The Nigerian Army has apologised to the public for issuing a statement that turned out to be false on last week’s attack on geologists from the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) who were with some officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the Lake Chad region.
According to the army, more bodies, comprising five soldiers, 11 Civilian-JTF members and five oil exploration workers were further recovered by a military rescue team.
The Guardian reports that the military institution had claimed to have rescued all the NNPC workers who were carrying out a survey on oil exploration in the Lake Chad and that nine of its soldiers were killed during the ambush. But the claim that all the workers were rescued turned out to be false.
A statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen Sani Usman late Saturday said the earlier information on the incident about the rescue was regrettable and that it was not deliberate.
This is a refreshing character shift on the part of the army institution which had been so protective of its capabilities and viewed operational losses and tactical failures as admission of weakness.
The statement reads: “The incident of 25th July 2017 where some Boko Haram terrorists ambushed our troops including members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) escorting some staff of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as that of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) on oil exploration in Borno Yesu District of Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno State is unfortunate and highly regrettable.
“Most regrettable also is my earlier release on the said incident about the rescue of all NNPC staff. The error in the statement was not deliberate. The Nigerian Army in this present dispensation is reputed for timely dissemination of information on activities of our troops in all theatre of operations. We have strived to keep the public informed on our activities with no intention of distorting any fact.”
He said the troops had doubled efforts in the pursuit of the Boko Haram terrorists while search and rescue was ongoing to secure the safe return of the remaining civilians.
“So far the search and rescue team has recovered additional bodies of five soldiers, 11 Civilian JTF and five members of the exploration team.
“Contrary to reports in some media, six members of exploration team out of 12 that went out are still missing, while one of the NNPC staff returned to base alive.
“On the other hand, our pursuit team also recovered 2 of our own gun trucks and an additional Toyota Buffalo Gun truck from the insurgents. The team also made the following recoveries; 4 rocket propelled grenade bombs, 4 rocket propelled grenade chargers, 6 AK-47 rifles, 1 anti-aircraft gun, 1 general purpose machine gun,1 anti-aircraft gun barrel, 1 rocket propelled grenade tube, 4 dane guns, 8 tyres and 2 tyre rims.
“Other items recovered include 1 pumping machine, 2 tyre jacks, 1 super battery, 5 reflective jackets, 3 Toyota Hilux vehicles, 4 jerry cans filled with petrol , 1 Motorola radio, 1 Geographical Positioning System (GPS), 21 empty jerry cans, 2 shovels and 3 food coolers.”
The army condoled with the families of all who lost their lives in the incident. “What the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists are doing are pure criminal activities of kidnapping to gain funds. This has been noted and will be jointly addressed in conjunction with other security services,” he said.
Two survivors of the attacks, Bukar Ajid and Modu Fantami (not real names) said they escaped death because of God’s “mercies and miracles.”
Ajid on the hospital bed of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) said over 100 Boko Haram insurgents participated in the three-hour ambush.
“It was terrifying and horrific for the insurgents to overwhelm soldiers and other security personnel escorting us to the Jilli-Bornoyesu axis of Magumeri. Boko Haram has superior firepower, when compared to our soldiers in the escort convoy.”
According to Ajid, 33 members of Civilian JTF were killed. He said the soldiers in the “oil exploration escort” did their best to contain the attack but because they were few, they were overwhelmed with Boko Haram superior firepower coming from all directions.
Governor Kashim Shettima described the attack as a tragic setback to the fight against Boko Haram and the efforts to boost Nigeria’s economic fortunes.
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