The Nigerian Air Force investigative panel set up to over the misfiring incident by one of its jets has been having series of discussions with survivors of the incident.
This is because the affected population in Rann community, of Kalabalge Local Government in Borno state have been thrown into trauma, following the incident which left over 200 people dead.
While some of those affected by the misfire have been whisked away to Maiduguri, others with minor injuries are stabilizing back home.
But anytime an Air Force jet flies over the Rann airspace, there is panic and fear of the unknown, according to officials of the 3 Battalion operating in the area.
Civilian authorities, the Nigerian Army and the Air Force have been talking to them for confidence building.
The Commanding Officer of 3 Battalion, Colonel Patrick Omoke said: “There’s been some form of panic within the community.
“Even when we send for aggressor to come and check what’s happening around us, the moment it’s airborne everybody starts dispersing maybe as a result of shock from the event of January 17th.
“But we have been doing a lot of talking to them through the community leaders, explaining to them that it was an accident and we are the ones sending for them now to come and survey and make sure that we are safe.”
Some of the locals confirmed the words of the Commanding Officer, confessing their feeling of insecurity and fear of the unknown anytime an aircraft flies over the community.
One of the survivors, Bulama Malawa, told Channels TV: “I lost my wife and daughter to the bomb from the airplane and people were in pieces that day.
“Today when we see them coming, everyone looks for where to hide especially the children. We are lucky to be alive from the last time but so no one is taking chances.”
The AVM Bala-Ribah-led board has assured the villagers of the good intentions of the Nigerian Air Force and a thorough investigation.
Part of the terms of reference of the board is to investigate circumstances surrounding the operational error that killed over 200 civilians and two soldiers.
“In the Nigerian Air Force, be it accidents, incidents or whatever, we go very thorough in our investigations; reason being that the operations will be continuous and if there was a mistake whether systemic, whether it was from the machine or from the human being; we need to find out exactly what the problem was so that we can incorporate that in our local procedure or in the rules of engagement to forestall future occurrence,” he said.
The board also visited the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor, commending the Army for the show of solidarity when the error occurred.
General Irabor has also asked the Air Force Investigative Board to concentrate on detecting what went wrong and make recommendations on how future occurrences can be forestalled.
He said that the theatre command is also conducting independent investigation for record purposes.
There are about 23,000 men, women and children living in Rann, the headquarters of Kalabalge Local Government Area.
While the Doctors Without Borders (MSF), put the death toll at 90, the locals put the figure at over 200.
The Nigerian Airforce had admitted that the bombing was a mistake and apologised.
Officials of Kalabalge Local Government Area (LGA) in Borno State have claimed that at least 236 died during the recent military operational error in Rann.
They have demanded compensation for survivors of the unfortunate mishap.
Kalabalge, one out of the 20 LGAs infiltrated by Boko Haram terrorists in the wake of the insurgency, is 170 kilometres away from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
It was liberated eight months ago by troops with the support of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, who rescued thousands of hostages and opened up the town for humanitarian services.
Rann is home to the local government headquarters and to the affected population mostly from adjoining villages and hamlets, fleeing to safety under the case of the Three Battalion of the Nigerian Army until the airstrike that occurred on Tuesday, January 17.
However, the community residents and their leaders have accepted the tragedy in good fate, owing to past efforts of the military in liberating their town.
One of the residents told Channels Television’s crew that: “We just heard bombs exploding; an aeroplane dropped them.
“(The aircraft) passed then came back again and dropped it (and) all the houses went on fire. That was what happened. Those that died were buried, some were taken to Maiduguri in the planes they brought (while) those with minor injuries were treated here”.
They asked the Federal Government to compensate them for their huge loss and build roads that would link them to other parts of the state.
234 People Buried
The Chairman of Kalabalge LGA, Mr Babagana Malarima, lamenting the volume of the destruction of lives and property, called for the Federal Government’s intervention by compensating the survivors.
“Our problem since this local government was created about 20 years now (is that) we need a road to link this headquarter to other parts of the state (while) the second thing is with what happened. Now, we are begging Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari) to compensate us.
“Many people have lost their loved (ones) as most of them are the bread winners. About 234 people is not a small number; we need to compensate these people. Yes! 234 (people were) buried by the community and it’s even more than this.
“The report I received from Maiduguri this morning (Saturday) is that two (persons) who are in the hospital have also died. Therefore we need to be compensated seriously. It was the market day yesterday, it was not like the normal market day. After all this is a place where our activities was on a skeletal basis but it was at the lowest ebb yesterday,” he told Channels Television.
A statement issued by the Borno State government on Friday also corroborated Mr Malarima’s claim that two injured persons have died.
The statement further revealed that five people have been discharged while 73 others were still hospitalised.
Barely two days after the accidental bombing, a group of Boko Haram insurgents reportedly launched an attack on the community, targeting both the traumatised civilians and the troops.
However, they were successfully repelled, with 15 terrorists killed and one captured alive with their arms and ammunition.
The captured, man who speaks neither of the local indigenous languages, is believed to be a Cameroonian.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, who has been talking to commanding officers, assured the people in the area that such mistake would not happen again.
“These are the terrorists that came to attack here (Rann community) yesterday almost around 6:00 PM on Thursday (but) they (the troops) were able to repel them. This is to show the level of alertness of the troops and the level of commitment for them to defend this community.
“Luckily when they came, they couldn’t succeed and the troops were able to repel them and pursue them far and you saw what they recovered (as) one of them was captured alive (with) their vehicle and the array of ammunition recovered from them.
“The intelligence information we got from our partners was that Boko Haram terrorists were moving into this place and indeed the information was that they are already in this place. It’s not unconnected because you saw them coming to attack them here.
“Probably it must be the information that was passed to the air component for them to take necessary action, (but) unfortunately a mistake happened. It has happened before in other places and we pray it doesn’t happen again,” the Army chief said.