Nigeria's Defense Minister, Bello Matawalle, has transferred his efforts to combat worsening insecurity in Nigeria to Saudi Arabia as he attends a conference of Defense Ministers from Africa, Europe and Arab countries.
During the meeting, expected to kick off on February 2, 2024 in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, defense ministers from the said regions will discuss strategies and build partnerships to combat insecurity at the regional and national levels.
Matawalle's participation was revealed by his assistant on new media, Yariman Ganuwa, in a Facebook post. Ganuwa noted that the former Zamfara governor also took time to perform the Minor Hajj (Umrah) where he prayed for the peace and success of Nigeria.
The visit to the holy land follows his participation in a two-day roundtable on security in Northern Nigeria organized by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) held in Abuja from January 24 to 25, 2024.
Chaired by General Abdussalami Abubakar GCFR (Rtd), the roundtable brought together key figures to address the persistent problem of insecurity in Northern Nigeria and the rest of the country as a whole.
Notable attendees included His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Dr. Sa'adu Abubakar; Executive Governors of Gombe, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Bauchi and Nasarawa; and the Minister of Defence, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar.
Others present at the event were the Chief of Defense Staff, General CG Musa; former Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki, and former Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, among other notable figures from various sectors.
Since taking office as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Matawalle has shown a marked departure from business as usual, although the insecurity situation in the country is proving to be a very tough nut to crack.
In a departure from previous administrations, Matawalle ordered an investigation into allegations of misconduct by a serving Navy chief of staff, who was accused of using his office to carry out corrupt practices.
Matawelle was reacting to a news report alleging the involvement of the Navy Chief in facilitating an unorganized bunkering of Nigerian crude oil and contract fraud worth millions of naira.
The online report alleged that Navy Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla was involved in oil theft, accusing him of releasing several oil tankers seized for transporting stolen crude oil off the coast of Nigeria after he had received bribes in millions of dollars.
It added that preliminary investigations show that Ogalla, who was appointed by the president on June 19, 2023, had accepted more than $170 million in bribes over the past six months.
The online media platform noted that the logbook data and videos it reviewed showed several instances between September 2023 and January 2024 in which the Nigerian Navy sent gunboats with personnel to monitor the loading of stolen crude oil onto at least four ships.
Following the claims, a coalition of concerned Nigerians has petitioned President Bola Tinubu to investigate allegations of grand corruption against CONS Vice Admiral Ogalla.
But naval authorities have dismissed the allegations as false. Navy spokesperson Admiral AO Ayo-Vaughan said the allegations were untenable, baseless and untrue and sponsored by oil thieves and disgruntled elements.
In response, Matawalle, who stated that President Bola Tinubu had zero tolerance for corruption in the public service, promised that the allegations would be investigated.
Director of Information, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Defense, Mr Henshaw Ogubike, quoted Matawalle as saying: “While these allegations may be mischievous, the Ministry of Defense is committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and accountability within the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“The allegations against Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla are serious.”
Matawalle said an investigation was imperative to determine the truth, adding: “allegations of this nature can have far-reaching consequences for the reputation of individuals and institutions, and it is therefore crucial to avoid premature judgments.
“It is our collective responsibility to maintain the confidence of the Nigerian people in the institutions that guarantee the security of our country.
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“We call for patience as the investigative process unfolds and trust that justice will be served in accordance with the rule of law.”