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Escort Soldiers: GOC whose ‘millions’ were stolen very close to a service chief–Source

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•Still under arrest, quizzed b the Army

•HURIWA, stakeholders call for independent investigation

•Emphasizes need for tightening cash transactions

Jude Johnson

Investigation has revealed that the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 8 Division, Sokoto State, Maj-Gen. Hakeem Otiki, whose ‘money’ was stolen by escort soldiers is alleged to be the right hand man to one of the current Service Chiefs.

This is coming as the Nigerian Army has continued grilling Otiki who is still under house arrest over the ‘stolen N400m’, which is now alleged by some military sources to be about N1 billion.

A Senior officer privy to the case informed Global Sentinel on Monday that the embattled GOC is very close to one of the Service Chiefs whose name will be withheld because of the ongoing investigation.

To this, end the officer called for an independent inquiry to be championed by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).

“One thing I will say about this Service Chief and a very shameful thing at that is that he is a tribalist to the core that several decades in the military has not cured that. He surrounds himself only with officers from his side. Whenever there is money he sends his kinsman, which is an open secret in the service. If you follow Otiki trail you will catch the Service Chief,” the source claimed.

“One thing good about the military is thag no matter how bigoted or tribalistic you are when you serve you can make ‘blood brothers’ of people from other parts of the country. If you are not cured completely you would at least have a more open mind. Unfortunately, it didn’t work with this Service Chief,” he lamented.

Speaking further, the officer expressed doubt about if the military will do justice with the ongoing investigation because of the calibre of the people that might have been involved, asking: “Would the military be able to investigate itself? No. ICPC or EFCC should carry out an independent investigation. Otiki owns a very big hotel and two palatial houses among others”.

Apart from being quizzed, the former GOC was said to be under close watch and would be brought to Abuja after he had handed over and cross-examined by the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the Special Intelligence Bureau and the Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police.

Five soldiers had been confirmed to have stolen the money while on an escort duty from Sokoto to Kaduna states in the first week of July.

The former GOC had reportedly asked the soldiers to escort the money and deliver it to a Very Important Personality in Kaduna.

The army’s spokesman in 8 Division, Lieutenant Audu Arigu, had confirmed the incident, saying investigation had commenced, and had identified the runaway soldiers as Corporal Gabriel Oluwaniyi, Corporal Mohammed Aminu, one Corporal Haruna, Oluji Joshua and Hayatudeen.

Army sources said on Sunday that the runaway soldiers turned in their rifles and abandoned their mobile phones at the Infantry Corps in Jaji, Kaduna State, before they escaped.

One of them said, “Investigations so far show that this is not the first time the escort soldiers have transported such a huge amount of money for the officer. The soldiers all left their mobile phones in the vehicle, which has made their tracking difficult.

“The former GOC is being quizzed. He will be in Sokoto State for now where he is expected to properly hand over to the new GOC and then he will be brought to Abuja for further investigation.”

In a related development, aprominent civil rights advocacy group – Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed optimism that in line with his zero tolerance to procurement corruption, the chief of army staff Lieutenant General Yusuf Tukur Buratai will quickly reorganize the finance department of the Army to ensure that no General officer commanding any of the division or indeed any officer of the military could have access to huge amount of money at any given time without effective checks and balances.

Also, the Rights group which had earlier in the year lauded the Army Chief for promptly responding to a freedom of information request on counter terrorism expenses sent in by a Lagos based non-governmental group-SERAP, has tasked the Army’s high command to hand over the General officer commanding (GOC) 8 Division Sokoto Major General Hakeem Otiki to the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFFCC)to enable a thorough, independent and transparent investigation to be carried out on the reported theft of N400 million by escorts delegated by the GOC.

“As a human rights group with tremendous respect for the many lofty ideas of anti-corruption strategies introduced by the current Army Chief, we expect that the reported disappearance of such a humongous cash belonging to the country purportedly meant for the counter insurgency war, is handled independently in line with established precedence set by the current chief of Army staff who had indeed handed over several Generals to the EFCC in the past in connection with the alleged diversion of resources budgeted for the prosecution of the counter terrorism war”.

HURIWA also charged the Army Chief to use his good offices to introduce stringent measures which will further tighten the ways cash transactions are done so it would be easier to prevent this kind of scandal that reportedly occurred in Sokoto which has brought enormous opprobrium on the global image of the country. 

The Rights group stressed that it believes that the current Army Chief has the zeal and capacity to ensure that these dynamic changes are effectively implemented even as it counseled the  COAS not to perceive well conceived opinion of hitherto friendly CSO’s such as HURIWA as targeted at rubishing his acclaimed milestones.

“HURIWA notes with displeasure that some amorphous groups with no traceable offices and which are not registered by the Nigerian state are in the habits of misconstruing and misinterpreting the good intentions of HURIWA embodied in our public statements suggesting how best to successfully wage the counter terror war. These profiteers who are simply empty headed sycophants think the only way to show friendship and partner with the Army is to always issue praise songs and pour encomiums no matter how bizarre and unreal on the person of the COAS even as these groups keep publishing diatribes and unsubstantiated accusations against HURIWA and the person of the National Coordinator. As quality partners we think it is the best mode of relationship to exchange our views publicly and mildly since private exchanges of letters with the office of COAS may not be always ideal for some public interest advocacy campaigns which aren’t meant to diminish the achievements of the current chief of Army staff or the institution of the Army”.

Specifically on the reported scandal of the missing millions, HURIWA stated that:  “It is certainly not enough to detain the said military General in a military facility and certainly it is insufficient to rely only on internal mechanisms to unravel the circumstances surrounding the reported disappearance of such a huge amount of cash. The most logical thing to do is to also invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and ICPC to provide forensic investigative skills to uncover the truth behind the extensively damaging scam and to enforce the relevant anti-economic crimes’ law where necessary even as the indicted persons must be afforded the opportunities for fair hearing in line with section 36(5) of the Constitution”.

HURIWA stated that it has just been told that the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 8 Division, Sokoto, Major General Hakeem Otiki, is reportedly placed under house arrest, Daily Sun has gathered.

The Rights group stated that from media sources, the officer who was redeployed to the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON), is currently being detained at the Officers Mess where he is being guarded by heavily armed soldiers and may be moved to Abuja anytime from now just as it stated that available informationstates that when finally in Abuja, he is expected to be grilled by personnel from the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB), and Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police (NACMP).

Quoting media reports, HURIWA stated that it will be the standard practice to bring all persons implicated in this scandal to justice going by the report that the so-called VIP, allegedly being escorted by the soldiers who happens to be the younger brother of the former GOC, may have actually connived with the soldiers to steal the N400million as he is nowhere to be found.

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