Emmanuel Ogalla, the Chief of Naval Staff of Nigeria, is currently embroiled in a major scandal involving multibillion-naira oil bunkering and contract splitting. This has put a spotlight on corruption within the Nigerian Navy and raised significant concerns about the integrity of maritime operations in the country.
In a series of compromising operations, Ogalla is alleged to have sanctioned the transportation of stolen crude oil by naval escort. Notable instances include the oil vessel MT Kali, which was caught transporting stolen crude from Bayelsa to Delta on January 11, 2024, and MT Tura, detected around the same time for stealing crude oil in an operation enabled by naval personnel. Additionally, the Nigerian Navy obstructed a lawful search of the oil tanker MT Vinnalaris, suspected of carrying stolen crude, on direct orders from top brass.
Moreover, Ogalla is accused of engaging in illegal contract-splitting. On November 22, 2023, he awarded 30 contracts, each worth $537,672.45, totaling $16,130,173.5 (or N22 billion at prevailing rates), to a single firm. This procurement for special operations equipment was split into multiple tranches, ostensibly to conceal its total cost and bypass procurement regulations.
Preliminary investigations estimate that Ogalla accepted over $170 million in bribes over the past six months. His actions are considered a violation of Section 20(2)e of the Procurement Act 2007, which forbids contract-splitting and carries a minimum five-year sentence.
Ogalla’s refusal to sanction naval officers found guilty of unprofessional conduct has been linked to his desire to continue utilizing them for his illegal operations. Despite initial promises to clarify his role, Ogalla has been unresponsive to further attempts to reach him.
This scandal presents a significant challenge for President Bola Tinubu’s administration, particularly as Nigeria seeks to strengthen its security architecture. The situation underscores the ongoing struggle against corruption in the country, with past administrations also grappling with similar issues within the military. The investigation into these allegations is crucial not only for national security but also for the reputation of the Nigerian Navy.