The Nigeria Army has apologised to Nigerians for issuing wrong information on Boko Haram’s attack a Federal Government crew involved in exploration activities in the Lake Chad Basin.
The crew, made up of staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), University of Maiduguri, military men and Civilian Joint Task Force, was attacked last Tuesday.
Death toll is set to be over 70 and several people are missing.
The army had in an earlier statement gave a much lower casualty figure and said all those missing had been recovered.
But four days after Boko Haram released a video of three of the abducted member of the oil exploration team, the Army through its spokesperson says it regrets the initial statement.
The revelation, which was contained in a fresh statement issued on Sunday, also revealed that 21 more bodies of those ambushed had been recovered.
In a video on Friday, three staff of the UNIMAID said they were being held hostage by the Abu Albarwani faction of the Boko Haram sect.
The Albarwani faction is a break-away unit from the Abubakar Shekau group.
In a statement on Sunday by Director Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, the army apologized for its wrong information and said it has recovered 21 additional bodies in an operation to rescue the oil exploration crew. The army said it recovered vehicles and various calibre of weapons in the operation.
The statement reads: “So far the search and rescue team has recovered additional bodies of five soldiers, 11 members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and five members of the exploration team.
“Contrary to reports in some media, six out of the 12 members of the exploration team that went out are still missing, while one of the NNPC staff returned to base alive”.
Usman, who described the incident as unfortunate, said the error emanated from the statement issued by the army on the rescue mission was not “deliberate.”
He said: “The incident of July 25, 2017 where Boko Haram insurgents ambushed our troops, including members of the CJTF) escorting some staff of the NNPC as well as that of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) on oil exploration in Yesu District of Magumeri local government area of the 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.”
Usman said the Nigerian Army was reputed for timely dissemination of information on its activities in the counter-insurgency operations.
He reiterated the readiness of the army to always inform Nigerians of its activities.
He said the army had redoubled efforts in the pursuit of the insurgents to rescue the abducted personnel.
He said: “Search and rescue is still ongoing to secure the safe return of the remaining civilians.
“The Nigerian Army condoles with the families of all that lost their loved ones in this unfortunate incident.”
According to Usman, the army has recovered three of its gun trucks from the insurgents, in addition to four Rocket Propelled Grenade, four RPG chargers, six AK-47 rifles, one Anti-Aircraft Gpun, one General Purpose Machine Gun, one Anti-Aircraft Gun Barrel, one RPG tube, four dane guns, eight tyres and two rims.
Other items recovered included one pumping machine gun, two tyre jacks, one super battery, five reflective jackets, three Toyota Hilux, four jerry cans filled with petrol, one Motorola radio, one Geographical Positioning System, 21 empty jerry cans, two shovels and three food coolers.
Troops also recovered 122 rounds of PKM ammunition, 213 rounds of 7.62mm NATO ammunition, 1255 Anti-Aircraft Guns ammunition, four boxes of API 12.7mm ammunition, one AK-47 Rifle Magazine, a digger, two bows and 13 Arrows, two LLG bombs, assorted drugs and working tools.
Usman added: “We are counting on the goodwill and support of the populace in volunteering valuable information that could help in the search and rescue operation.”