FG to investigate ‘serious’ allegations of Naval Chief’s dirty deals with oil thieves

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… Ogalla denies fraud, bunkering allegations, as coalition petitions Tinubu, EFCC

By Emmanuel Obisue

Federal Government has said it will begin an investigation into allegations accusing the Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla of aiding a “coordinated bunkering of Nigerian crude and multibillion-naira contract-splitting fraud”.

Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle in a press statement released over the weekend, said the “allegations levelled against Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla are serious,” adding that the ministry of defence is committed to “upholding the highest standards of integrity and accountability within the Nigerian Armed forces”.

In its publication last Friday, Peoples Gazette which cited “familiar federal sources”, alleged that the Naval Chief “freed several oil tankers busted for transporting stolen crude off Nigerian shores after receiving kickbacks in millions of American dollars and also rebuffed internal calls to remove his underlings who helped facilitate the scheme”.

The publication also alleged that Ogalla made “concerted effort to stifle inquiries into vessels suspected of trafficking stolen crude oil, further tarnishing the integrity of his nascent leadership as well as a violation of the Procurement Act 2007 by splitting navy arms procurement into 30 contracts awarded to a single firm in November 2023”.

“Mr Ogalla also refused to approve transfer of naval officers found culpable of several unprofessional conducts to the dismay of other members of the navy brass and disciplinary unit. Officials attributed Mr Ogalla’s refusal to sanction the erring officers to his plot to continue to use them to carry out his illegal oil operations,” the publication further alleged.

Responding to the allegations in a statement, Mattawale assured that the government will look into the matter. “In the light of the allegations, we assure the public that the ministry of defence will collaborate fully with relevant authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the matter.

“It is our collective responsibility to maintain the trust and confidence of the Nigerian people in the institutions that safeguard our nation’s security. We call for patience as the investigative process unfolds and trusts that justice will be served in accordance with the rule of law,” the statement put out by the ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Henshaw Ogubike, stated.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy headquarters has debunked all allegations of fraud and illegal oil bunkering against Ogalla.

Naval spokesman Rear Admiral Olukayode Ayo-Vaughan, in a statement issued at the weekend, discarded the publication as “unfounded, baseless and malicious”.

“The allegations that the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) accepted over $170m in bribes as well as alleged involvement in multi-billion naira contract splitting fraud in the last six months are untenable, baseless and untrue.

“Firstly, there are clear procedural requirements in the arrest, detention and release of any vessel or persons found culpable in the maritime environment. It is until these processes are duly concluded that such vessels are released to appropriate prosecuting agencies for further actions. Indeed, all arrested vessels mentioned in the publication that were involved in crude oil theft and illegal bunkering are being investigated and none of such vessels has been released as alleged.

“Secondly, the CNS does not award or oversee oil bunkering contracts; the award of such is the sole prerogative of NNPCL.

“Thirdly, all contracts awarded by the Navy follows due process in line with the laws of the federation. The Nigerian Navy (NN) and her roles are offshoot of the constitutional provisions and duly guided by extant laws and regulations of the land,” the Navy said.

Similarly, a coalition of human rights activists and lawyers have submitted a petition to President Bola Tinubu, calling for immediate investigation into the conduct of Vice Admiral Ogalla.

The petition was jointly signed by Barrister Pelumi Olajengbesi, Comrade Deji Adeyanju, Comrade Mohammed Suleiman SK, Barrister Aisha Waliki, and Comrade Ogunwoye Samson.

The coalition which claimed to possess video evidence showing the Nigerian Navy escorting the MT PRAISEL vessel during the night, said as a starter to combat crude oil theft or reduce it to a minimum, Ogalla should be relieved of his position.