Open Letter From Retired Navy Captain Emmanuel Ekpe Owen To President Buhari 

A retired Nigerian Naval Officer, Emmanuel Ekpe Owen, has written an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over the victimisation and injustice allegedly going on in the Nigerian Navy.

In the letter, Retired Navy Captain Owen alleged that he was repeatedly victimized by the former Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ekwe Ibas, for more than 20 years and that the current Naval authorities continued with the victimization in conjunction with the current Minister of Defence.

The letter reads in full: “Your Excellency, I humbly wish to use this medium to state the affairs ongoing in the Armed Forces of Nigeria viz-a-viz victimisation, injustice and impunity using the Nigerian Navy as a reference. A constituency which I was once an active member up to some few days ago.

“Your landslide victory in the 2015 election heralded a fervour which reverberated across the land and beyond the shores of our great country Nigeria. I was elated that here was a man who was Spartan, frugal and a disciplinarian with empathy. In your inaugural speech, amongst other things you stated that ‘I am for everybody and nobody’ and with zero tolerance for corruption, tribalism, nepotism and religious intolerance. This stance reinforced my belief that Nigeria could still achieve that oneness and unity of purpose which had been lost over time.

“Sir, as you very well know, the bedrock of any country lies in its stable and motivated armed forces through its Punishment and Reward system. However, the inability of the system to observe this tenets has led to unchecked injustices and victimisation in the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“Using myself as a case study. I was repeatedly victimised by the former Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ekwe Ibas for more than 20 years and continued by the present naval authority in conjunction with the present Minister of Defence. After availing myself all options to seek redress within the system, I had no other recourse than to write a letter of redress to Mr President.

“My problem with the former Chief of the Naval Staff escalated in 2015 as a result of a case of fraud I had reported against him as the former Executive Officer of NNS AMBE which was at the time in Liberia on Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) Mission in 1996.

“The former CNS was adamant on punishing me for exposing his corrupt behaviour. And so despite the fact that I had repeatedly met all the criteria for promotion, I along with so many others were denied promotion on frivolous grounds. Further to this, I was on National assignment to India for a mission which was successfully completed. I was not funded for the purchase of equipment for this assignment and had to use my money. Despite this drawback, Nigeria secured its place in the record books as the first black nation to achieve such a feat. As I write this letter, I have yet to be refunded the said money used.

“After having been denied promotion twice, I was still tasked on another National assignment and a task in which the Nigerian Navy was adjudged the best and an award given to the former Chief of the Naval Staff and the Nigerian Navy in 2016 and 2017. Despite the odds against me sir, I was able to successful complete these assignments which ordinarily would have resulted in my team and I being acknowledged and rewarded accordingly.

“Sir, in 2019, Rear Admiral AZ Gambo (presently Chief of the Naval Staff), who was then Director of Procurement at the Defence Space Agency, and I met severally as a result of his being victimised by the former Chief of the Naval Staff. At the time, he was forced to work under a junior Major General and later by his course mate. This meetings we had were for the development of my draft letter of redress to Mr President which was initiated by me and developed, vetted and endorsed by Vice Admiral AZ Gambo. The present Chief of the Naval Staff who on completion of the letter, gave me a specific period to ensure a copy was forwarded to Mr President in September of 2019.

Chief Of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo

“Your Excellency, based on the letter forwarded to you I faced open hostilities from certain quarters in the government and the Armed Forces of Nigeria. If not for the intervention of the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Defence Intelligence who believed that an infraction had been committed the story would have been different today. One of the numerous interviews held was with the former Chief of the Naval Staff Vice Admiral IE Ibas (rtd) initiated by the immediate past Chief of Defence Intelligence. This meeting was held at the past CNS office in December 2019, in attendance where 3 of his Principal Staff Officers.

“Less than a week after this uneventful meeting, a Navy Signal was released directing that I and 25 other officers immediately proceed to Pan Atlantic University in Abuja on pre-retirement course. It has to be observed that 20 of the selected officers were not due for retirement as they still had time in the Service. I am of the opinion that this action was carried out by the Naval Authorities to shroud the fact that I and some of the selected officers were blacklisted by the CNS. Sir it has to be noted that this course is meant for officers who have less than 6 months in the Service.

“In addition Sir, I was the only one relieved of my appointment as the Deputy Director Procurement at the Defence Intelligence Agency in January of 2020. I was without an office or appointment until 9 of July 2022 where I was compulsorily retired by Vice Admiral AZ Gambo and endorsed by the Honourable Minister of Defence despite a reminder to Mr President and a letter of appeal written in accordance with existing regulations. Saw this as a breach of my fundamental human rights manifested in the deliberate denial of my right to a fair hearing.

“These aforementioned actions where as a result of my letter of redress to you and in which you directed the current Minister of Defence to conduct a thorough investigation into my allegations and salient points raised to ameliorate the spate of insecurity through terrorism, banditry with a view to de-escalation.

“Some of the allegations raised in the letter include my victimisation with relevant documents, victimisation and forced retirement of experienced and skilled operations officers through non-promotion, others include promotion of fraudulent officers that were investigated by the EFCC and indicted by a competent court of jurisdiction for stealing over officers who had excelled and continue to excel in various theatres of operations within and outside Nigeria and description of these issues have not been addressed. Or is my President and Commander-in-Chief no longer interested in zero tolerance in corruption? I doubt very much that this is the case.

“The Honourable Minister of Defence inaugurated a Committee made of members of the Legal Department in Ministry of Defence (HMOD). All documents were forwarded to the committee and on completion of the task, a report was forwarded to the HMOD for his endorsement and forwarding of his report to Mr President. However, the HMOD refused to endorse this report and by this action became complicit in the rise in terrorism, kidnappings and banditry.

“If my recommendations were duly implemented as and when the letter was received, I strongly believe the armed forces would have been better prepared and more resilient. Rather than take the message, the authorities went after the messenger. Equally, if the HMOD had acknowledged the mandate of Mr President’s zero tolerance stance for corruption, he would not have gone against Mr President in the promotion of fraudulent officers and repeated subversion of justice in the Nigerian Navy. In addition sir, my International Passport data was collected from me and I was placed on the National Security Watch list. Why that was done I don’t know sir. However, despite my incarceration I continued to send security recommendations through back channels to the Presidency which was acknowledged but not used.

“Sir, shortly after MOD’s investigations, I was unceremoniously withdrawn from the Pan Atlantic University Pre-retirement Course and placed under arrest and told to report at the Naval Headquarters. A Board of Inquiry (BOI) was convened by Vice Admiral IE Ibas rtd (then CNS) to investigate me. However, I declined being that the former CNS could not be a judge in his own case and I rather volunteered to be tried by the CDS or the Commander-In-Chief as I knew I was not going to get a fair trial as there where antecedents to glean from.

“However, instead of dissolving the BOI in accordance with existing regulations, the BOI went ahead with their Inquiry without me in attendance. Shortly, after the charade sir, I was appointed to Headquarters Western Naval Command Apapa Lagos under jurisdiction. I was forced to pay for my flight ticket and take care of my accommodation and this not being in accordance with subsisting financial regulations and protocols on movement of an offender. Repeated requests both orally and written were made to the authorities for reimbursement but there was no response. After more than 3 months of pleading, 5 per cent of what was owed was paid. Your Excellency Sir, I am still being owed having been kept incarcerated from 2020 to April of 2022.

“Sir, I have repeatedly been denied justice even after 7 years of victimisation. This may be unconnected with the audacity of Rear Admiral AZ Gambo then (present CNS) and myself to write a letter of redress to Mr President exposing vices of corruption, injustice and victimisation by Vice Admiral IE Ibas (rtd) on officers inclusive of Commodore AT Olawunmi rtd (interviewed by Channels Television not too long ago). It is equally observed, sir, that there is no fairness or equity in the system. It is evident that some events are likely handled based on favouritism, religious or ethnic bias.

“There is a classical Court Martial case which was convened by the immediate past CNS to try officers for financial negligence, conduct and not operating within the ambit of the law. The Court Martial found both officers guilty and liable, however the officer from the South West was demoted from the rank of Commodore to Navy Captain while the other from the North East was left off the hook and promoted to Commodore. In the same vein, 2 officers took part in the writing of a letter of redress to Mr President with recommendations made, however, one was vilified, hounded, victimised and harassed while the other was honoured and made the head of the Nigerian Navy.

“Also of note sir is the unfortunate event that happened with one of Nigerian Navy’s most foremost and highly trained asset and a former covert Special Boat Services (SBS) Commander code named VIPER. It was under his watch that he and his team made the SBS the fifth most deadly military unit in Africa and acknowledged by the British and American Forces, he undertook deep covert operations behind enemy lines in the North East and with success. He was tasked severally by the Nigerian government to bring stability in some troubled African nations and a task easily achieved. However, it is very sad to note that he was denied promotion twice and retired. Same situation with another SBS Commander. They were trained in many countries that were considered the Holy Grail in deep covert operations in counter-insurgency, infiltration and neutralisation etc.

“The most qualified Dive Master of the Nigerian Navy (covert operations, underwater demolition expert, deep sea diver and air and sea specialist) was equally frustrated into retirement for non-promotion. The surviving Dive Master of the Navy has been denied promotion twice already. The only Naval officer in the history of the Nigerian Navy to command the Nigerian Navy Flagship NNS THUNDER from Nigeria to Australia and back and a former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Navy has been denied promotion twice already. Equally, the only Yacht Master in the Nigerian Navy, Nuclear Security and Safety specialist and pipeline security expert was victimised for more than 7 years and has been retired compulsorily despite not getting justice.

“It is observed, Your Excellency, that all the aforementioned senior officers are all Christians and I question if this is intentional or a coincidence. There are officers like these irrespective of their religious beliefs or regions that have been forced into retirement without competent replacements to drive Mr President’s quest to achieve total security of its citizenry and restoration of Nigeria’s dignity among the comity of nations.

“It is worthy of note that from 2015 to date there has been a systematic decimation of senior officers in the 3 Services and most affected are from the South and Middle Belt areas of Nigeria as observed. This may have dire consequences in the short, medium and long term on professionalism, strength, regional balance, cohesion and camaraderie. In the same vein, the present Navy Administration is encouraging sectarianism in an otherwise apolitical organisation. This is evident in the glaring lop-sidedness in promotion and appointments and the selection of less qualified officers with little or no experience (Paper Tigers) into critical operational positions. This has been the method since the present CNS assumed office in February of 2021. This action has impacted negatively on morale, motivation and cohesion. An audit is requested sir.

“Irrespective of creed, status, physical state, tribe or religious affiliations, every Nigerian is born a princess and prince and as such a potential Queen and King. We as a nation have come to that critical point in the collective survival of the greatest African Family. And in line with Mr President’s popular mantra of ‘I am for everybody and nobody’. I use this medium to reach out to my fellow brothers and sisters from the North, South, East and West to sheath their swords and let’s work together to achieve the collective aspirations of our founding fathers using our diversity, rich culture, tolerance and tenacity to sustain our strength, pride and purpose as the greatest African nation on earth.

“The following recommendations are forwarded for Mr President’s consideration.
– Favouritism and the growth of Paper Tigers should be discouraged.
– The Armed Forces of Nigeria should be apolitical.
– Review of past and present victimisation cases.
– Recall of officers and men with field operational experience, set skills and competence back into the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
– Promotion in the Armed Forces of Nigeria should be based on operational efficiency, competence and performance.
– Abrogation of quota system in the military.
– Abrogation of promotion limits for members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
– Retirement age should be 40 years from date of Commission.
– Strict adherence to Punishment and Reward systems.

“In conclusion, my indefatigable President and Commander-in-Chief, the final leg in any race is the most critical and I pray God gives you the wisdom and good health to finish that task which he has bestowed on you as the leader of the greatest black nation while leaving no one behind. The actions you take at this critical time will define your legacy irrespective of whose ox is gored. Nigeria as a nation comes first. And in the words of a great African patriot Kwame Nkrumah, he stated that ‘The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart’. It has been a great privilege to serve.

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