The Defence Headquarters has denied a report claiming that a military helicopter fired at a cargo boat conveying people and foodstuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.
Director of Defence Information, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr, in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday described the report as false.
Sawyerr explained that, contrary to the report, the Air Component of the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe received reports from ground troops who were on clearance operations but encountered resistance at the point of encounter.
“On receiving the report a combat helicopter was dispatched to provide close air support mission along the Cawthorne Channel. The helicopter encountered an illegal oil 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”, he said.
The defence spokesman noted that 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.
He added that the two speedboats detached from the convoy at high speed leaving the Cotonou boat, which was neutralised.
He explained that the helicopter later went after the two speedboats but was unable to track them.
“The suspects are still at large and a manhunt has been sent out to apprehend them. 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 victimising them. Efforts by anyone to protect criminality by disparaging the actions of the military in preventing economic sabotage and other sundry crimes need to be condemned by all.
“The general public is therefore enjoined to disregard the report and continue providing accurate information to troops that will lead to the attainment of our operational mandate of safeguarding lives, properties as well as government assets in the South-South region.”