Port Harcourt — The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, says over 90percent of allegations of the military involvement in oil theft and illegal oil bunkering activities, were unfounded and baseless.
This is coming after non-state actors have in recent times, renewed accusations against the military of aiding and abetting oil thieves and illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta region.
But the CNS speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt after a two-day tour of Naval Commands and Formations in Rivers State, explained that whenever such allegations were raised, it always turned out to be false and baseless after proper investigations.
Ogalla, however, warned that any personnel caught in criminality will face the full wrath of the law in line with the Armed Forces Act, emphasising that such personnel risks severe consequences such as dismissal from the military and a jail term.
He said, “The allegations are baseless and unfounded, for instance, military men could be seen on board a vessel and without prior knowlege if the said vessel has proper approval from NNPC to lift oil, people will just take a snapshot of the vessel and put in on social media with a caption that the military is involved in oil theft, even without having the correct information.
“But whatever the case may be, anytime we receive such information, we do investigate it properly. So far our investigations have been showing that most of the allegations are not true, but each time we still respond to such allegations by proper investigation, so that if there is an element of truth in it, we hold the personnel responsible for it and apply the law according to the Armed Forces Act.
“Such act has a very severe consequence ranging from imprisonment to dismissal which we apply; there has been such cases in the past and appropriate actions were taken, but I assure you that more than 90percent of such allegations are based on social media hype without proper background.”
The military Chief further assured of the Nigerian Navy’s improved surveillance capability, assuring that modalities were being put in place to stop criminals even before criminalities were perpetrated.
He further announced that the Nigerian Navy under his watch would use both human and technological intelligence to fight crime and criminalities across the nation’s maritime domain.
“We want to arrest them (criminal elements) while they are planning or thinking about it, we don’t want to be on the defensive, we want to take the war to the criminals and get them even before the start the act.
“This we can only do through proper intelligence, both human intelligence and using technology. And that’s why we are trying to extend the coverage of our maritime domain awareness capability- the Falcon Eye- to the backwaters, which is the creeks and the riverine areas, which is where most of these activities take place.
“We are going to do that, and we believe we are going to achieve the desired objectives,” the Chief of Naval Staff said.