The Nigerian Naval headquarters has vehemently refuted the allegation of fraudulent activities and illegal oil bunkering charged on the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Ogalla— Rear Admiral Olukayode Ayo-Vaughan, the spokesperson for the Navy, released a statement expressing their discontent with the publications from Peoples Gazette, an online platform, frequently targets the Nigerian Navy with groundless and malicious allegations. The Naval headquarters emphasizes that these accusations are entirely baseless. Such an occurrence was witnessed in June 2023, when the media platform reported that the former Navy Chief had adamantly refused to relinquish his position.
According to Ayo-Vaughan, the accusations against the Chief of the Naval Staff, claiming that he received more than $170m in bribes and was involved in a massive fraud scheme worth billions of naira, are completely unfounded and false. Ayo-Vaughan clarified that there are specific protocols that must be followed when apprehending, detaining, and releasing any ships or individuals involved in maritime offenses. Only after these procedures have been properly completed, are these ships handed over to the relevant law enforcement agencies for further proceedings.
A group of concerned Nigerians has written a petition to the president.
He proceeded to state that all the ships mentioned in the report, which were apprehended due to involvement in crude oil theft and illegal bunkering, are under investigation and have not been released as claimed. Additionally, it should be noted that the CNS does not grant or supervise oil bunkering contracts; the authority to award such contracts lies solely with NNPCL, he said. He added that the Navy strictly adheres to the legal procedures of the nation when awarding contracts. The Nigerian Navy and its responsibilities are derived from constitutional provisions and governed by existing laws and regulations of the country.
Ayo-Vaughan explained that there are certain individuals who are dissatisfied and are experiencing the consequences of the Nigerian Navy’s intensified determination to combat crude oil theft and unlawful activities in the maritime realm. These individuals are making coordinated and feverish attempts to extort and damage the reputation of both the office and the person serving as the CNS. In a similar vein, a group of concerned Nigerians has delivered a petition to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu regarding the allegations of crude oil theft, contract splitting, procurement fraud, and corruption practices on Ogalla.
There are claims of having substantial evidence by the coalition.
Barrister Pelumi Olajengbesi, Comrade Deji Adeyanju, Barrister Aisha Waliki, Comrade Mohammed Suleiman SK, and Comrade Ogunwoye Samson signed the petition, which was subsequently submitted to the president via the Office of the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle. The coalition stated that their petition against Ogalla was grounded on three main aspects: collusion in oil theft, contract splitting, and specific primary areas within these matters. In the case of collusion with oil theft, the coalition has made accusations that Naval officers, who are directly commanded by Ogalla, have actively engaged in plundering the country’s valuable crude oil, and have also been offering protection to the lawbreakers.
They highlighted instances of ship-related crimes, particularly the case of the MT PRAISEL, wherein it is alleged that the Nigerian Navy permitted the vessel to freely navigate Nigerian waters despite its engagement in crude oil theft. The Navy officers, led by Ogalla, purportedly protected and enabled the vessel’s operations. Substantiating their claims, they claimed to possess incriminating evidence, including a verified video, showing the Nigerian Navy’s night time escort of the MT PRAISEL. They also brought attention to cases involving the MT KALI and MT Tura vessels, where it was observed that military gunboats that allegedly belonged to the Nigerian Navy were safeguarding vessels involved in crude oil theft.
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In addition, the coalition highlighted the Nigerian Navy’s consistent and alarming role in cases of crude oil theft, citing the recent incident involving the MT VANNALARIS ship. According to reports, the vessel was believed to have illegally loaded crude oil off Ondo State. Shockingly, Nigerian Navy personnel obstructed a private security firm from boarding or inspecting the ship. The coalition claimed that the continuous occurrence of crude oil theft is a result of an alleged collaboration between the criminals and the Navy, under the leadership of Ogalla. They further asserted that this corruption can be attributed to the highest ranks of the Nigerian Navy. They called for the removal of Ogalla from his position to effectively combat or diminish crude oil theft.