Oil theft: FG to probe CNS as group petitions Tinubu

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Following the allegation of oil theft levelled against the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, the Federal Government has promised to investigate the claims against the naval chief.

This was as a coalition of Concerned Nigerians petitioned President Bola Tinubu to investigate allegations of large-scale corruption against the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla.

The Minister of Defence for State, Bello Matawalle, said on Saturday that President Bola Tinubu had zero tolerance for corruption in the public service.

Matawelle was responding to a People’s Gazette report, alleging the Naval Chief’s involvement in facilitating an unorganised bunkering of Nigerian crude and a multimillion-naira contract-splitting fraud.

Ogalla in the report was also accused of releasing several oil tankers impounded for transporting stolen crude oil off Nigerian shores after receiving kickbacks in millions of dollars.

It added that preliminary investigations estimated that Ogalla, who was appointed by the President on June 19, 2023, had accepted over $170m in bribes in the past six months.

The online media platform noted that the log records and videos it reviewed showed several instances between September 2023 and January 2024 when the Nigerian Navy dispatched gunboats of personnel to supervise the loading of stolen crude on at least four vessels.

In a statement on Friday night by the Director, Press and Information for the Ministry of Defence, Matawelle said there was a need for a comprehensive and unbiased investigation to verify the validity of those allegations.

The statement read, “The attention of the Ministry of Defence has been drawn to the recent article published by People’s Gazette which raises serious allegations against Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla.

“Responding to the allegation, Matawalle said that the administration of President Bola Tinubu has zero tolerance for corruption in the public service.

“Though these allegations might be mischievous, the Ministry of Defence is committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and accountability within the Nigerian Armed Forces. The allegations leveled against Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla are serious.

“Matawalle harped on thorough investigation, saying that it was imperative to emphasize the need for a thorough and impartial investigation to ascertain the truth of these claims.”

He also said accusations of this nature could have a consequence on the reputation of individuals and institutions, urging the citizens to avoid “premature judgments” on the matter.

In a related development, a group of activists and lawyers under the aegis of the Coalition of Concerned Nigerians called on President Tinubu, through the Minister of Defence, Mohammed Badaru, to investigate allegations of large scale corruption against the Chief of Naval Staff.

The coalition in a petition dated January 26, 2024, alleged that while the CNS was charged with the responsibility of securing the waterways, the CNS colluded with the perpetrators in the crime against the Nigerian state.

The petitioners are Pelumi Olajengbesi, Deji Adeyanju, Mohammed Suleiman, Aisha Waliki, and Ogunwoye Samson.

Part of the petition reads, “At a time when the country is grappling with significant revenue losses due to crude oil theft, it is distressing to discover that the Chief of Naval Staff, whose primary responsibility is to safeguard Nigeria’s waterways against oil theft and other forms of criminality, is allegedly involved in collusion with the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against the Nigerian state.”

The coalition outlined three areas forming the basis of their petition against Vice Admiral Ogalla namely oil theft collusion, contract splitting, and procurement fraud and corrupt practices.

The group alleged that naval officers under the direct control of Ogalla, had not only participated in the theft of the nation’s crude oil, but they had also provided security to the criminals.

Navy defends CNS

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy has described the allegations against the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, as untenable and baseless.

The Navy, in a statement on Saturday by the Director of Information, Rear Admiral Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, denied the allegations against Ogalla.

Credit: PUNCH

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