Nigerian Military Speaks On Stolen 'Billions' By Soldiers

Photo: VOA News
Nigerian soldiers

The Defence Headquarters on Tuesday said an investigation has been launched to clarify the controversies surrounding the stealing of a large amount of money by Nigerian soldiers earlier this month.

PREMIUM TIMES broke the news of how five soldiers on escort duty for a major-general went rogue and stole the money they were asked to take to Abuja from Sokoto on July 11.

Military sources estimated the money in 'billions' to PREMIUM TIMES, while some follow-on media reports cited amounts ranging from N400-600 million. PREMIUM TIMES has not been able to independently verify any of the figures.

Hakeem Otiki, the general officer commanding of the Nigerian Army 8 Division in Sokoto, was the military chief that sources said assigned the soldiers to carry the money for him from his designation in Sokoto to an unknown destination in Abuja.

The soldiers, however, stole the money when they got to a military airstrip in Jaji, Kaduna State, at about 3:00 p.m. on July 11. Military sources said the soldiers were directed to offload the money into a waiting military jet to be flown to Abuja, but they decided to flip on their principal and flee with the money instead.

A manhunt has since been launched for the soldiers, but there were no immediate signs of success on the search.

Nigerians expressed rage over the development, with many seeing it as yet another indication of a steeply corrupt military.

Anti-corruption groups demanded a thorough investigation of the theft by federal lawmakers. They described the theft as embarrassing to the nation and questioned how a major-general came about such a large amount of cash.

The Defence Headquarters spoke on the matter for the first time since PREMIUM TIMES broke the news on July 14, saying an investigation had been launched.

"Investigation is underway to find out what happened and how it happened," Onyema Nwachukwu, a colonel and chief military spokesperson, said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Mr Nwachukwu said details of the inquiry will be made public upon conclusion, although he declined to say how long this would be.

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