• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ogalla, national security and improbable possibilities

Attahiru plane crash (1)

Introduction

In the last week of January 2024, an emergency gang calling itself Coalition of Concerned Nigerians made publication accusing Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), of oil bunkering, contract splitting and fraudulent procurement. The dubious group then asked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to remove Ogalla from office.

Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS)
Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS)

Good enough, the Nigerian Navy wasted no time exonerating its chief. Rear Admiral Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, its spokesman, forensically destroyed the three false charges. “Indeed, all arrested vessels mentioned in the publication that were involved in crude oil theft and illegal oil bunkering are being investigated and none of such vessels has been released as alleged. Secondly, the CNS does not award or oversee oil bunkering contracts; the award of such is the sole prerogative of NNPCL. Thirdly, all contracts awarded by the Navy follow due process in line with the laws of the Federation,” he said.

Then he gave an important revelation. The launching of Operation Delta Sanity by the Navy scared oil theft cartels who believed none could confront them. Their response was that sordid publication.

“Fortunately, the recent achievements of the NN in this regard have put them on their heels; hence, the resort to cheap blackmail through immoral and compromised online media publishers…. Accordingly, members of the public are therefore, enjoined to discountenance completely the malicious publication. It is totally untrue and completely baseless, being a figment of the shallow imagination of the writer, his publishers, and their unpatriotic sponsors,” he further said.

The matter could have ended there but for Bello Matawalle, minister of Defence for State, declaring he was probing Ogalla.

Bello Matawalle, minister of Defence for State,
Bello Matawalle, minister of Defence for State,

Will Matawalle probe an innocent and gentleman officer based on the spurious claims of unhappy entities who contracted themselves as willing tools in a proxy war?

But for close to two months now, Major General Danjuma Ali-Keffi (rtd) has been shouting that Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, former Chief of Army Staff, COAS, and eleven senior officers were blown out of the sky by explosives planted in their plane by terror financiers in the military. Why is Matawalle not probing Ali-Keffi’s claims? Are we seeing differential justice in situ?

Tellingly, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and Auwal Musa Rafsanjani have called for probe into the assassination of Attahiru even though Matawalle will not act. Nigerians want answer to why Attahiru was killed. They want to know why Ali-Keffi was unjustly arrested, detained, tortured and dismissed from service. These are genuine national security questions deserving Matawalle’s attention than the nauseating ululation of decrepit characters.

The whole truth is that a violent palace coup by terror financiers within the military took place on 21st May 2021. In that coup, Attahiru and eleven of his officers were assassinated. Ali-Keffi holds the clues to what happened. He was briefed on phone on the sudden and unusual changes that characterised Attahiru’s last flight, heard the midair explosion that claimed his boss and also recovered the victims’ burnt remains.

Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, former Chief of Army Staff (COAS)
Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, former Chief of Army Staff (COAS)

With his determined voice getting louder and louder since January 2024, the perpetrators who stole the one billion dollars meant for arms procurement, in addition to making more billions from illegal gold mining and oil bunkering, thought of diverting attention from the Attahiru question by instigating unrest.

By blackmailing Ogalla, they hoped to stir up the South East against President Tinubu. In their equation, Ogalla is soft target coming from a part of Nigeria perceived hostile to the President. But they grossly miscalculated!

Rather than being fooled, we are privileging Attahiru’s assassination. We shall also give prognoses of what could happen anytime. Nigerians must be warned against hurriedly responding to high-profile assassinations not to set one ethnic group against its neighbours.

Looted billions and military-grade weapons are in the hands of desperate men who will kill again to cover their crimes against their fellow officers. Attahiru is gone, Ali-Keffi dismissed and Ogalla tagged. Remain Vigilant.

Assassination of Attahiru

Nigerian Tribune of 13th March 2021 carried the headline, “Reps to Army Chief: Come Explain how Military Weapons Got to Bandits.”

The invitation was extended by the Olaide Akinremi-led Committee set up by the House to review the purchase, use and control of arms by the military and other law enforcement agencies. The committee was also mandated to uncover how purchased weapons ended up in the hands of terrorists and bandits. The military chief invited was Attahiru. By character and training, he was totally dedicated to protecting Nigerians from internal and external enemies.

The committee was established following the alarm raised by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd), who warned that the new military chiefs, Attahiru was one, had not seen any proof of arms procurement in their records and hand-over notes on assumption of office. That the former military chiefs could also not account for the trillions of naira voted for arms in the fight against terrorists.

Recall that on assuming office as COAS, an overwhelmed Attahiru, with his men mowed down by bandits and terrorists, cried out that his armouries were empty. That the Army he inherited was bereft of weapons with no document showing that purchased weapons were in transit. It was further revealed that captured terrorists surrendered weapons stolen from armouries across military formations. It was high treason denying our gallant soldiers weapons while arming enemies of Nigeria.

Attahiru failed to appear before Committee sending Major General C. Ofuche instead. This led to postponement of proceeding to enable him appear in person. Then in April 2021, the Senate Committee on Army led by its Chairman, Ali Ndume, met Attahiru. The latter repeated Nigerian security challenge would be difficult to address without weapons. It was at this stage when Attahiru thought things were panning out, following Ndume’s reassurance, that the conspiracy against him was sprung.

On 21st May 2021, Attahiru’s departure time from Abuja to Kaduna was delayed by over three hours. His plane was switched with one rigged with explosives. Whereas his destination airport was the Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna, his plane was mysteriously diverted to the Kaduna International Airport. When he was finally air borne, the COAS flew into inclement weather that further kept him in the aircraft. Then as his plane made the final approach to landing, a huge explosion on board killed him and eleven other senior officers.

The dead stay dumb. Attahiru knew too much. With his death nothing more was heard of terror financiers in the military or the stolen one billion dollars, running into trillions of naira, meant for weapons. Till date no treacherous coalition has called for probe into Attahiru’s assassination even when Ali-Keffi told Nigerians what happened.

Ali-Keffi’s revelation

Denied of fighting equipment, Attahiru relied on clandestine warfare to fight none-state actors. His Operation Service Wide (OSW) was mandated to dismantle terror financing network. Ali-Keffi headed this group, effectively devising a strategy to infiltrate and misinform the leaderships of the Boko Haram and Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP) terrorist groups. This created mutual distrust leading to the killing of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, by rival ISWAP.

What made Ali-Keffi a marked man was his report as President of the Board of Inquiry (BOI), investigating sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria. In his recent petition to President Tinubu protesting Attahiru’s assassination and his own travails, this is what Ali-Keffi, inter alia, said about oil bunkering and terror financing as published by Premium Times of 22nd January 2024:

“The Board of Inquiry…was tasked to investigate circumstances surrounding the illegal smuggling of petroleum products contained in 168 oil tankers into Benin Republic through a single smuggling route in Ilesa Barbara in Kwara State. The most worrisome aspect was that some of the individuals involved in terrorism financing of Boko Haram terrorists and who were also involved in procurement and movement of arms and ammunition for BH (Boko Haram) and other criminal organisations had links with the military.

“It was thus apparent that terrorism and insurgency in the North-East, North-West and North-Central were a criminal enterprise and were largely undertaken with profit rather than any ideology, as the primary motive. Thus, we, at the BOI arrived at the obvious conclusion that progress cannot be achieved except the financiers, collaborators, supporters and the leadership of the terrorists and insurgent groups are identified and the network dismantled.”

Improbable possibilities

Firstly, weapons stolen from our armouries included Shoulder-to-Air Missiles capable of bringing down aircraft at low altitude. Suppose those blackmailing Ogalla, failing to incite the South East against President Tinubu, instruct their minions in the Boko Haram to use such missiles to bring down a passenger liner or even the presidential jet?

That was what led to the 1994 Tutsi Genocide. French mercenaries shot down Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana’s jet and Hutus blamed and massacred their traditional Tutsi enemies. Was there a nexus between the activities of non-state actors in Rwanda and the downing of the aircraft? The answer is yes. Do terrorists in northern Nigeria have the capacity to shoot down planes? Again, the answer is yes, because they have missiles.

And secondly, our national security can never be guaranteed until the humongous illegal gold mining in Zamfara and Osun States is checked. Billions from stolen gold fuel internal violence. Was there a link between illegal diamond mining in Sierra Leone and that country’s civil war? The answer is yes. Can illegal gold mining drag Nigeria into civil war? The answer is yes: Report of the Ali-Keffi-led BOI clearly implies that.

Our credulity is the new danger. None believed young Folorunsho Ariyo and Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar could be shot by kidnappers and their bodies left by the roadside. Their killings marked the turning point as our collective psyche was dented. Nigerians now believe anything. Therefore, we must be cautious responding to assassinations and moral panics not to play into the hands of enemies capitalising on our impaired judgement.

Conclusion

Ogalla is innocent and must be left alone to do the job his Commander-in-Chief assigned him. The conspiracy against him is a poor attempt to divert attention from the 21st May 2021 coup that killed Attahiru. Matawalle should be probing those behind the coup.

Finally, President Tinubu should, as a matter of utmost national importance, beef up security around Ali-Keffi till the probe into Attahiru’s assassination is completed and findings made public. Ali-Keffi is deliberately denied security to make it easier for the very terrorists he fought to kill him. Nigerians want justice for this citizen: His petition should be addressed, unjust dismissal reversed and rank restored.

Eke: Email: [email protected] and phone: 081 3515 9313; takes full responsibility for his own opinion.