Burnt Crude Oil Vessel: Tompolo Defends CDS Irabor, Navy

Sylvester Idowu in Warri

TANTITA Security Services Nigeria Limited, operated by ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemuplo, alias Tompolo has risen in defence of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor over the destruction of an oil vessel caught with stolen crude oil.

The private security company also faulted the claim by Femi Falana that the decision to burn the vessel, recently arrested by its officials for oil theft, was wrong and against the law.

The lead legal consultant to TSSNL, Emmanuel Jakpa, in a statement yesterday explained: “Mr. Femi Falana had opined that based on Section 111 of the Armed Forces Act, scuttling the ship was arson and that the naval authorities breached the rule of law and the CDS ought to resign for backing them. However, is this so?”

He contended that Falana and those opposed to the CDS incorrectly relied on the Armed Forces Act, but the applicable law in the case in question was the Hydrocarbon Oils Refining Act.

“Care must be taken not to provide unwarranted solace to the people who destroy our environment, rape our commonwealth, and cheat our nation of the resources necessary for schools and hospitals,” he cautioned.

The company also queried if Falana was attacking the company for accepting a government contract to stop crude oil stealing, saying it was necessary to separate the issues, “because it would seem these attacks have a common purpose to dislodge or disparage the good work by a private security company.

“The Armed Forces Act is certainly good law, no doubt, but it is inapplicable to facts of this circumstance. The circumstance of this matter is that somebody using the instrumentality of a ship had interfered with Nigeria’s ownership rights to produce hydrocarbon oils for refining.

“Unquestionably, the ship had crude oil in its cargo holds but lacked the authority to take it. The ship captain made a confessional statement admitting he lacked authority to take crude, after which they ordered the ship sunk.

“Many well-meaning lawyers quickly seized upon the rule of law issue and asked why the order to scuttle the vessel could not await legal proceedings in court. Some other well-meaning people, lawyers included, went as far as suggesting that it was all meant to cover evidence of complicity.”

He added: “Let us take the legal issues first. Was there a breach of the rule of law, or were the CDS right to say that the action taken by naval authorities was within their rules of engagement?

“While Falana relies on the Armed forces Act, it is our humble opinion that the applicable law is the Hydrocarbon Oils Refining Act.

“Section 15 of the Hydrocarbons Oil Refining Act provides as follows – ‘If any officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that any refining of hydrocarbon oils,  contrary to the provisions of this Act,  is being carried out,  on any land or premises, he may enter thereon if need be by force, and dismantle or seize any apparatus and equipment used for  or in connection with such unlawful refining.’

“The purpose of taking the crude from the wellhead was certainly for illegal refining, whether here or abroad. This clearly brings the vessel within the ambit of this law. In addition, this law permits the dismantling of the apparatus or equipment used for illegal refining. Scuttling the ship was to dismantle it”, he said.

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