FACTS OF THE CASE BETWEEN MAJOR GENERAL HAKEEM OTIKI AND NIGERIAN ARMY
The current news trending in electronic and print media with regard to the sentencing given to Major General Hakeem Oladapo Otiki in his case with the Nigeria Army has generated much public interest. He was found guilty on all 5 count charges and awarded dismissal on 2 of the counts, as well as reduction in rank to Brigadier General, refund of the sum of #150m and severe reprimand in three counts respectively.
Experts in Military Jurisprudence and civil legal luminaries are unanimous in their verdict that the sentencing amounted to killing a fly with a sledge hammer considering the antecedents of the senior officer and the facts of the case.
The senior officer is a first offender (if at all he committed any offence) as attested to by Major General GAT Ochigbano, the Military Secretary (MS-A) in court. He clearly testified on oath that having scrutinized Major General Otiki’s Service records as a cadet in Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna and as a commissioned officer in the Nigerian Army, the senior officer had no regimental entry (no offence committed) in his Service career.
There was no consideration of his over 34 years of meritorious service to Nigeria, especially his modest contributions to the Chief of Army Staff vision, such as the successful rotation of 3,500 overstayed
personnel sering in the North East while he was the Commander Infantry Corps. This was an effective Relieve-in-line for front-line troops, some of whom had spent over 4 years in the North~East.
OP-SHARAN DAJI and OP-HARBIN KUNAMA III were effectively and successfully conducted by the senior officer without any blemish while he was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8 Division, Sokoto. Thus, there was relative peace, security and prosperity within his purview as GOC in contrast to what currently obtains in the North West.
The current health status of Major General Otiki is quite precarious owing to the excruciating back pain sequel to a failed spine surgery. He went through the trial under powerful pain killers. In normal clime, he was unfit to stand trial. However, he applied severally to the court for leave of absence on medical grounds but his requests were rejected by the court. Furthermore, the senior officer endured trial against an atmosphere of corona virus pandemic despite his vulnerable condition.
SENTENCING ORDERS AND FACTS
-i- In respect to Count 1, the sum of One Hundred Million Naira (N100,000,000.00), which was stolen on July 11th, 2019 by the six soldiers has already been refunded with effect from 12th July 2019, less than 24 hours after the unfortunate incident, as averred by Brigadier General Inuwa, the erstwhile CDFA (Finance officer), 8 Division before the General Court Martial. How can the accused senior officer then be asked to refud the money again?
-ii- On the order to refund the sum of One Hundred And Fifty Million Naira (#150,000,000.00) in respect of count 2, the undisputed evidence before the General Court Martial is that the sum of One Hundred And Fifty Million Naira (#150,000,000.00) was released for projects in 8 Division Nigerian Army, Sokoto. The projects have either been fully executed or are at various stages of completion as ably stated by Brigadier General E0 Aikhomu, the then Engineer Commander 8 Division, Sokoto.
Furthermore, it is in evidence that Brigadier General Aikhomu, whose duties it was to substantiate facts of the projects, collected N61,000,000 for fencing, construction of ditches round the Barracks etc. While a supplier of building materials, MallamAbubakar collected N42,900,000 for supply of construction materials. Also, Brigadier General Abdul, the Signal Commander collected N6,900,000 for installation of digital security equipment; Brigadier General Galadima who is the Commander of the 8 Division Workshop collected N6,850,000 for repairs of vehicles and purchase of motorcycles.
Other sundry expenses in course of the projects executed by the senior officer includes; purchase/installation of mini transformer for the GOC’s house N4,500,000, interlocking stones N: N2,100,000, repair/replacement of car shed N1,800,000, digging of borehole N3,700,000, connection of NEPA line from GiginyaBarracks to the GOC’s residence at Bafarawa Estate N1,200,000 amongst others.
All of these sums of money amount to N130,950,000. These expenditures were evidence before the General Court Martial.
It is trite to state that the above breakdown is apart from the sum of N15,382,000 and $6,600 USD returned by Lance Corporal Saidu Isah, the driver of the white Hilux which is a personal vehicle (bought and owned by him) of the accused senior officer.
If the N15,382,000 returned by Lance Corporal Saidu lsah, being part of the N100,000,000 stolen by the deserting soldiers, is added to the above sum total of projects executed by the senior officer amounting to N130,950,000, then, the new balance will be N146,332,000 leaving a difference of N3,668,000 which went into miscellaneous expenses related to the projects.
Furthermore, the accused senior officer’s
$6,600 recovered from Private Isah if converted to naira and included with the N146,332,000 above, then there will be no outstanding amount to be refunded by the senior officer.
When Major General HO Otiki was relieved of command as GOC 8 Division Sokoto, Major General JJ Ogunlade who took over agreed to sign the handing/taking over note because he was satisfied that there were no discrepancies in the 8 Division’s account.
Accordingly, against the back-drop of facts highlighted in paragraphs above, it is clear that Major General H0 Otiki’sconviction and sentencing are not founded on sound jurisprudence, but rather based on sentiments born out of mistakes made ab-initio in starting a trial which should not have been initiated in the first place.
The Nigerian Army in an effort not to indict or embarrass the highly exalted institution had to convict the senior officer at all cost. The question one would ask is “was justice served?” Justice will always triumph in the end.