The Nigerian Army has yet to apprehend five runaway soldiers attached to the 8 Division, Sokoto State, who fled with over N100m operational money since July 2019.
A top source alleged that the soldiers were being shielded by some forces within and outside the army. The personnel were identified as Corporal Gabriel Oluwaniyi, Corporal Mohammed Aminu, Corporal Haruna, Oluji Joshua and Hayatudeen O.
Already, a General Court Martial which sat in Abuja and presided over by the Nigerian Army Chief of Policy and Plans, Lt Gen Lamidi Adeosun, on June 16 ordered the dismissal of a former General Officer Commanding of the division, Maj Gen Hakeem Otiki, over the alleged diversion.
Our correspondent learnt that the Nigerian Army Council would be meeting by September to review the judgment. According to military procedures, the council will decide whether to approve or upturn the GCM’s judgment handed over to the embattled general.
A top source said, “Otiki is due to retire by December 2020. He and Adeosun had once been tipped to succeed the Chief of Army Staff, because of their seniority and records. Otiki was the Commander, Infantry Corps in Jaji, Kaduna State, before he was appointed the 8 Division GOC in March 2019.
“There is evidence indicating that some of the soldiers who stole the money had been in connivance with some politicians before and during the 2019 elections in Sokoto State. They might have acted in cooperation with politicians who wanted to see the downfall of Otiki for whatever reason. The army council will be meeting in September to review the judgment handed over to Otiki, after which he may proceed to the Court of Appeal if he is still not satisfied.”
The Nigerian Army Council comprises four people: the Minister of Defence and Chairman of Council, Maj Gen Bashir Magashi (retd); the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Abayomi Olonisakin; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai; and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence who is Secretary of Council, Mr Sabi’u Zakari.
The military court had found Otiki guilty of “disobedience to service orders, theft of public property, diversion of operational money and engagement in private businesses.”
The GCM President, Adeosun, ordered his demotion to a Brigadier-General and dismissal from the service. The court ordered monies totalling N135.8m, and the United States $6,600 be returned to the coffers of the Nigerian Army
Sources told our correspondent that fresh lobbying had begun in the Nigerian military to ensure that the Nigerian Army Council commutes Otiki’s sentence to retirement.
One of them said, “Otiki was indicted going by the provisions of the Manual of Financial Administration for the Armed Forces of Nigeria, 2017, because the funds, though being conveyed by soldiers, were deemed to still have been under his custody as the chief accounting officer of the 8 Division of the Nigerian Army in Sokoto.
“But interestingly, when Otiki was relieved of command as GOC and handed over to his successor, Major General Jide Ogunlade, he, (Ogunlade) agreed to sign the handover note because he was satisfied that there were no discrepancies in the 8 Division’s account. So, there is presently some lobbying to ensure that the army council retires Otiki instead of dismissing him.”
The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, said “Please, I have no coments on any matter that is in court.”