The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has debunked reports that its chopper shot at a cargo boat along the Port Harcourt – Bonny waterway in Rivers State Thursday, August 26, 2021.
In a statement on Monday, the spokesman for the DHQ, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr said the military did not shoot at “any cargo boat conveying people and foodstuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny”.
Sawyerr said 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.
“On receiving the report a combat helicopter was dispatched to provide close air support mission along the Cawthorne Channel,” Channels Television quoted the DHQ as saying.
“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.
“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 neutralized,” General Sawyerr narrated.
The DHQ spokesman further disclosed that the helicopter later went after the 2 speedboats but was unable to track it.
“The suspects are still at large and a manhunt has been sent out to apprehend them,” the DHQ Spokesman added.
He noted 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.
He on behalf of the military urged the general public to disregard any report at variance to what had been detailed, while also enjoining citizens to continue providing accurate information to troops.