Femi Falana, an attorney and activist, has requested that Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Lucky Irabor be fired for defending the burning of a vessel that was recently detained for oil smuggling in the Niger Delta.
The destruction of the ship days after it was apprehended by a private firm run by Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, a former militant leader, has generated controversy.
With the burning of the vessel, many Nigerians had accused the military and other parties involved of erasing evidence that might have benefited investigations and been used to punish those responsible for the oil theft.
Irabor, however, defended the destruction of the ship following a National Security Council meeting last Friday.
He claimed that there was no need for an investigation because the vessel was caught in the act and the tool of the operation was set on fire.
Falana, nevertheless, claimed in a statement on Sunday that burning the ship was against the law and might be a cover-up by the military.
“In an embarrassing justification of the criminal conduct, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor said that the swift destruction of the oil bunkering vessel by the criminal suspects is in line with ‘the rules of engagement,” The senior lawyer said in a statement.
Falana further said, “As if self-help has become part of the rules of engagement the General said the vessel was caught in the act and security agents subsequently set the ‘instrument of operation’ ablaze, noting that no investigation is needed to act.
"It is trite law that only the Federal High Court court is empowered to order the interim or final forfeiture of any vessel that was used for conveying stolen crude oil.
“Therefore, the statement credited to General Irabor is 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.
“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.
“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 offence before a court martial."