Human rights lawyer Femi Falana says the award of pipeline surveillance contract to a company led by former militant leader Government Ekpemepulo aka Tompolo is a “colossal embarrassment” to security agencies in the country.
“In the first place, the President has demonstrably lost confidence in the competence of the military hence a contract has been awarded to a non-state actor, Mr Government aka Tompolo who is said to be making these discoveries now.
“That itself is a colossal embarrassment to a state that is supposed to be functional,” he said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Monday.
Falana said the contract awarded to Tompolo is a loss of confidence on all the service chiefs who should have resigned.
“Ordinarily, the service chiefs should simply have resigned that Mr President you have lost confidence in us,” he said.
In August, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, justified the government’s decision to award a multi-billion naira pipelines surveillance contract to Tantita Security Services led by Tompolo.
Tompolo’s firm recently made startling revelations on crude oil theft in the Niger Delta area. He said about 58 illegal oil points have been discovered so far since the operation to end oil theft on the waterways of Delta and Bayelsa states began.
Security agents recently destroyed a vessel used for crude oil theft off the Niger Delta creeks after the vessel was reportedly arrested by Tompolo’s firm.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Lucky Irabor said that the swift destruction of the oil bunkering vessel is in line with the “rules of engagement” and no investigation was needed to set the vessel ablaze.
However, Falana flayed the CDS, saying 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.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who said security agencies committed arson and acted in contrary to section 111 of the Armed Forces Act which prohibits the setting ablaze of a vessel, demanded the sacking of the CDS.
Falana maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari must ensure that all those who are indicted in the act of oil theft are fired, named and shamed noting that it cannot continue to be business as usual.
He said oil theft has been ongoing in Nigeria for the past 22 years and blamed the malady on “systematic collapse” and connivance of military and political leaders alongside oil companies lifting Nigeria’s oil illegally to ports in the United States.
Oil theft has made the headlines in recent times with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State demanding the unbundling and privatisation of the NNPC.