Nigerian soldiers attached to ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ in Bayelsa state were involved in a boat accident along Brass water front in Brass local Government area of Bayelsa State during a military operation.
Sani Usman, spokesman for the Nigerian Army, said the mishap occurred on Monday morning, but rescue efforts were underway to determine casualties.
“I can confirm that our soldiers were involved in a boat accident today,” Mr. Sani said. “But we have not been able to ascertain the number of soldiers who may have lost their lives.”
“It is quite a tragic incident.”
Some reports have it that four soldiers lost their lives. The weapons in the possession of the troops at the time of the accident, including service rifles, were also said to be missing.
An indigene of the community identified as Etta, said that attempts by community youths and other soldiers to assist in a rescue operation failed as the drowned soldiers could not be found.
“In recent times, we have been noticing increased movement of soldiers in our area. The boat that capsized was conveying a new batch of soldiers to the water front. I was going to dispose of refuse at the waterfront and I saw uniformed soldiers struggling to rescue their colleagues in a capsized boat,” Etta said.
“When the confusion subsided, four soldiers were found to be missing with their rifles and other military gear. Some others that were rescued had their rifles missing and were struggling out of the water.”
The ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ was devised by the Nigerian government as a response to the resurgent militancy in the Niger-Delta region, which had forced several oil corporations operating in the area to suspend activities.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, said, while launching the operation on August 29, that the troops were deployed to help keep the people of South-South safe and protect oil installation from sabotage.
Reports have it that the incident created panic among newly deployed Soldiers.
Meanwhile the military authorities have sought the help of local divers and youths to assist in the search for the missing soldiers. One of the youths confirmed that the high tide of the water is impeding the search for the missing soldiers