Maiduguri, Nigeria — The Nigerian Army Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman Director Army Public Relations issued a public apology on its official website Sunday after falsely claiming to have rescued 12 members of the geological research team from the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID).
The UNIMAID research team who were contracted by the country’s Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to conduct oil site surveys within the Lake Chad Basin were attacked and then taken prisoner by the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram on July 25th. Shortly thereafter, the Nigerian Army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Usman issued a statement that the Nigerian Army along with its special forces rapidly responded to the attack and tracked the Boko Haram fighters down, dispatching them and rescuing the surviving members of the UNIMAID research team.
However, after conflicting reports came out from local Borno State officials as well as Boko Haram releasing pictures of its captives, that claim was quickly debunked and Brig. Gen. Usman issued this retraction on Sunday stating:
“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. Our troops have doubled efforts in the pursuit of the Boko Haram terrorists while search and rescue is still on-going to secure the safe return of the remaining civilians. So far the search and rescue team has recovered additional bodies of 5 soldiers, 11 Civilian JTF and 5 members of the exploration team. Contrary to reports in some media, 6 members of exploration team out of 12 that went out are still missing, while one of the NNPC staff returned to base alive.”
Brig. Gen. Usman did however attempt to turn this “regrettable” incident around somewhat and claim that the Nigerian Army forces were able to capture a rather large cache of weaponry and equipment from Boko Haram saying;
“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. In addition, 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, 4 Jerry cans filled with PMS, 1 Motorola Radio, 1 Geographical Positioning System (GPS), 21 empty Jerry cans, 2 Shovels and 3 Food Coolers. Troops also recovered 122 rounds of PKM ammunition, 213 rounds of 7.62mm NATO ammunition, 1255 Anti-Aircraft Guns ammunition, 4 boxes of API 12.7mm ammunition, 1 AK-47 Rifle Magazine, a Digger, 2 Bows and 13 Arrows, 2 LLG Bombs, assorted drugs and assorted working tools. The Nigerian Army condoles with the families [sic] of all that lost their loved ones in this unfortunate incident. Search and rescue efforts are on-going. We are counting on the goodwill and support of the populace in volunteering valuable information that could help in the search and rescue operation. 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. The Nigerian Army remains resolute in the fight against terrorism and would not relent in its effort to safe guard lives of citizens, properties and the territorial integrity of the country.”
In an interview with The Guardian, two of the survivors of the Boko Haram ambush said that over a 100 Boko Haram insurgents took part in the attack last Tuesday, “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.”
The two survivors went on to claim that over 30 of the local Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) security detail did their best to fight off the attackers yet unfortunately 30 CJTF milita were killed in the melee that came from all directions.
Images courtesy of: Nigerian Army