Monday, February 6, 2023

Troops opened fire on oil thieves, not cargo: DHQ

The boat, popularly called “Cotonou Boat,” was suspected to be carrying large sums of illegally refined oil products.

• August 30, 2021

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has dismissed reports that a military helicopter fired at a cargo boat conveying people and foodstuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.

It was widely reported on Friday that a military chopper opened fire on a cargo boat conveying foodstuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.

Reacting to the allegation on Monday, the Director, Defence Information, Benjamin Sawyerr, said the report was false.

Mr Sawyerr said that the air component of the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) received reports from ground troops who were on clearance operations but encountered resistance at the point of encounter.

According to him, a combat helicopter was dispatched to provide a close air support mission along the Cawthorne Channel on receiving the report.

He said that the helicopter encountered an illegal oil bunkering boat popularly called “Cotonou Boat.”

“The boat which was being escorted by two 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 two speedboats detached from the convoy at high speed leaving the “Cotonou Boat” which was neutralised.

“The helicopter later went after the two speedboats but was unable to track it. The suspects are still at large and a manhunt has been sent out to apprehend them,” he said.

The defence spokesman urged the public to disregard the report and continue to provide accurate information to troops that would help the military safeguard lives, properties as well as government assets in the South-South region. 

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