Recently, the media space has been inundated with the story of some soldiers who were detailed on escort duty from Sokoto to Kaduna for a VIP whom they allegedly robbed.
The soldiers, Cpl Gabriel Oluwaniyi, Cpl Mohammed Aminu, LCpl Commander Haruna, LCpl Oluji Joshua, and LCpl Hayatudee, who are said to be members of Operation Harbin Kunama III of the Nigerian Army 8 Division Sokoto, absconded with a purported sum of N400m, a sum the Nigerian Army Authority said it is not confirmed.
Reports have it that the runaway soldiers abandoned their rifles and their mobile phones at the infantry corps in Jaji, Kaduna state, they hijacked the undisclosed amount of money and they all escaped.
Expectedly, the Nigerian Army has commenced investigations on the alleged stealing of money by these soldiers. The military authorities had quizzed Major General Hakeem Otiki, former general officer commanding (GOC) of the division, who ordered the five soldiers to escort the money.
Apart from the quizzing, the former GOC was cross-examined by the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the Special Intelligence Bureau and the Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police and was said to be under close watch but truly, a man planning this large scale of theft would have made adequate provision for his escape or even planned a better alibi than the status quo.
A statement from the Nigerian Army through Col. Sagir Musa, Acting Director of Army Public Relations on the 15th July 2019 indicated that the army is carrying out a routine investigation on the incident.
As against the fallacious media reports spreading around, The Nigerian Army specifically stated that on the 11th July, the 5 Soldiers escorted the VIP (name undisclosed) was in a white Hilux while the escorts were in a Buffalo gun truck and the soldiers allegedly connived and rubbed the VIP at gunpoint on their way to Kaduna.
The Army authority categorically said that the amount of the money been hijacked is not known and the money belongs to the VIP and not the Gen. HO Otiki the then (GOC) of the 8 Division as was fallaciously imputed in some media reports.
Though the Army authority said that neither the GOC or any personnel of the Division is aware of the exact amount of money in possession of the VIP and it is only the person involved (the VIP) that knows the total amount involved and could disclose to the media if need be but the 5 deserting and disgraceful soldiers are to be apprehended and handed over to the 8 Division Provost Group for prompt action and prosecution.
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Consequence of the disgraceful, embarrassing and unimaginable professional infraction by the five soldiers, who connived and orchestrated the robbery and thereafter deserted/absconded, the Nigerian Army authority has on receiving the report, constituted a high-powered committee to holistically, thoroughly and decisively investigate the sad incident.
Observers of this unfolding drama are still wondering how monies meant to pay troops allowance was transported from Sokoto to Kaduna by road. But all that would be left for the investigative panel, who are awaiting the arrival of the senior officer to unravel in the coming days.
An anonymous source of one of the mainstream media has also been quoted to say that the money in question does not belong to the Nigerian Army. The source said, The Army cannot and will not give any commander that kind of money because they are not the ones that buy the weapons. That kind of money can only be given to you if they want to buy weapon but we all know that buying of weapons and ammunition is not the responsibility of General Officer Commanding, Commanding Officers or commanders.
As against some opinions and comments by different people on the media that the said money been robbed was meant to procure ammunitions for the Army in the 8 Division, it must be mentioned that the GOC is not in any way responsible for the procurement of ammunitions for his Arm Division but rather, it is the responsibility of the Procurement Department of the Nigerian Army Headquarters in Abuja and such procurement would not be done in cash as fallaciously reported in the media.
Besides the hilarious and ridiculous comments that the money been hijacked by the 5 absconded soldiers is meant to buy ammunitions for the Division, it is also reported by different quarters that the VIP been escorted or expecting the money is a brother of the GOC is a complete comical expression as no civilian brother of the GOC is been declared to be involved or under arrest by the Army authority, therefore, it is quite beyond the obvious that the scenario is an excellently staged coup de grace.
Based on the above, the interrogation of Gen. HO Otiki in this army saga, however, is becoming a source of concern, considering the circumstances as well as the manner in which the said event occurred.
It appears that the victim will have to become the hunted in this case. The reason for this may not be unconnected to his excellent military record particularly on his performances at various military postings and Commands before the incident and the prospect of his (Gen. Otikis) elevation to the highest level in the military service.
According to our findings and information at our disposals, Gen. Hakeem Otiki is a brave, fearless and highly committed soldier who leave no stone unturned in the discharge of his duties importantly as the GOC of 8 Division Sokoto where he moderated security assignments that ensured successful conduct of the gubernatorial election and no life was lost and no property was vandalized.
Not this report but the entire nation can testify to the security situation of security challenges in Zamfara State particularly before this year March and since then that Gen. HO Otiki assumed duty as the GOC of the Army 8 Division.
A military Commanding Officer from the South West who fearlessly and gallantly brought the deadly activities of bandits and kidnappers to almost a zero level in the Kaduna, Sokoto and Zamfara States without shying away from the political and traditional authorities in the States.
Convincingly, this sad development calls for immediate reactions of the South West leaders as well as stakeholders in the country.
In fact, the sketchy story with many holes and many questions begging for answers all point to witch-hunting incident to prevent Gen. Otiki from ascending the peak in his chosen career.
We strongly hold on to the Army Press Release that the said money does not belong to the Nigerian Army or any of its personnel, including Gen. HO Otiki but an undisclosed VIP and the quizzing Gen. Hakeem Oladapo Otiki is a question for concerns.
Indicting Gen. Hakeem Otiki without hard evidence will send the wrong messages to different quarters and could serve as poor motivation for upcoming commanding officers.
At this juncture, it is safe to say that the Nigerian Army has the entire nation waiting for the outcome of its investigation.
Femi Davies writes from Lagos