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EXCLUSIVE: Chief of naval staff Zubairu Gambo refuses to hand over to Ikechukwu Ogalla; insists on paying billions to contractors before leaving

 

Naval chief Awwal Zubairu Gambo has remained in office and rejected pleas to hand over power to his successor Ikechukwu Ogalla, Peoples Gazette was told today, two days after President Bola Tinubu approved changes at the top brass of the nation’s military.


Mr Gambo, 57, said he would leave office on Friday because he had to pay contractors and naval officers from an outstanding capital vote to the tune of billions of naira before leaving office, according to multiple sources at the Nigerian Navy headquarters in Abuja.


Mr Gambo, who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 26, 2021, was fired on Monday by Mr Tinubu, the new Nigerian leader who assumed office on May 29. Mr Tinubu said Mr Gambo and his counterparts in the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force should immediately vacate office, with new chiefs named forthwith.


While other service chiefs have since departed following the June 19 presidential directive, Mr Gambo has lingered in office, saying he has some unfinished business to wind up, according to sources familiar with the development.


“The chief of naval staff is still here,” a source told The Gazette from the Nigerian Navy headquarters in Abuja. “We have been begging him to comply with the order of the president and vacate office for the new person that was appointed.”


Mr Gambo reportedly said he was responsible for the release of the funds to the Nigerian Navy and will not be leaving office until entitled contractors and naval officers had been paid.


Sources said Mr Gambo insisted that the payment to contractors may be delayed by his successor, even though he was assured that the navy would meet all valid contractual obligations.


“He wants to pay contractors, himself and other naval officers some billions in capital,” a senior naval officer told The Gazette. “We have never seen anything like this before in our service.”


“He should realise that any action he takes after the president’s public announcement is null and void in the Nigerian Navy,” the official added.


Mr Gambo also said he wanted to oversee the disbursement of millions of dollars for emergency repair work on the NNS Aradu, one of the largest ships in the navy.


“He also mentioned that he was finalising payment for the repair of NNS Aradu, despite our conclusion that the ship should be decommissioned and sent to the naval museum,” a source said.


The navy under Mr Gambo had reportedly budgeted $200 million for the repairs, even though he was advised to take the ship, first commissioned in 1980, out of service.


Mr Gambo did not return a request seeking comments from The Gazette about his decision to remain in office. Mr Tinubu is away on an official trip to France, and a presidential spokesman did not immediately return a request seeking comments.


Mr Ogalla, 54, is a rear admiral who attended the Nigerian military school in northern Zaria city. He also obtained a master’s degree from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria’s southwest. He did not immediately return a request seeking comments about what efforts he’s making to assume his new position following presidential authority.


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