* Navy says ‘malicious publication’ is blackmail

By ANIEBO NWAMU

Senator Okey Ezea (LP, Enugu North) has expressed support for the Nigerian Navy’s statement on Saturday criticising a “sponsored malicious publication” against the chief of the naval staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla .

On his verified X handle, Senator Ezea, popularly called “Ideke” (after his shipping company while he was in the private sector), knocks online newspaper Peoples Gazette and others for allowing themselves to be used by oil thieves to defame the character of “the very competent and incorruptible” Ogalla.

Vice Admiral Ogalla comes from Enugu North, the district Ezea represents in the Senate.

The senator’s post on X reads: “There seems to have been an orchestrated scheme to harass and intimidate the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, out of office. The culprits obviously are oil thieves who have met a brick wall in the very competent and incorruptible naval chief.

“The allegations in their campaign of calumny have no facts, otherwise they would have since presented them. In any case, the Nigerian Navy’s statement yesterday entitled “SPONSORED MALICIOUS PUBLICATION AGAINST THE OFFICE AND PERSON OF THE CHIEF OF THE NAVAL STAFF” provides all the answers.

Peoples Gazette and other online publications being used to propagate this evil campaign should remember that defamation of character is still a crime under Nigerian law. They should not resort to begging when the chips are down.”

The Naval Headquarters yesterday issued a disclaimer clearing  CNS Ogalla of all allegations levelled against him in a story published on Peoples Gazette and culled or reported by several other publications. In the rebuttal signed by Rear Admiral Adetokun Ayo-Vaughan, director of information, the Nigerian Navy (NN) said the allegations were unfounded and baseless,  adding that those feeling the heat of the several operations by the navy were behind the blackmail against Ogalla.

Ogalla was accused of involvement in facilitating unauthorised bunkering of crude oil and engaging in multimillion-naira contract-splitting fraud. He was also implicated in the release of several oil tankers previously seized for transporting stolen crude oil off Nigerian shores, allegedly after receiving substantial kickbacks.

Following these allegations, the minister of state for defence, Bello Matawalle, promised to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.

The NN’s statement, however, clarified that the vessels mentioned in the report were apprehended for involvement in crude oil theft and illegal oil bunkering, and they have not been released as alleged.

The statement signed by Ayo-Vaughan also averred that it was not within the power of Ogalla to award oil-bunkering contracts, adding that only the NNPCL had such power.

Tantita Security Services Limited (TSL) run by former militant Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) is one of the firms allegedly unhappy with NN in the Niger Delta. Oil thieves loom large in the country’s coastal waters, and they constitute a powerful cabal that could needle anyone that refuses to play ball.

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