The Nigerian military has denied that its chopper shot at a passenger boat along the Port Harcourt – Bonny waterway in Rivers State last week Thursday. According to the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) the report that civilians were shot at without cause is false.
In a statement on Monday, the spokesman for the DHQ, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr said operatives of the force did not shoot at “any cargo boat conveying people and food stuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny”. He said contrary to the report, 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. “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.