to assess the situation and supervise evacuation of victims to Maiduguri.