The Nigerian Army and the family of Major General Hakeem Otiki on Monday appeared before the Federal High Court in Abuja claiming the sum of $376,120 seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission last year.
The money was said to have been seized from a Kaduna-based Bureau De Change operator, Alhaji Ado Aliyu, described as Otiki’s associate in a foreign exchange business.
It was alleged that the money was exposed following a robbery operation carried out by soldiers drafted by Otiki to provide military escort for Aliyu as he moved the cash sum of N400m from Sokoto to Kaduna in 2019.
The EFCC alleged that the soldiers had fled with the N400m.
Otiki, who was then the General Officer Commanding, 8 Division of the Nigerian Army in Sokoto, is currently standing trial before the General Court Martial for offences in connection with robbery incident and cheating.
The Federal High Court judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, had on January 22, 2020 ordered the interim forfeiture of the recovered $376,120 to the Federal Government and adjourned till Monday for further hearing.
The judge, in granting the ex parte application by the EFCC, had directed the commission to publish the order in a national daily, inviting whoever was interested in the money to state why it should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, the EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho, informed the court that the January 22, 2020 directive for the publication of the order had been complied with by the commission.
In response to the published order, Otiki, his Bureau De Change firm, Karama Bureau De Change Limited, and four of his family members appeared in court on Monday through their lawyer, Mr Olalekan Ojo (SAN), laying claim to the money.
The family members are Kudirat Otiki, Asabe Otiki, Zainab Otiki and Abdul Otiki.
Otiki and the four others said they were directors and shareholders in Karama BDC Limited, incorporated on June 28, 2012.
The six, including the firm, applied to the court to be joined as interested parties in the money on Monday and their applications were granted by the judge.
Also, the Nigerian Army, represented by its lawyer, Saleh Abdulaziz, in court on Monday, contended that “the $376,120 in issue is part of the money allocated to the 8 Division” for construction projects but which Otiki as the then General Officer Commanding allegedly “ordered to be moved to his personal residence.”
Mwo Joseph, a master warrant officer and a member of the investigative team set up by the Army to investigate the “missing funds in the 8 Division of the Nigerian Army in Sokoto”, alleged that Otiki had in his previous statement, dated July 4, 2019 and July 24, 2019, admitted that he directed the sum of N150m and N160m meant for the division to be withdrawn and taken to his residence.
Joseph said investigations revealed that Alhaji Ado Aliyu “provides dollar in exchange for naira and vice-versa to the officer.”
He added, “The sum of $376,120, which the EFCC seeks to be forfeited to the Federal Government, is part of the money released to the officer as the GOC of 8 Division of the Nigerian Army, which was converted into dollars by Alhaji Ado Aliyu, for the officer.”
But Otiki, his firm and his family members insisted that the money was their legitimate earning from legitimate business transactions and sale of properties.
They said in their affidavit that the Major-General, “as a career senior military officer, who has put in a total of 34 years in the service of the Nigerian Army was paid good salaries, allowances, and bonuses over many years from which he made significant savings. Part of these savings were invested in the business and operating capital of the first interested party.”
The EFCC’s lawyer, Iheanacho, on Monday asked for time to respond to the claims by the Army and the Otikis.