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Missing N100m: Gen. Otiki's Lawyers Speaks after his Demotion, Awaits Army Council's Decision

By Senator Iroegbu
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Missing N100m: Gen. Otiki's Lawyers Speakes after his Demotion, Awaits Army Council's Decision

•Says GCM Verdict didnt reflect facts on ground

A serving senior army officer and immediate past General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8 Division Sokoto, Major General Hakeem Otiki on Monday said he awaits the final decision of the Nigerian Army Council on his fate before taking the next steps after his conviction on the five count charges brought against him and demotion to the rank of Brigadier General by an army court martial in Abuja.

Counsel to the accused senior army officer, Israel Olohundare (SAN) told journalists after the trial that the conviction and sentencing by the General Court Martial "did not reflect the realities on ground, facts, witnesses called and evidences tendered" hence they are looking forward to a favourable response from the Army Council on the matter.

- Sentencing -
"Many will be praying to have such an unblemished career and record of military service in the country like the accused senior army officer", President of the General Court Martial, Lt. General Lamidi Adeosun had said before sentencing Otiki after his army profile was read following his earlier conviction.

Adeosun said that having confirmed that Maj. Gen. Otiki is a first time offender in his 34 years of "previously unblemished career in the army and to the Nigeria armed forces", the court president however said it would "not fail in dispensing justice. We would do the very best with the humanness and kindness that the law allows".

The President of the General Court Martial then went ahead and delivered the sentencing of Otiki and ruled as follows:

COUNT FIVE: Two (2) years loss of seniority on rank of Major General. Subject to confirmation by the Army Council.

COUNT FOUR: Severe reprimand. Subject to confirmation by the Army Council.

COUNT THREE: Reduction of rank to Brigadier General with two years seniority on the rank. Subject to confirmation by the Army Council.

COUNT TWO: Dismissal, disgrace and dishonour. Subject to confirmation by the Army Council.

COUNT ONE: Dismissal, disgrace and dishonour. Subject to confirmation by the Army Council.

ORDERS:
1. All monies recovered by the Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) of the Nigerian Army totaling N135,382 million and $6, 600 dollars from the convicted senior officer should be returned to the Nigeria Army coffers.

2. The N150million stolen by the accused senior officer which remained unaccounted for in Count Two should be returned to the coffers of the Nigerian Army.

The prosecution counsel, Major AA Onumo had earlier thanked the court martial for doing justice to the case after the conviction of the army general.

- Battle shifts to Army Council -
After a request for release from detention of the accused senior officer by his lawyers, President of the General Court Martial, Lt. General Lamidi Adeosun said the senior army officer had in recent times been confined to house arrest and that the status quo remains until the SIB guards are eventually pulled out since there was no custodial sentencing.

"The SIB and the administrative officer of the court are the ones to handle that. When you say (he has been in) detention the accused senior officer has been in his house since, unless you want us to pronounce that he should be moved out of his house."

The defence counsel said with the court's clarity, the accused senior army officer won't be under custody and has now regained his freedom subject to confirmation of the sentencing by the Army Council.

"If you listened to my allocutus, you will see that I raised some questions and it was even confirmed by the court that they recovered the sum of N135,382,000.00 million, $6,682 and ongoing projects. Witnesses for the prosecution confirmed that ongoing projects were on and some were completed. So if some projects were completed and some were ongoing as at the time they came to testify, why would you now dismiss a person based on that with disgrace and dishonour?", Olohundare said.

The defence counsel went ahead to query why the court martial convicted Otiki when he was not the one that was robbed directly of the army funds.

"And you recovered even the N100million. Even the N100million was returned even before the investigation by the SIB started on July 12th (2019). He (Maj. Gen. Hakeem Otiki) was not the one that was robbed, it was the soldiers under him that robbed. It was confirmed that the soldiers robbed, he was not the one. Is it now a crime to entrust money even to soldiers?" Olohundare added.

"Supposing even if he had intention to steal it, it was confirmed that he was the one who reported, even the theft. He was the one who reported the theft. So all these ones, we will put them together as mitigating factors before the Army Council for them to have a rethink about all these and we believe that it will be in our favour." the defence counsel told journalists.

Major Gen. Otiki had been on trial following the abscondment of five soldiers attached to his office with the sum of N100 million but which had erroneously been reported in the media as N400million. The five soldiers, who absconded with the money were allegedly instructed to deliver it to a senior officer in Kaduna for the purchase of furniture meant for the 8 Division of the Nigerian Army in Sokoto.

The fleeing soldiers, who have since been declared wanted are: Corporal Gabriel Oluwaniyi, Corporal Mohammed Aminu, Corporal Haruna, Oluji Joshua and Hayatudeen. One of them Lance Corporal Isah later returned the sum of N15 million as well as $6,600 to army authorities voluntarily and he was detained.

Lt. General Lamidi Adeosun who is also the Army Chief of Policy and Plans led the nine month trial. Others on the jury of the court martial include Major General A Tarfa, Major General FO Agbugor, Major General FA Nadu, Major General N Mohammed, Major General CT Olukotu, Major General C C Okonkwo. He also named Major A Mohammed was the judge advocate; and Captain A Ibrahim the Liason Officer.