Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla: Committed to Shaping the Nigerian Navy into a Competent, Ethical Naval Force 

That Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla is a repository of knowledge, especially when it comes to hydrography and all things marine ecosystem, might not be in contention, but what is perhaps not known is that his vast knowledge of the maritime domain has played a huge role in navigating his present position as the 24th Chief of Naval Staff of the Nigerian Navy. Suffice to say that he is fully abreast of the war against crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism to curb them to the barest minimum. But beyond this, Vice Admiral Ogalla is known to his men as a welfarist who is championing their cause, albeit silently, without blowing his trumpet. Speaking to Chiemelie Ezeobi to commemorate his one year in office, amongst other things, the CNS spoke on the navy’s fleet recapitalisation, operational readiness, ship building capacity, welfare of personnel, the ongoing war against crude oil theft, sustaining the International Maritime Bureau Piracy-free rating and how he steers the rudder of the fourth largest Navy in Africa

As the 24th Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) of the Nigerian Navy (NN), Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Emmanuel Ogalla was appointed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on June 19, 2023 and assumed office on June 23, 2023, after the handing and taking over from his predecessor, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo (Rtd).


Upon assumption of office, Vice Admiral Ogalla set the vision for “A highly motivated professional naval force capable of shaping the security outcomes within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the littorals including land-based engagements in fulfillment of Nigeria’s national interest”.


For Ogalla, his mission is to “Maintain and equip a professionally competent and ethical naval force while leveraging on all element of national power for the effective defence of Nigeria’s maritime area of interest against all form of threat in fulfillment of national security imperatives”. 

Trajectory of One Year 

One year down the line, how well has the NN fared under the leadership of Vice Admiral Ogalla? Very well it might seem as one year later, Vice Admiral Ogalla has made significant strides, especially in fleet renewal, personnel welfare, and operational readiness. Beyond this, his implementation of Operation DELTA SANITY to combat crude oil theft, has led to the arrest of several suspects and seizure of so many vessels.

Corroborating, the Naval Director of Information (DINFO), Commodore Aiwuyor Adams-Aliu, said in the past one year, the CNS has made giant strides from  Operations to Fleet Renewal and Infrastructural Development, Personnel Welfare, Training and Manpower Development, Maritime Stakeholders Engagement, Interagency Cooperation and Youths &  Sports Development.

“There have been paradigm shifts and quantum leaps of positive achievements and today, the Nigerian Navy is at its highest state of operational readiness and ranks as the fourth largest Navy in Africa”, he said, adding that they are a testament to his commitment to shape the Nigerian Navy (NN) into a professionally competent and ethical naval force.

Also, in his quest to curb capital flight, he has boosted the NN’s shipbuilding capacity through the construction of small boats and large vessels while also ensuring that the Navy recapitalises its fleet. 

In this one year, he has ensured collaboration with maritime security agencies and foreign partners to enhance maritime security, which has paid off with the continued progress against piracy given that the NN has maintained zero piracy status as confirmed by the International Maritime Bureau piracy rating. 

Meanwhile, in the area of infrastructure, the NN has established a composite operations Base in Enugu State to curtail the prevailing insecurities in the South East and North Central Regions.

Operational Readiness 

One thing that the NN has done is ensure it’s always operationally ready. Reiterating this, the CNS said the NN has been engaged in daily operation. “We conduct operations and we charge our men and make them know the implication of not doing their jobs. The men we are sending down, we carry out background checks on them and we don’t send people who will go there and sleep. We are using our internal mechanism to ensure we send the right people. 

“We have also committed a lot of resources into keeping our ships on patrol. We have over 70 per cent of our ships available and operational at all times. Meanwhile before now, it was less than 40 per cent. We procure fuel and other resources to keep them at sea all the time.”

Tackling Crude Oil Theft Headlong

One of the major things the CNS has focused on since assumption of office is fighting crude oil theft headlong. He said: “Since we joined the navy, oil theft has been something we have been struggling with and sometimes it seems like we are not making progress but we are. The issue is as we device new means to handle this problem, the criminals come out with other strategies and it is up to us to find means to counter them. 

“There is no oil theft that involves just one person, it’s a lot of collaboration and sometimes it involves outside operators. We always have issues where some elements within the community get involved. We have cases where some security agencies get involved and we keep on looking for the best ways to look for those ones within us and show them the way out. 

“We are addressing oil theft and it would have been worse than this if we sit down without doing anything. We need the collaboration of all stakeholders , we can’t operate alone and that’s why we work with everyone. We are making progress because everyday we have more than 12 ships at sea, we will continue to review our operations to be better.”

On if there is political will to fight the big guns behind oil thefttheCNSsaid: “Our investigations have not pointed to any involvement of what we call the big guns. The few we arrested, there is no link that points to the fact that it is perpetrated by the big guns. This is still speculation but by fact and evidence, we have not been able to pinpoint any big gun and if we do, we will do the needful because we are not afraid of anybody. It is the EFCC or other agencies that will determine in their investigations if those we arrested are connected to the big guns so we can’t say for sure that there is an involvement on that level.”

On the issue of improperly deactivated oil well heads, which seems to be fueling crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta, he said the NN has already started interfacing with the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and NNPC to properly seal them off. 

He said: “On the issue of deactivated oil wells, by industry standards, when an oil company starts producing, it will get to a stage whereby we consider that particular well as no longer economically viable in terms of production. Such wells are supposed to be deactivated. It means they must be sealed properly such that it will be difficult for any unauthorised person to penetrate but we have a lot of oil wells that are not well deactivated. 

“We made efforts in the past, made a list and advised them to properly deactivate some oils and they are working on it. They also have challenges because if you look at where some of these wells are located, accessibility is a challenge. But they promised us that they will take it very seriously.”

Also addressing the challenge of keeping arrested vessels and ensuring it stays afloat, the CNS said it’s a major area of concern because they are incurring cost maintaining them. “Once they are arrested, the owner will not come down to maintain it to stay afloat. If you abandon a ship for one year, it will start sinking because of damages constituting a very huge problem of wrecks. If you look at our water, there are so many wrecks which was caused by the abandoning of these ships by their owners and the worst thing is once it sinks, the owner goes to court. 

“We have written to the Federal Ministry of Justice to allow us use our external solicitors which they have responded. We are hoping that we will achieve something because if we have the permission to prosecute, it will help us because most of the cases we transfer to other agencies may not be treated with priority because they also have other cases.”

Activation, Extension of Operation DELTA SANITY 

With a firm determination to curb crude oil theft, Vice Admiral Ogalla on January 10, 2024 launched Operation DELTA SANITY, a maritime interdiction to nab nefarious elements bent on stealing crude oil. The operation was launched with a clear mandate to tackle COT, Illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism and a host of other criminalities on the nation’s maritime area. 

The operation is a comprehensive anti-theft effort involving the deployment of NN personnel, platforms, helicopters, and UAVs for active surveillance and interdiction operations throughout the Niger Delta and they include both kinetic and non-kinetic measures. 

Cumulatively, in three months, Operation DELTA SANITY has recorded 95 seized wooden boats, 119 de-activated storage tanks refining ovens, 447 deactivated dugout pits, 120 deactivated Illegal Refining Sites, 13 seized fibre boats, nine seized vehicles, 74 arrested suspects, and 14 arrested vessels including MT KALI, MT HARBOUR SPIRIT, MT SAISNIL, MV TOKITO, MT VINILLARIS and MT SWEET MIRI, among others.

As a result of the remarkable successes since its inception across various states including Bayelsa, Ondo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom States and beyond, with the recovery of massive quantities of stolen products, the dismantling of Illegal Refining Sites, arrest of suspects, and seizure of stolen products, it was extended again for 90 days. 

On this the chief said: “The fight against Crude Oil Theft has been a huge success under the auspices of OPERATION DELTA SANITY which was re-launched. In the nine months of its existence, the operation has led to the arrest of various suspects and vessels involved in COT. This has impacted positively on Nigeria’s crude oil production.”

This is backed by OPEC Records for the month of April 2024 that stated that Nigeria’s Crude Oil Exports rose to #1.28m bpd in April from #1.23m bpd in March.

It is pertinent to state that before OPERATION DELTA SANITY was Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO (Stop the Thief). Reminiscing on the transition from Operation Dakatar Da Barawo to Operation DELTA SANITY, the CNS said while the former achieved enormous successes, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu came on board and said the issue of oil theft must either be eradicated or reduced to the barest minimum. 

“To achieve that, we can’t continue the old way, we had to do something different and that’s why we looked into the operation and introduced several strategies to make it more effective. We had to change the name to reflect the vision and what we did basically after looking at the short coming of the previous operation was to infuse community engagement, bring more stakeholders on board. We also looked at the issue of surveillance which wasn’t covering the backwaters and to do that, we had to use drones and our helicopters. The last arrest we made in Delta was detected by our helicopter. We had to incorporate our air access and our relationship with stakeholders.
“We also reorganised our Maritime Domain Awareness capability especially because of our men who keep duty to ensure that they do exactly what they are required to do and by so doing, we improved. We also introduced punishment and so many people have been punished for negligence. If an incident happened in a particular area and those who were supposed to respond didn’t respond, it’s either they actually didn’t know or they didn’t do their job. 
“So we have increased our focus in terms of identifying those who are not doing their job, we give them punishment and reward those who are doing theirs through promotion and other welfare packages. We are making progress but we are still going to re-organise the operation because we are seeing gaps already.”

Arrest of Vessels and Procedures 

Putting to rest several allegations that the NN releases seized vessels without due process, the CNS proved that it would be nearly impossible to do that, especially with the number of agencies involved in the prosecutorial process. 

So far, the Nigerian Navy has arrested about 14 vessels between January and now and the procedure remains constant. Speaking on this, Vice Admiral Ogalla said: “The procedure of arrest of vessels that are found culpable is very clear. When a vessel is arrested, the arresting agency which is the Nigerian Navy will carry out a preliminary investigation after which the case will be established. 

“If it is established, by the Nigerian Navy Act, we don’t have the power of prosecution and we determine the adequate agency to carry out the prosecution and in some cases it could be EFCC, Civil Defense or Police but why we have those kind of issues is when we arrest a vessel and hand it over to EFCC after determining there is a case, in most cases, EFCC will request that the navy keep custody of that vessel because among all these agencies, none of them have the facility to keep a large vessel and maintain the security of that vessel.

“So the navy is usually asked to keep the vessel while they carry out their investigation. Sometimes, it can take up to five years to conclude and through out this period, Navy has handed it over to EFCC in the book but on ground, it’s still in Navy’s custody. The navy doesn’t have power to release a vessel except the case has been concluded or the EFCC directs the Navy to release it. The particular case in contention recently is still pending with the EFCC, the Navy has not released any vessel.”

As against the need for special Maritime courts to try such cases and speed up dispensation of justice, Vice Admiral Ogalla would rather the Navy is given prosecutorial powers so that they can alongside other prosecutors try offenders at the Admiralty Court. ProgressagainstPiracy
The Nigerian Navy has made progress in many areas, especially in the area of piracy as it has maintained its zero piracy status in the International Maritime Bureau piracy rating. According to Ogalla, this is in line with its TOTAL SPECTRUM MARITIME STRATEGY, which has seen the NN continue to support land operations in all the Geo-political Zones and provide all year-round situation awareness of Nigeria’s maritime domain extending to the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone through its Maritime Domain Awareness Facilities which enabled early detection and swift response to incidences within the maritime environment.

Dominance in Gulf of Guinea 

Under Vice Admiral Ogalla, the navy has sustained its dominance in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG). Speaking on this he said: “If we look at the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria Navy remains the most dominant. We are not seeing our maritime area of interest as just Nigerian territorial waters, we see Gulf of Guinea as one of our areas of interest because it  is a strategic shipping route that has a direct effect on our country. 

“So we have mechanism where we coordinate with all the countries in the GoG through our Yaounde Architecture. We are practically working with all the GoG countries to address insecurity there and even the European Union, they also have interest in the GoG, so we are also working with them. We have various MOUs which enables us to get information and even arrest any vessel from other countries. The recent arrest we made was a vessel that escaped from Gabon. Those are the mechanisms and it’s working very well. Every coastal nation knows maritime crimes are transnational.”

Fleet Recapitalisation and Boost for Ship Building Capacity

Under Vice Admiral Ogalla, the need to look inwards has become sacrosanct. From construction of small boats to big vessels, the Nigerian Navy Dockyard Limited and Naval Shipyard Limited in Lagos and Port Harcourt, respectively, are a beehive of activities given the level of construction and fabrication going on.

 For the NN, the goal is to look inwards in producing exactly what they need in patrolling the littorals and backwaters, inadvertently curbing capital flight and fighting maritime crimes at the same time. To this end, the CNS has facilitated the local construction of 2xSeaward Defence Boats (SDB). In terms of fleet renewal/recapitalisation, the CNS said the NN has taken delivery of various platforms which has supported its Anti-piracy, Ant-COT, Anti-IUU and Anti-illegal drug trafficking among others. Notably, the NN has taken delivery of its second offshore survey vessel, 2 x 32m FPBs, and 2 x Helicopters (NNS CHALAWA P196- Seaward Defence Boat; N

NS ZUR P195 ,- Seaward Defence Boat; and NNS OCHUZOR survey vessel), which were commissioned during the commemoration of the Nigerian Navy’s 68 anniversary in June. Also, the 

NN is also expected to take delivery of 2 x 76m OPVs from Turkey later in the year. Reiterating the need for acquisitions, Vice Admiral Ogalla said: “We are a navy and we have responsibilities. As a navy, we require capital ships to be able to patrol our seas, we require the smaller vessels to carry out our patrols. The Nigerian Navy today is the fourth largest in Africa. We have over 50 capital ships but if you know the longevity of the task, if you look at our maritime space, about 84,000 multiple miles, it’s about 1/3 of Nigeria’s land mass and that doesn’t include internal waters.
” We have about 3,000 lakes and rivers in the country and when you look at all we need to secure these space, you will realise that what we have is just a tip of the iceberg. However, we must appreciate this administration for listening to our needs and acquiring these vessels. W

e launched three ships, three helicopters and the patrol that can take the ship two weeks to cover, the helicopter can do it within 30 minutes. We are also looking at how to equip those helicopters for attacks. We still need more equipment.

“For us to be survive as a nation, the issue of local capacity development is key and the navy has taken that as a priority. The Nigerian Navy Dockyard was established in the 90s and since then, we have been making efforts to go into ship building and in the last 15 years, we have made success. We have built three ships from the dockyard. Last year, we commissioned the construction of another two which started this year. The aim is for us to be able to localise our ship acquisition and before I leave office, we should be able to make sure that whatever we are acquiring in terms of ships will include 50 per cent of locally made ones.”

Shedding light on the deployment of the vessels and platforms, the chief said: “In terms of acquisition, the three vessels we launched are just part of the so many vessels we are expecting. We are constructing two and we are expecting two more vessels from Turkey, three from China among others. No matter what we have, it’s still not enough. If you look at the Nigerian Navy Act, we have our military roles from the maritime domain, we have our policing roles in the maritime domain, we provide aids to civil authorities, etc, these are roles captured in the constitution so the navy cannot be limited. 

“This is why our maritime strategy which we call the Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy defines our operations in five spectrums starting from spectrum 1 which is Exclusive Economic Zone, now we have Extended Continental Shelf up to the high seas. The next one is our territorial waters, the internal waters and within that, we have the land domain which covers every part of Nigeria and everywhere the military is required to provide civil aid and that’s why we are deployed in almost every state of the federation and it is inline with our statutory rule.”

Premium on Welfare

Known as a Silent Welfarist, Vice Admiral Ogalla has continuously released welfare packages to personnel, whether of the officer cadre or non-commissioned officers. But beyond monetary support, the chief has invested heavily in real estate to provide one of the most basic need of man-Shelter. 

Speaking on the prospect in terms of welfare for personnel, he said: “If you look at our economy, the most important aspect of production is the human resource and the navy cannot do well if the personnel are not motivated. When I talk about motivation, it’s not just about money but providing an enabling environment for them to work and have sense of belonging. 

“We are also making sure that they know that the navy will also be there when they retire. It is for us to make sure that system works properly.  Every personnel is entitled to free medical services, housing, pension and since I took over, we have taken it to the next level.

“In Abuja, we have over 50 units of three bedrooms; 128 units of two bedroom in Galadimawa, and in Asokoro we have over 120 two bedroom accommodation almost completed and in addition, we are carrying out similar projects in Lagos, PH and Calabar. The problem with accommodation is you won’t see the result immediately because it takes time. 

“In terms of medicals, every request for medical evacuation or treatment including those that are not covered by NHS have been treated. In terms of education, we have welfare schools and those that have children there among us pay 20 per cent of what civilians pay because the navy subsidised their payment. These are some of the things we are doing. We also have staff cars for some of our officers and we appreciate Mr. President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu for providing for us.”

Launch of International Maritime Institute of Nigeria

On Saturday, June 1, 2024, Vice Admiral Ogalla launched the “International Maritime Institute of Nigeria (IMION)”, a proposed confluence for international maritime discourse and the vehicle for articulating maritime strategy on the African Continent. 

According to the Director of Information, Commodore Aiwuyor Adams-Aliu, the IMION led by Rear Admiral TC Udofia (rtd) is poised to become the platform/think-tank for maritime strategic thinkers, practitioners, and allies to interact, share ideas, and research into maritime strategic affairs affecting the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) & beyond as it would focus on discourse of thematic areas such as maritime & ocean governance, maritime security, law enforcement, hydrography, blue economy, climate change amongst others. 


Aware of the need to collaborate with other maritime security agencies such as NIMASA, NPA, NDLEA, NOSDRA, NEMA as well as foreign partners, the NN has staged and participated in several local and international exercises and operations. Some of these include EX CROCODILE LIFT/AFRICAN GRANDE AFRICA NEMO, EX SEA GUARDIAN, EX NCHEKWA OSHIMIRI, OP WATER GUARD, OP SWIFT RESPONSE and EX OBANGAME EXPRESS 2024.

In fact, during the recent anniversary of the NN, the CNS hosted a meeting of Chiefs of Naval Staff/CoastGuards of Gulf of Guinea Region (CGG-GGC) to discuss the modalities of the Combined Maritime Task Force (CMTF). 

About Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Ogalla 

For the Nigerian Navy, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla was the Director Lessons Learnt (DLL), Naval Headquarters, Abuja.

Born on December 20, 1968, Vice Admiral Ogalla, who hails from Enugu Ezike, Igbo Eze North LGA Enugu State, obtained the WASC from the NMS Zaria in June 1987 where he graduated as the best boy in Sciences as he had A1 in all subjects except English language. 

A member of the 39 RC NDA, he graduated with a BSc in Maths and was awarded sword of honour as the best naval cadet in his course. 

He was commissioned Sub Lieutenant on September 16, 1992 and rose to the rank of R Adm on September 16, 2021. He completed the STC NNS QUORRA, Basic Hydrography National Hydrographic School India in May 2000, Junior and Senior Staff Courses AFCSC Jaji in November 01 and July  06 respectively. 

He was a participant of NDC Course 22 and was awarded fdc in Aug 14. As part of the Course, he took part in the MSc Strategic Studies programme, University of Ibadan from 2014 to 2015. 

The senior officer served on board many ships including NNS AMBE, ARADU, LANA, EKUN, AGU, QUORRA, BEECROFT, DELTA and PATHFINDER. While on board NNS EKUN he took part in the ECOMOG Operations in Liberia in 1996. 

Also as the base operations officer in NNS PATHFINDER, he was responsible for coordinating anti illegal bunkering operations as well the entire policing duties of the base. During the period there was a remarkable reduction in illegal activities in the maritime area within the base area of operations. 

 The senior officer also served as Instructor, CI and Comdt NNHS, SO 1 Survey and DD Instruments NNHO, ADCP, DD Hydro and DPR NHQ, as well as DS/ DARAS NDC and D Audit NASS NHQ.  

During his cumulative six-year tour of duty in NNHS, he taught geodesy, datum conversion, tidal predictions and analysis, satellite surveying, bathymetry, among others. 

As Commandant, he linked the School with Teledyn Marines, a reputable OEM in the US, which enabled the NN to procure several survey equipment from the company, leading to improvements in practical training. He was also instrumental to the review of the School’s curriculum to align with IHO requirements.

 During his tour of duty in the NNHO, the senior officer was instrumental to the localisation of tidal prediction and analysis. He participated in the FAO sponsored Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem survey in 2004 and provided professional inputs during the survey and production of the NNHO charts. 

During his tour of duty at the NDC, he contributed towards the improvement of the College research package and also led the 2018 participants research study tour to China and South Korea. 

As DLL he was responsible for collating and analysing previous NN Operations and activities with the objective of drawing lessons necessary for doctrinal and operational improvements.

The Senior officer is decorated with FSS, MSS, DSS and GSS. He is a member of the Nigerian Hydrographic Society, Nigerian Institute of Management, the International Earth Rotation Services and also a fellow of the Occupational Safety and Health Association of the UK. 

He is married to Mrs Ijeoma Ogalla and the marriage is blessed with two children. His hubbies include jogging, reading, listening and researching about science and nature.

Despite challenges, the Nigerian Navy under Vice Admiral Ogalla’s seems undaunted as they forge ahead towards securing the Maritime space, thereby boosting the economy. 

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