Last week Wednesday, the General Court Martial of the Nigerian Army found Major General Hakeem Oladapo Otiki guilty on five counts of disobedience to service orders, theft of public property, diversion of operational money and engaging in private businesses.
General Otiki was appointed the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8 Division of the Nigerian Army, Sokoto in March 2019.
As the GOC 8 Division, he was also the Force Commander of Operation SHARAN DAJI and Operation Harbin Kunama III.
Before the appointment, he was the Commander Infantry Corps (CIC) in Jaji.
In July 2019, he sent five soldiers in his detail to haul some cash from Sokoto to Abuja via Kaduna.
The soldiers played a fast one on him and fled with the money.
The Court Martial, headed by the Chief of Policy and Plans (Army), Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun, pronounced 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 totalling N135.8million, $6,600 recovered by the Special Investigation Bureau, and another N150 million stolen money, which could not be accounted for, be returned to the Nigerian Army.
All the sentences, however, are subject to approval by the Nigeria Army Council.
Based on the overwhelming evidence against General Otiki, his lead counsel, Barrister Israel Olorundare (SAN), in his submission, 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, explained that the accused officer is the breadwinner of his family, noting that Otiki was not the one that stole the money, but was the one who reported the incident, sourced for the money and returned it to the authorities.
The fact that Otiki is due for retirement by December this year, or the pitiable sight of his “extremely sick” wife who came on a wheelchair or the heart touching story that the senior officer lost his mother in July 2019, when the incident of alleged missing money occurred, could not move the Court of his peers.
If the Nigerian Army Council affirms the judgment, it means that General Otiki immediately ceases to have any rank, he becomes a persona non grata as he would have no atom of respect within military circles.
He would be bereft of any honour.
In addition, as a dismissed officer, he will not be entitled to any benefit including pension and gratuity.
His services of about 35 years is gone unrecognised.
He would have no record in the Army as the judgment erased any such record.
Everything he has worked for, would have been gone with the wind.
It is a mortal disgrace for a man who until now had a distinguished career but got knocked down by greed and its judgment including sickness.
Otiki is now so sick that he cannot sit down for more than 30 minutes without noticeable pains.
But the fact that a Court of his peers passed the verdict should give hope of an Army institution trying to cleanse itself.
But it also sends an alarm on the movement of military funds without laid down checks and balances.
While calling on all national institutions to learn from the Army and self-cleanse, the veil of transactions on military funds and operations should be opened up.
And the sentence should be a warning to Nigerians to cease debasing themselves and their institutions by their conducts.
The time for a corruption free military and Nigeria is now.