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N400m bribe: Navy probes officer

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AT LAST, the Nigerian Navy has set up an investigative panel to probe into the allegation of extortion in which N100 million was allegedly found in the account of a junior Naval officer controlling traffic along Apapa wharf access roads.

The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice-Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas said the investigative panel was set up to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of  claims of massive extortion and molestation of truck drivers by Naval officers, which has been widely reported since 2017.

Following Vice Admiral Ibok’s orders, the special Navy panel summoned a critical meeting at the Western Naval headquarters last week, hosting truckers secretly to dish out names of corrupt Navy officers who had been involved in extortion.

The former Commanding officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT Admiral Okon Eyo wasn’t left out in the fierce interrogation, while several other senior Naval officers were also quizzed.

Although it’s still surprising that the CNS was said to be more devastated about the unruly attitude of the subordinate officer in the N100 million saga, it is a welcome development that the Navy attempts to sanitize the force.

This development is coming after the Presidency dismissed the Navy from the port access roads following complaints by various trucking groups as well as freight forwarding associations indicting the Navy for gross extortion and abuse of its privilege as head of the old taskforce team at the port access roads.

It could be recalled that the leadership of the Navy allegedly found over a hundred million naira in the bank account of an officer (name and position withheld) who amassed the colossal sum from bribes collected at Apapa port environs as a security personnel responsible for the previous truck call-up management.

The officer was said to have been caught allowing irregular movement of trucks on the Apapa bridge after receiving bribes, the senior officer who caught him rebuked him but the junior was unruly and his actions were reported to the Nigerian Navy disciplinary units.

It was during the investigation of the junior officer for insubordination that hundreds of millions was found in his bank account and the figure is believed to be proceeds of bribes collected by the officer.

Speaking in an interview during the Navy interrogation, the Chairman, Dry Cargo Section of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Inuwa Mohammed commended the CNS for the decision to set up the panel of inquiry.

“I want to appreciate the leadership of the Navy, especially the CNS, Vice Admiral Ibas for setting up a panel of inquiry on the extortion that transpired at the ports with the Navy as head of the taskforce team. Truckers have gone in to give our testimony on what transpired. This proves that the Nigerian government and the Naval leadership are serious about the plight of Nigerians” he said.

However, Inuwa lamented that some security agents in former taskforce had refused to leave the port access roads but he commended the new taskforce led by Mr. Kayode Opeifa and the Commissioner of Police heading the enforcement, CP, Hakeem Odumosu for matching the antics of hell-bent corrupt officers.

“The only challenge we have had is with the old security agents under the former taskforce. Some officers, especially the police have refused to back out; they continue to create mediums and opportunities for extortion. However, the CP, Hakeem Odumosu has arrested several of them as well as some of our boys (truckers). We demanded that our boys who have been involved in such corrupt practices also be arrested to serve as a lesson to others”, he said.

Inuwa revealed that extortion exists but at a minimized level where truckers were comfortable; noting that CP Odumosu’s team went as far as digging gullies across routes reported to have extortion points by Police officers so that trucks couldn’t ply such places.

“So many trucks have been trapped in places were gutters have been dug because of bribes. These are truckers who have connived with some corrupt officers to try to beat the existing platform for trucks by passing streets, since there’s no opportunity for one-way” he said.

According to him, since the Presidential task team started their assignment, no driver has complained to him about extortion, maltreatment, corporal punishment or damage of trucks.

“Rather, they have been appreciative in their feedback on the taskforce. They have pleaded with us to convince the Presidential taskforce to remain on the port access roads permanently” he added.

Meanwhile, the Deputy National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarding (NAGAFF) headquarters, Mr. Simeon Nwonu has also observed that extortion still exists despite the Navy’s exit from the port access roads.

While commending the new Presidential task team, he asserted that the problem of corruption and extortion would always persist because of the social value system in the country.

“Corruption has become so endemic in Nigeria that every government official sees his position as a means to enrich himself.   That is why the Navy’s dismissal from the port access roads hasn’t solved the problem of corruption. Look at what the Police are doing now. It’s a shame!” he said.

Nwonu advised the Presidential task team to send spies to know what is obtainable along the port access roads.

“Two days ago, I witnessed a scenario where police officers were stopping trucks and asking for monies. If you don’t bring money, they would interrogate you and delay you until you succumb.   They have people that collect the monies for them.

The truth is that the problem of extortion has minimized because the officers collect the monies fearfully. In the past there was no fear as they collected monies and counted it openly. They still extort but it has minimized” he added.

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