The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) of the Nigerian Army has said the boat a military helicopter shot at in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, was conveying illegally-refined oil products.

A military helicopter had at the weekend opened fire on a cargo boat reportedly conveying food stuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.

However, in a statement on Sunday, Benjamin Sawyerr, DHQ spokesman, said the report is false, explaining that the air component of the joint taskforce, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), received reports from the ground troops who were on clearance operations but encountered resistance.

He said upon receiving the report, a combat helicopter was dispatched to provide close air support mission along the Cawthorne channel.

“The helicopter encountered an illegal oil bunkering boat popularly called “Cotonou Boat,” he said.

“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.”

The defence spokesman said the military has remained a professional institution that operates in line with best practices through the application of rule of engagement and code of conduct.