Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has called for the immediate sack or resignation of Lucky Irabor, chief of defence, over the destruction of an illegal oil bunkering vessel.
Last week, a private pipeline surveillance team, Tantita security services, led by a former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, arrested a vessel used for crude oil theft off the Niger Delta creeks.
The vessel was however set ablaze without proper investigation by officers of the Nigerian Navy.
Speaking after the national security council meeting in Abuja on Friday, Irabo defended the destruction of the vessel, adding that it was caught in the act and the instrument of operation was set ablaze as there was no need for investigation.
However, citing section 111 of the armed forces act, Falana said the justification of the chief of defence was a criminal conduct and it is trite law that only the federal high court is empowered to order the interim or final forfeiture of any vessel that was used for conveying stolen crude oil.
According to him, Irabor’s response was a deliberate attempt to cover up the involvement of military personnel in the serious crime of oil theft as there is no provision of the rules of engagement that authorises military personnel or security operatives to set fire or destroy vessels loaded with stolen crude.
“Indeed, the chief of defence staff is not unaware that under the service law the burning of a ship or vessel by a military personnel is a serious offence which attracts life imprisonment without an option of fine,” he said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, section 111 of the armed forces act provides as follows: Arson- A person subject to service law under this act who willfully or maliciously sets fire- (a) to a public building, dwelling house, an office or any structure whatsoever, movable or immovable, whether completed or not, occupied or not; or (b) to any vessel, ship, aircraft, railway track or wagon, or vehicle or thing; or (c) to a mine or working, fitting or an appliance of a mine, is guilty of arson and liable, on conviction by a court-martial, to imprisonment for life.”
Falana, therefore, asked that the chief of defence resigns or be sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He also added that other personnel involved should be arrested and charged with arson.
“In view of the gravity of the offence that is being covered up by the military oligarchy, general Irabor ought to resign his appointment to prevent the sabotage of the ongoing operations designed to expose the perpetrators of oil theft in the Niger Delta region,” he added.
“If the general decides not to call it quits, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, President Muhammadu Buhari should not hesitate to fire him. After all, by authorising the engagement of non-state actors to carry out the constitutional duties of the armed forces, the President has lost confidence in the leadership of the armed forces.
“Furthermore, the president should order the chief of army staff to ensure the immediate arrest of the military personnel who set the vessel on fire to charge on and allied offences before a court martial.”