By GODWIN OGHRE
Sapele— The 19 Battalion, Nigeria Army, Koko Barracks, Warri North Local Government Area, Delta State, has denied allegation by the family of a 32- year-old boat driver in Sapele, Babatie Gbaminidop, whose corpse was found afloat River Ethiope, Sapele, a week ago, that the deceased was shot by soldiers of the battalion during a raid on Obotie water side front to rid the area of illegal petroleum dealers.
The army said that its men had no hands in the death of the boatman.
Commanding Officer of the Barracks, Lt Col. Frank Etim, who spoke to Vanguard, said though the soldiers have been responsible for ridding Delta water fronts of illegal petroleum dealers in recent times, they have been performing the task “without any collateral damage to human lives and property.”
He said: “We are not aware of the death of one Babatie Gbaminidop, whose corps was allegedly found floating on the River Ethiope three days after we carried out a raid in the area. During the raid, no soldier fired a single gunshot. The raid was not carried out on the water but on adjourning ground were petroleum products were illegally refined and sold. We wonder why a corps found to be floating on the middle of River Ethiope can be linked to a raid that was carried out on solid ground.
“The exact day quoted by the said family as the day a corps was purportedly found floating on the River Ethiope was the day before we carried out the raid. How can a corps found to be decaying and afloat on the centre of the river a day before we carried out a raid on land be attributed to gunshot of a soldier?”
Lt Col. Etim also called on the people of the area to appreciate the good work of the soldiers in ridding the area of crimes such as kidnappings, robbery, petroleum theft, pipeline vandalism and many others, rather than smearing the image and reputation of the soldiers who are working hard to ensure that peace reigns in the area.