A corruption scandal is rattling Nigeria's navy after officials revealed that two vice-admirals and eight officers now retired are suspected of having been involved in contraband petrol trafficking in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Contraband petrol represents a huge loss for Africa's biggest oil-producing country.
A corruption scandal is rattling Nigeria’s navy after officials revealed that two vice-admirals and eight officers now retired are suspected of having been involved in contraband petrol trafficking in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
The new head of the navy, Vice-Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye, told a parliamentary commission on Thursday about the suspected illegal bunkering on ships under naval guard and how the ex-officers allegedly dipped into the lucrative trade, several newspapers reported.
”The retired officers were actively involved in illegal bunkering from their vantage positions in naval operations, knowing full well that the proceeds from illegal bunkering is a major source of funding for the operations of militants in the Niger Delta,” Adekeye said.
The volatile Niger Delta has been plagued by the kidnappings of foreign oil workers and the killing of Nigerian forces trying to curb the violence of armed militants wanting a share of the region’s oil wealth.
For their part, the ex-officers have continued to contest the case and their forced retirement from the navy.
Adekeye told the lawmakers that the suspected operation began in 2005 when a ship, the MT African Pride, which was implicated in contraband petrol activities, was intercepted in Nigerian waters with about 150 000 barrels on board. But shortly afterwards the ship disappeared while it was under the guard of the Nigerian navy.
Then, in early July this year, another ship laden with petrol, the MT Tritya, also disappeared while supposedly under naval guard. A search went out but the vessel and its cargo were never found.
Contraband petrol represents a huge loss for Africa’s biggest oil-producing country. Several multinational companies in the Niger Delta say between 120 000 and 250 000 barrels disappear every day.
A secret meeting with Nigerian officials is expected to take place next week in an undisclosed European country about security in the Gulf of Guinea, focusing on contraband petrol.
The new naval chief in Nigeria’s southern region, Captain Samson Oluwole Ojediran, said the country’s navy is becoming one of money grabbers and that it is time to crack down on corruption.
”Let me tell you that if you are caught, I do not care who your ‘godfather’ is, I will take the severest step against you,” Ojediran said this week.
Some observers have said Nigeria’s new President, Umaru Yar’adua, has set a new tone by declaring he would have ”zero tolerance” of corruption in Africa’s most populous country, which has had the reputation of being one of the world’s most corrupt nations according to Transparency International. — Sapa-AFP