- What the judgment means
The world of Major General Hakeem Oladapo Otiki, who is due for retirement on account of years of service, came tumbling down as the General Court Martial of the Nigerian Army found him guilty on five counts of disobedience to service orders, theft of public property, diverting operational money and engaging in private businesses.
The General Court Martial therefore ordered his demotion and dismissal from the military with “disgrace and dishonour.”
With the pronouncement, General Otiki becomes a persona non grata as he ceases to have any respect within military circles. As a retired officer of the Nigerian Army put it: “He is bereft of any honour. He is getting no entitlement, no pension, no gratuity. His services of about 35 years is gone unrecognized. He is not to enter any military base. Now, has no record in the Army as the judgment erased any such record.
Everything he has worked for, laboured for, is gone with the wind, in vain. It is now assumed that he never served in the military, unless the Army Council may want to mitigate the verdict. The disgrace for him is too much. He is even very sick and cannot sit for more than 30 minutes. He is not feigning sickness. And now this.”
General Otiki was General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8 division of the Nigerian Army, Sokoto in July 2019 when he sent five soldiers in his detail to haul some cash from Sokoto to Abuja via Kaduna before the money allegedly got missing.
The Court headed by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Army Headquarters, Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun found Otiki, pronouncing the following punishments on him: dismissal from service with disgrace and dishonour, reduction in rank from Major General to Brig General and severe reprimand.
The Court also ordered that all monies totaling N135.8million, $6,600 recovered by the Special Investigation Bureau be returned to the coffers of the Nigerian Army.
It ordered that another N150million stolen money, which could not be accounted for, should also be returned to the coffers of the Nigerian Army.
All the sentences, however, are subject to approval by the Nigeria Army Council.
In a final submission, the lead counsel to Major General Otiki, Barrister Israel Olorundare (SAN) pleaded for clemency and urged the Nigerian Army to temper justice with mercy.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria told the court that the accused senior officer had returned the sum of N100million which was stolen by the soldiers detailed to escort the money to Kaduna and that some of the projects for which the sum of N150million was released to General Otiki were either completed or about to be completed.
Barrister Olorundare told the court that the accused officer is the breadwinner of his family.
The lawyer said: “A career built for 45 years is coming to an end on a very sad note. 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 from 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.”
It was a pitiable sight as General Otiki’s wife who has cancer and was “extremely sick” was brought to the premises of the Court Martial on a wheelchair.
The officer had lost his mother in July 2019 when the incident of alleged missing money occurred.
Major General Hakeem Oladapo Otiki was appointed General Officer Commanding 8 Division, Nigerian Army, Sokoto, the Division in March 2019 and Force Commander of Operation SHARAN DAJI and Operation Harbin Kunama III.
Before the appointment, he was the Commander Infantry Corps (CIC) in Jaji
Incidentally, President of the Court Martial and Chief of Training and Operations, Nigerian Army, General Adeosun and General Otiki are contemporaries in service. Otiki got into Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna on 10th January 1983 while General Adeosun got in on 4th July 1983.
Other members of the General Court Martial include Major Generals A. Tarfa, F.O Agbugor, F.A. Nadu, N. Mohammed, C.T. Olukotu and C.C. Okonkwo.