By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
A military General court martial sitting in Abuja has found Major General Hakeem Otiki guilty on five count charges and ordered his dishonourable dismissal from service among other recommendations over missing funds.
The Court has also recommended his demotion from the rank of Major General to a Brigadier General.
Major General Otiki has been facing trial over diversion of funds since 17 September 2019.
The General Court Martial headed by Lt Gen Lamidi Adeosun commenced trial on 17 September 2019 at the Nigerian Army Officers Mess Asokoro,Abuja.
The Court yesterday 15 June 2020, found Major General Otiki guilty of disobedience to service orders, theft of public property among others.
It pronounced the following punishments among others, dismissal from service with disgrace and dishonour, reduction in rank from Major General to Brigadier General, and severe reprimand.
The sentences are however subject to confirmation of the Army Council.
The Court also ordered that all monies totalling N135.8million, $6,600 recovered by the Special Investigation Bureau be returned to the coffers of the Nigerian Army.
It ordered that another N150 million stolen money which could not be accounted for, should also be returned to the coffers of the Nigerian Army.
It added that all the sentences are subject to the approval of the appropriate convening authority in line with standard military procedures.
Recall that Major Gen Otiki who appeared on a wheel chair was accused to have diverted over N400 million while he was the General Officer Commanding 8 Division Sokoto.
The money was allegedly carted away in Kaduna by soldiers assigned to escort the funds down to Abuja.
It was reported that on arrival at the Jaji Cantonment, the soldiers removed their uniforms and dropped their weapons while eloping with the fund.
The Chief of Policy and Plans Lt Gen Lamidi Adeosun who read the convening order of the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Burata said the trial was supposed to begin on 9 September but delayed to 17 due to service exigencies.
The order derived from the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 allowed to accused to present his choice counsel or be provided one by the service for the try.
Members of the General Court Martial include Lt Gen Lamidi Adeosun president,Maj Gen AA Tarfa member,Maj Gen FO Agugor member, Maj Gen JS Malu member,Maj Gen N Mohammed Member,Maj Gen CT Olukoju member while Maj Gen CC Okonkwo waiting member.
Also Maj A Mohammed is the judge advocate meanwhile prosecuting officers were Maj JA Olumo,Maj JS Obot,Maj IA Suleiman and Capt A Liman as the contact officer.
Earlier in his final submission, the lead counsel for Major General Otiki, Barr. Israel Olorundare SAN, pleaded for clemency and urged the General Court Martial to temper justice with mercy saying it should not use a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
He reminded the court that General Otiki in all his years in the Army until the ugly incident was a very loyal, disciplined officer and well mannered and a good manager of resources.
Aside from this, the senior advocate reminded the court that General Otiki was the officer who facilitated and obtained the NNPC licence for the Nigerian Army and assisted greatly in helping to tackle criminality in Lagos area during his time in Operation Mesa.
Regarding the various counts, the Senior Advocate said, in Count1, the accused senior officer returned the sum of N100million to the authorities which was stolen by the soldiers detailed to escort the money to Kaduna.
On Count 2, he said it was proved that some of the projects for which the sum of N150million was released to the accused senior officer were either completed or are ongoing and workers are still on site.
Furthermore, he urged the court to consider that the accused senior officer who is very sick, is also due for retirement this year. His wife has cancer and his mother died on the same July 2019 that soldiers taking the money to Kaduna robbed the money.
After the court pronouncements and sentences, the Senior Advocate said the Defence will make a representation to the appropriate convening authority to note that General Otiki is not the one that robbed the money and he was the one who reported the incident
“Aside this, he still sourced for the Money and returned it to the authorities. So there is really need to take another look at the judgment.” he said