The Nigeria army says it “erroneously” gave out false information when it said all the staff of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) abducted in Magumeri local government area of Borno state had been rescued.
According to the army, the misinformation is “regrettable”.
The NNPC staff and geologists from the University of Maiduguri who were commissioned to explore oil in Lake Chad were last week abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.
Shortly after the army claimed to have rescued them, Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, said he was not aware of any such development.
Reacting in a statement on Saturday, Sani Usman, army spokesperson, said the initial error was “not deliberate”.
He also said the army has recovered 21 additional bodies in an operation to rescue the oil exploration crew.
“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,” he said.
“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 that the error emanated from the statement issued by the army on the rescue mission.
“The incident of 25th July 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,” he said.
“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 army had redoubled efforts in the pursuit of the insurgents to rescue the abducted personnel.
“Search and rescue is still ongoing to secure the safe return of the remaining civilians,” he said.
“The Nigerian Army condoles with the families of all that lost their loved ones in this unfortunate incident,” the statement said.
“We are counting on the goodwill and support of the populace in volunteering valuable information that could help in the search and rescue operation.”