By Omom Julius-Onabu in Asaba and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Three soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta were feared dead in two separate boat incidents around Taylor Creeks, Bayelsa State and Egwa 1, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State on Friday.
Several others, who are now undergoing treatment in a military hospital in the state, were said to have been injured in the Warri mishap during a routine military patrol around the creeks of Egwa 1, near an SPDC flow station.
The Warri incident which occurred on Friday morning, it was learnt, threw the operatives of JTF, 3 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Effurun, into mourning.
Spokesman of the Joint Military Force in the Niger Delta, Col. Isa Ado, neither picked his calls nor replied a text requesting his comments, but a senior military officer, who confirmed the incident, said the military boat was carrying about 10 soldiers when it capsized.
The military officer said that the victims were on a normal routine patrol of oil installations around the Egwa community when the incident occurred.
“We lost two of our soldiers to a boat mishap early this morning around Egwa 1in Warri South West of Delta State. They were patrolling the creeks when the incident happened. Reports reaching us say many were injured”, the officer, who spoke in confidence said.
In the Bayelsa incident, the soldier was reportedly escorting oil workers from an oil spill site around Taylor Creeks, near an oilfield operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Okordia, Yenagoa local council.
Sources in the community disclosed that the soldier on escort duty drowned when the boat capsized.
“The boat conveying the crew from Agip’s field capsized on their way back from the site at the oilfield across. Before help could come, the soldier had drowned.
“They were using a hand paddled canoe to cross the workers, one at a time”, the source said.
“The soldier was washing his boots when water entered the boat. It capsized and the riffle fell into the creeks. The other members of the crew had crossed and waiting for him to cross,” the source said.
Some persons who witnessed the incident disclosed that the attention of the fishermen operating along the creek was immediately drawn to the distressed soldier.
When his body and the rifle he was carrying were eventually found, the officer was already dead, THISDAY learnt.
Officials of NAOC, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency, and the Oil workers were said to be returning from an assessment visit to an oil leak site when the incident occurred yesterday.
Mr Samuel Oburo, Youth President Kalaba Community, in Okordia said that the riffle of the dead soldier was recovered by local divers on Friday.
“Some soldiers from Elele barrack came around after the remains of the soldier were recovered and asked me to mobilise local divers in search of the riffle of the soldier.
“We went in search of the gun and we recovered the riffle and handed it over to them, later in the day another senior officer came to show appreciation to the community,” Oburo said.