The Nigerian Army on Tuesday inaugurated a General Court Martial (GOC) in Abuja, to try former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8 Division, Nigerian Army, Sokoto, Major General Hakeem Otiki, over N400 million allegedly stolen by soldiers under his command.
Daily Trust cannot independently confirm whether Otiki was arraigned for prosecution or not. It also cannot report if he pleaded guilty or not, as journalists were sent out of the court shortly after the defence counsel objected to the participation of the Presiding Officer, Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun.
Otiki’s counsel, Major Femi Oyebanjo (rtd) in response to a question by General Adeosun whether the defense accepted his headship of the court marshal, had rejected the Presiding Officer over an alleged long history of grudge borne against Otiki by Adeosun.
He said, “We have it on good authority that you bear grudge against our client. We have this deep feeling that he may not get a fair trial under your leadership.
“The reasons are as follows: it is a known fact that General Otiki got into Nigerian Defence Academy on 10th January 1983 while you got in on 4th July 1983. He got in there before you. It is a fact that General Otiki actually pitied you, established and trained you”, he said.
He added that “we have this feeling that that grudge is still there. More so that General Otiki took over from you as the Corp Commander, Infantry.’
“We still believe that because this grudge has been there since then and because of this grudge, when you were promoted, Lt General, he sent you a text message to congratulate you but you did not respond.”
He said: “in addition to that sir, it is a fact that by the time we go into this trial proper, certain issues will certainly come up and these are issues that affect your office as Chief of Operations, Nigerian Army which you left before you got to where you are presently.
“What am I staying sir, it is a fact, sir, that General Otiki as the GOC commanding 8 Division of the Nigerian Army conducted Operation Sharan Daji. He also conducted Operation Harbin Kunama III.”
He noted that “these were offices directly under your command as Chief of Operation. And these are Operations that are going to come up in the course of this trial. So sir, you are actually an interested party.
“Finally sir, it is also a known fact, that as at the time General Otiki took over from you as the Corp Commander Infantry Brigade, he inherited your security personnel, your soldiers that formed the inner security’s of General Otiki”.
“These are the same personnel that formed the reasons why we are here. They are actually your soldiers, your personal aides; the soldiers he took over from you, these soldiers are the basis why we are here today.
“My Lord, we say on the basis of all these, you are going to be part and parcel of this trial, we are going to to be talking and referring to you.
“If you are going to do this job, there is no way you are not going to feature prominently. There is no way we will not talk about those soldiers, they were your aides, there is no way we will not talk about operations.
“Sir, on that ground, for the sake of Justice, we are saying that you should excuse yourself from this trial,” he said.
The Defence counsel also pleaded with the court to allow the accused to sit in a wheelchair based on doctor’s recommendation as Otiki appeared in court in a wheelchair.
The prosecuting counsel, Major Obot also asked for a medical opinion on the state of health of the accused based on the defence counsel’s earlier submission.
However, this position was countered by the judge advocate, who insisted that the court had not been formally inaugurated.
General Otiki was held in a standing position by another soldier while the convening order was read.
All this was before journalists were asked to leave the court when the defence council started arguing that General Adeosun should excuse himself as the President of the Court-Martial.
Earlier, General Adeosun, the Chief of Policy and Plans at Army Headquarters, read the convening order of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.
Adeosun had cited Section 213 of the Armed Forces Act that conferred the powers on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Yusuf Buratai, to convene the general court-martial.
He gave the names of other members of the panel as: Major General A. Tarfa, Major General F.O Agbugor, Major General FA Nadu, Major General N Mohammed, Major General CT Olukotu, Major General C C Okonkwo.
He also named Major A. Ahmed as the judge advocate, Captain A Ibrahim, Liason Officer, Major AA Onumo, Prosecuting Officer and Contact Officer, Captain A Liman.
He said the charges against the accused would be served not less than 24 hours after they were read to the accused while witnesses would be called.
He gave the books of reference during the court-martial to include the 1999 Constitution, Armed Forces Act, Evidence Act 2011, Army Rules of Procedure 1973, the Holy Bible and the Koran.
Otiki is to stand trial following the theft of N400 million allegedly by five soldiers attached to his office.
The soldiers, who went missing with the money were allegedly instructed to deliver it to an important personality in Kaduna.