The Nigerian military says the report by some print and online media saying that “the military fired at a cargo boat conveying people and foodstuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny is false and calls to question the credibility of the news medium.
In a statement by the Director, Defence Information, Major General Benjamin Sawyer said, contrary to the report, the Air Component of the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe, (OPD) received reports from ground troops who were on clearance operations but encountered resistance. On receiving the report, a combat helicopter was despatched to provide a close air support mission along the Cawthorne Channel.
The helicopter encountered an illegal bunkerers’ boat popularly called “Cotonou Boat”.
The boat which was being escorted by 2 speedboats was suspected to be carrying illegally refined oil products in large drums along the Channel in the direction of OPDS patrol boats.
On sighting the boat, warning shots were fired to dissuade the crew from hostile action. The crew fired back at the helicopter and the boat was engaged accordingly.
The 2 speedboats detached from the convoy at high speed leaving the “Cotonou Boat” which was neutralised. The helicopter later went after the 2 speedboats but was unable to get them.
The suspects are still at large and a manhunt has been sent out to apprehend them. The statement added that the military remains a professional institution that operates in line with best practices, through the application of the rule of engagement and code of conduct.
It is also positioned to protect the populace, rather than victimize their efforts by anyone to protect criminality, by disparaging the actions of the military in preventing economic sabotage and other sundry crimes that need to be condemned by all.
The general public is therefore enjoined to disregard the report and continue to provide accurate information to troops, that will lead to the attainment of their operational mandate of safeguarding lives, property as well as government assets in the South-South region.