Anti-corruption groups demand probe of stolen ‘billions’ by soldiers

Nigerian Army on patrol in Borno, Boko Haram
Nigerian Army on patrol

Anti-corruption campaigners on Friday called on the National Assembly to investigate the recent theft of a large amount of cash by soldiers.

PREMIUM TIMES broke the news last Saturday, how soldiers carted away money they were asked to take to Abuja from Sokoto.

However, military sources estimated the amount to be in billions to PREMIUM TIMES, and identified Hakeem Otiki, the general officer commanding of the Nigerian Army 8 Division in Sokoto as the coordinator of the cash haul.

Mr Otiki has not spoken about the matter, and several enquiries to the Nigerian Army spokesperson, Sagir Musa, about the theft were ignored throughout the week.

A joint statement by anti-graft networks, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre/Transparency International Nigeria (CISLAC), said Nigerians deserve to know the story behind the scandal that has caused so much embarrassment to the nation.

The campaigners also said it was unfortunate that the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has refused to speak on the embarrassing development.

“We call on the National Assembly to probe this incidence. The House Committee on Defense needs to provide the necessary clue. There is no doubt that the action of these soldiers will have a serious impact on the campaign against terrorism.

“The Senate should get to the root of this matter before it is too late. If nothing is done, other soldiers on the frontline may be encouraged to embark of stealing of national assets,” Olanrewaju Suraju of HEDA and Anwalu Rafsanjani of CISLAC stated.

The groups said the Senate should unravel the owner of the money to either confirm or deny speculations that the funds belonged to Mr Otiki.

The organisations said the stealing of the money by soldiers who should represent a qualitative moral fabric of the country has raised serious questions about Nigeria’s commitment to the fight against corruption.

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They said that the theft indicated that the soldiers have no iota of discipline, adding that they have no respect for the president.

“They dared the consequences of the crime probably because they knew it was a trend in the armed forces. There is a major problem if security operatives have no respect for the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,” the campaigners said.

On Wednesday, the anti-graft EFCC handed over to a large office building forfeited to the government by former military chief, Alex Badeh, to the national broadcaster, Voice of Nigeria.

The five soldiers accused of stealing the large cash have since been internally declared wanted by the Nigerian Army following the theft on July 11.

Anti-corruption experts said the development strengthens suspicions that Nigerian military chiefs were lining their pockets with funds meant to combat violent crimes, especially armed banditry and the Boko Haram insurgency, which has now entered its 10th year.

Both HEDA and CISLAC said getting to the roots of the huge cash transport and theft would be key to combating Nigeria’s multi-dimensional security challenges.

“We call on the National Assembly to treat this issue as a top priority. Who are these soldiers? How much was the money involved? Who owns the money? Is the money owned by an individual or by the country? Is the money the proceeds of crime? There are many questions waiting to be answered,” they said.

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