Skip to main content

A Grand Conspiracy To Finally Kill The Nigerian Navy

October 23, 2012

The new Chief of the Naval Staff may exhibit a friendly mien as he tries to settle into the arduous task of steering the ship of naval affairs of the nation on the right course. Unbeknownst to many however, behind the friendly mien lies an agonizing pressure from within and without for the new Naval Chief to ‘deal’ with some senior officers regarded as ‘disloyal’ by making immediate changes in the hierarchy of the Naval Service to suit the personal wishes and caprices of certain powerful people in Nigeria. Much as the pressure on the new Naval Chief emanates from external sources, the man himself may harbour personal misgivings about perceived conspiratorial actions of the ‘senior officers’ who ensured that he remained outside the Naval Headquarters throughout the tenure of his predecessor in a bid to ensconce the amiable, consummate but sometimes domineering career naval officer from becoming Chief of the Naval Staff. Obviously, if this perception is correct, then the plan of his tormentors with the calculations that supported it went terribly wrong.

The new Chief of the Naval Staff may exhibit a friendly mien as he tries to settle into the arduous task of steering the ship of naval affairs of the nation on the right course. Unbeknownst to many however, behind the friendly mien lies an agonizing pressure from within and without for the new Naval Chief to ‘deal’ with some senior officers regarded as ‘disloyal’ by making immediate changes in the hierarchy of the Naval Service to suit the personal wishes and caprices of certain powerful people in Nigeria. Much as the pressure on the new Naval Chief emanates from external sources, the man himself may harbour personal misgivings about perceived conspiratorial actions of the ‘senior officers’ who ensured that he remained outside the Naval Headquarters throughout the tenure of his predecessor in a bid to ensconce the amiable, consummate but sometimes domineering career naval officer from becoming Chief of the Naval Staff. Obviously, if this perception is correct, then the plan of his tormentors with the calculations that supported it went terribly wrong.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content1'); });

This is because Vice Admiral DJ Ezeoba, the Man Friday of the imaginary power mongering group, emerged as Chief of the Naval Staff following the recent administrative changes carried out in the Armed Forces of Nigeria by the President, Commander-in-Chief, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

The Delta State indigene Naval Chief who speaks the 3 major Nigerian languages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) fluently in addition to the English Language was born in Jos, the Plateau State Capital. He is a member of Course 22 of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and has attended numerous military courses including the prestigious National War College (National Defence College of Nigeria). He holds a Master of Science Degree in Strategic and Defence Studies. A consummate but flamboyant sailor, he can be outspoken on any issue that he feels strongly about. Vice Admiral Ezeoba could also be domineering even over his superiors hence the so-called conspiracy to send him out of the Naval Headquarters when the former Chief of the Naval Staff and now Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral OS Ibrahim, assumed duty in 2010. With his exit from the Naval Headquarters, many observers in the Nigerian Navy considered his chances of becoming the Naval Chief slim if not dimmed altogether. Consequently, many of his fellow contenders, especially from the stock of ranking Seamen Officers of NDA Regular Combatant Courses 23, 24 and 25, assumed the image and carriage of anointed successors to Admiral OS Ibrahim. Many of us in the Nigerian Navy believe that perhaps, it is from this group that the new Naval Chief may want to exert a pound of flesh in return for their impudence. However, the greatest pressure on the new Chief of Naval Staff that seem to be giving him sleepless nights less than a month after assuming duty is the call from several quarters for the removal of Rear Admiral KO Komolafe (commonly referred to as KOK in the Nigerian Navy), as Chief of Accounts and Budget (CAB) of the Nigerian Navy.

A Regular Combatant Officer of NDA Course 24, KOK is a no-nonsense articulate senior naval officer that can hardly stand waste, mismanagement and corruption in the management of financial resources of the Navy. The born-again senior officer is also a Pastor with one of the ubiquitous and high profile Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria (The Redeemed Christian Church of God). The Spartan-like senior officer committed class suicide when he chose to study accountancy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in the early 80s; shortly after graduating from NDA. He is a member of the graduating class of 1984 of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University that also includes the current Deputy Director of Central Bank of Nigeria (Operations) Dr Tunde Lemo. By choosing to read accountancy, KOK effectively left the Seaman Branch (Teeth Arm of the Navy) for the Finance Branch and by so doing abdicated every opportunity to hold command appointments, including becoming Chief of the Naval Staff in the Nigerian Navy. A man who accepts his fate with divine submission under any given circumstance, KOK settled down in the Finance Branch with avowed determination to do things differently. He abhorred the corrupt indulgences and practices of officers and ratings of the Finance Branch that denied many ordinary personnel of the Nigerian Navy of their pecuniary privileges. Also his knack for following due process and attention to details both of which are complemented by impeccable turn-out in and out of uniform did not escape the notice of his superiors both for the right and wrong reasons at the same time. For instance, even though it was customary at the time to appoint only Seamen Officers with appropriate training on security and intelligence matters as Aide de Camp (ADC) of ranking senior officers like Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral P Koshoni, retired naval officer and former Chief of Naval Staff, appointed KOK as his ADC when the latter was a young officer. The sterling and erudite qualities of the unassuming young officer and keen military bearing did not escape the attention of the Naval Chief during a routine tour of naval formations in Warri area. KOK’s appointment as ADC did not go down well with many a chauvinistic Seamen Officers, including his course mates and former colleagues in the Seaman Branch, who may have been secretly coveting the appointment and therefore regarded the appointment of KOK an aberration. Admiral Koshoni was nonetheless nonplussed by their arguments and grumblings. The vintage KOK discharged his duties effectively and efficiently as ADC such that the then Military Head of State, General IBB once sought to swap him with his own ADC.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content2'); });

The other side of noticing the sterling qualities of KOK by his superiors had some negative dimensions though. The Finance departments in Nigeria’s public service, including the Nigerian Navy, conjure an image of a gluttonous cult group. To belong, one must prove to be loyal, trustworthy beyond any iota of doubt and behave according to tradition. Anything to the contrary means a potential enemy is in the camp. KOK is no doubt loyal but nobody could vouch for the trustworthiness of an avowed stickler for due process. Sticking to due process is certainly not one of the cardinal rules of the finance departments of public service in Nigeria. On the contrary, it is one of the foreboding exceptions. Therefore, the Nigerian Navy Finance Department regarded KOK as a potential disaster right from the very moment he de-branched into the self-destruct cult group. Successive Chiefs of the Naval Staff who regarded the man as a possible obstacle on the way of their desires to dip their seedy fingers deep into the funds of the Nigerian Navy only related with KOK on the surface, or so it appeared. After all, he is a Regular Combatant Officer and as such was one of their own. However, he could not be trusted and therefore they knew better to keep him at bay with peripheral appointments that kept him away from the nucleus of financial activities of the Nigerian Navy. That was before the appointment of Admiral OS Ibrahim as Chief of the Naval Staff.

If the man KOK had enemies within, he was perhaps his own worst enemy because he did not conceal his intention to follow proper procedure in financial and related matters at all times irrespective of whose ox is gored. Like Wale Adebanwi wrote in his book ‘a Paradise for Maggots, where he described the travails of the erstwhile ‘scoundrel’ of Nigeria’s corruption war,  ‘’yet there were many oxen to be gored’’. Just like Mr Nuhu Ribadu, KOK is not a man given to the hypocritical pretensions of the charlatans in Nigeria’s public service, which, sadly, include the Nigerian Armed Forces. Like a leprous child, successive Chiefs of Naval Staff in key Headquarters appointments avoided him even though the man continued to earn his promotion with his coursemates up to the rank of Rear Admiral (Army equivalence of Major General). The out-gone Chief of the Naval Staff and currently the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral OS Ibrahim against all expectations, appointed Rear Admiral KO Komolafe as the CAB of Nigerian Navy. By that singular appointment, Admiral OS Ibrahim sent a clear signal to all and sundry in the Nigerian Navy that it was not going to be business as usual especially with regards to management of the meagre financial resources of the Nigerian Navy. This was contrary to the usual practice in the Service whereby a new Chief of the Naval Staff either retains or appoints a loyal CAB that he estimates would do his personal biddings in the management of Nigeria Navy Funds. Before the appointment of KOK, the management of Nigerian Navy financial resources was characterised by monumental waste, mismanagement and massive embezzlement. At a point, the Directors under the former CABs before KOK assumed office (Director of Naval Accounts or DONA and Director of Budget or DOB), including the staff officers and ratings under them controlled one fund or the other from which they all helped themselves as they liked and doled generously to whosoever found favour in their sight. Conversely, they denied many ordinary naval personnel their legitimate pecuniary claims and privileges. The DONA particularly has spent about a decade, if not more, at the Naval Headquarters and remains there till date. He became stupendously rich and doled out public funds (in soft and hard currencies) to as many persons as he considers instrumental to his continuous stay at the Naval Headquarters. He became so powerful having compromised virtually successive Naval hierarchies, officials of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), some members of the National Assembly, senior officials of the Offices of the Accountant-General and Auditor-General of the Federation including the Budget Office and potential ‘big boys’ of the Nigerian Navy. He achieved this through frequent bribes subtly referred to as ‘welfare’ such that every attempt to deploy him out of the Naval Headquarters failed at conception. One of his boys, a junior rate popularly called JJ for short, became a living legend in the Nigerian Navy by doling out welfare to his superiors, including Generals. It is a common joke in the Service when people want to be ridiculous that many ‘Generals’ attended the several house warming parties of the junior rate on the several occasions that he completed each of his numerous houses in Abuja. For this and many more, the Nigerian Navy became the butt of jokes in messes and unofficial gatherings with Army and Air Force officers citing how personnel of the Nigerian Navy and those of sister Services (Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force) including paramilitary agencies and even civilians throng the first floor of the Naval Headquarters every day in search of ‘welfare’. (The Accounts and Budget Branch of the Nigerian Navy is located on the first floor of the Headquarters building). They joked that it was common then to see a ‘General’ saluting JJ and praising him to high heavens in anticipation of ‘enhanced welfare’ package, depending on the mood of the overly indulged lad.

Directly as KOK assumed office he made his intention for reform of the Accounts and Budget Branch of the Nigerian Navy known to all concerned. Many of the personnel who had served in the Branch at the Naval Headquarters for many years and had employed all tricks to remain at the Headquarters knew instantly that their games were over. Some of them sought and obtained transfers out of the Headquarters on their own volition before the new CAB showed them the way out. Some who have got used to the ‘land of milk and honey’ (Naval Headquarters) decided to however wait with bated hopes while devising new tricks. Before long, most of the officers and ratings of the Accounts and Budget Branch, including the almighty JJ, that had latched to the Naval Headquarters like leeches on human bodies were eased out of the Headquarters. However, there was one exception. The services of the DONA are so invaluable to many powerful Nigerians that it was not expedient to redeploy him. That was the first shocker that KOK who was not familiar with the politics of Naval Headquarters despite his wish and that of the new Chief of the Naval Staff to do so. There were far too many entrenched interests that pressurized the Naval Chief to allow their financial acolyte and generous provider to stay no matter what his CAB (KOK) thinks. And so stay did the Director but not without adjusting immediately to the austere and strict practices of his new Boss. But like the proverbial fox, the DONA was up to the tilt with his schemes and ambition even though he bided his time circumspectly. To say that KOK restored sanity to the Accounts and Budget Branch of the Nigerian Navy would amount to an understatement. Under him and with the permission of Chief of the Naval Staff, he curtailed waste and mismanagement of public funds under whatever pretext, including the largesse that people had become so accustomed to. Personnel began to receive what is legitimately due to them but unlike the former practice, denied what is not due to them all according to financial rules and regulations of the public service. Rear Admiral KO Komolafe articulated and marshalled sound financial planning and policies that enabled the Nigerian Navy pay-off over N5b debt owed to some Nigerian contractors, some of them fronting for serving officers of the Nigerian Navy in charge of award of contracts. Like the companies that owned the debts, several of them were spurious and unverifiable. Yet, the Nigerian Navy was compelled to painfully pay the debts even because they were initiated and consummated by serving Nigerian Navy officials. KOK gave impetus to the vision of Chief of the Naval Staff for re-positioning the Nigerian Navy both operationally and in terms of personnel welfare. He sought to enforce financial discipline in the Nigerian Navy and subtly rebuffed the overture of the many that hitherto partook in the ‘sharing’ of the naval funds.

If many at the onset hailed Rear Admiral KO Komolafe, he was soon to outlive his goodwill before this many and a few adversaries. Most were to later regard his style of financial administration strange and ‘too extreme’.

As expected, the CAB became unpopular with Nigerian Legislators, officials of MOD, corrupt public officials and even his colleagues (serving and retired). They were all used to sharing the ‘naval loot’ and KOK was committing sacrilege by standing in their way. Admiral OS Ibrahim came under intense pressure to remove KOK and bring in any of his more pliable but less professional juniors. However, the former Naval Chief remained focused and determined to stir a revolutionary course at whatever price. He simply remained unruffled. This group of desperate people therefore saw an opportunity in the appointment of a new Chief of the Naval Staff to renew their call for KOK’s head. I must admit that KOK may not be completely a saint as he is bound to compromise in certain areas either deliberately or through omission. After all, he is a mere mortal. It would interest you to know that those of us that decided to contribute this piece are serving naval officers in order to bring the atrocities of those bent on killing the Nigerian Navy to public domain had been denied what in our estimation our legitimate pecuniary privileges due to a rigid interpretation of financial rules by KOK’s boys. Yet, for the sake of common good and advancement of an egalitarian society, we endured such denials. It is our conviction that it is better for things to work for common good than revelling in the narrow indulgences of exclusive privileges. Knowing the flamboyant lifestyle of the new Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral DJ Ezeoba, and the intense pressure to remove KOK from the office of CAB, it is in our own estimation but a matter of time before he succumbs. And if he does, the Nigerian Navy would once again descend on a precipitous journey to self destruct and immolation. Do you wonder why most of the Nigerian Navy Ships are not operational today or why the Nigerian Navy does not have enough and befitting Barracks as well as functional hospitals like the Nigerian Air Force? The answer simply lies in corruption and several years of looting of Nigerian Navy’s funds by successive administrations and their cooperating politicians (including successive Ministers of Defence) public officials, scavenging retired senior military officers and dubious contractors. KOK may have been too stringent and unbending in his quest to engender financial discipline in the Nigerian Navy, yet this is what the Nigerian Navy needs after many years of financial rape and profligacy. If Vice Admiral DJ Ezeoba removes KOK as CAB, let it be known to Mr President that his new Naval Chief did not take his admonition to stop the menace of oil theft seriously. Rather, he is set to revert to the old order of ‘business as usual’. Whereas by such a reversal, the retired vultures of the naval service hanging around the putrid carcase of the Naval Service all day, dubious front men of unscrupulous serving officers of the Nigerian Navy in charge of contracts, shameless politicians and the irredeemably corrupt Nigerian public officials may have something to jubilate about. Also, the Nigerian Navy and by extension, the Nigerian nation, will be the greatest looser as theft of crude oil, poaching, piracy, pollution and other criminal activities being perpetrated in Nigeria’s waters currently by a powerful cabal would continue unchallenged. The effort of the immediate past administration of the Nigerian Navy to reposition the Service for enhanced operational effectiveness through efficient management of scarce resources would become fruitless ultimately. The Nigerian Navy may be unable to further convince the Federal Government to do things differently and rise to existing and emerging national security challenges as it has promised recently. If this happens, the Government’s commitment could wane leading to possible total collapse of the Nigerian Navy in the not too distant future. The interest of Nigeria as a nation is too important and greater than any individual interest. Therefore good men must continue to talk or fertilize the seed of individual and collective tyranny when they keep quiet. In all these, whether the Naval Chief yields to pressure or not, the person that would achieve real victory ultimately like Mr Nuhu Ribadu will be KOK. We rest our case.                                    
 

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('comments'); });