One dead, nine others living in penury! This is the pathetic story of 10 veteran soldiers who were circumstantially dismissed, reinstated and dismissed again as they battle for survival over trumped-up charges of participating in the ill-fated Major Gideon Orkar’s coup of 1990.
For starters, Major Gideon Orkar’s coup of 1990 remains the bloodiest coup d’état ever staged in the history of Nigeria leaving many innocent soldiers dead while some are still missing till today without any trace.
For over 25 years, Colonel I. O Adebunmi has being living like a fugitive in England after he was summarily dismissed from his post as the Deputy Commander; CFO at the Nigerian Army headquarters over allegations of corruptly enriching himself which till this moment, charges brought against him were never authenticated. Nine other officers are equally affected.
• EX. / COLONEL I.0. ADEBUNMI (N/2514)
• EX. COLONEL A.A GOODLUCK (N/867)
• EX.LT.COLONEL O.TELLA (N/2519)
• EX. LT. COLONELO.I. OKON (N/3099)
• EX.LT.COLONEL(NOW MAJOR)A.O. AKINDIYA (M/3108)
• EX.MAJOR A.O. ISHOLA N/6532)
• EX.MAJOR I. SELE (N/5844) )
• EX.CAPTAIN E.S. AKPABIO(N/6496)
• EX.CAPTAIN E A.A OSHUPORU (N/7463).
• EX.CAPTAIN T.O.A. AFUNKE (N/7463)
These former officers of the Nigerian Army who were alleged to have been unjustly detained, investigated, severely tortured, imprisoned and finally cashiered/dismissed from the Nigerian Army are currently appealing to the authority at the Nigerian Army Headquarters to review their conviction.
Their ordeal started sometime in 1990 after the abortive Orkar coup when one sergeant Shehu Omeje, a finance personnel of SNCO (finance corps) who took part in the said coup was investigated. He was alleged to have stated that he participated in the coup so that he may have power to eradicate the prevailing corruption in the finance corps and other corps and formations in the Nigerian Army.
At the time of their arrest, the listed officers held the following posts in the Nigerian Army: ColoneI. O. Adebunmi – Deputy Commander CFO, Ex-Colonel A.A Goodluck-ADAFA 3rd Armoured division, Jos, Ex. Lt. Colonel O.Tella- ADAFA 82 Composition division, Enugu, Ex. LT. Colonel O.I. Okon– Deputy ADAFA 82 Composition Div. Enugu; Ex. Lt. Colonel (Now Major) A.O. Akindiya– Bills Officer, CFO, Ex. Major A.O. Ishola– Cashier 82 Composite Division, Enugu, Ex-Major I. Sele-Deputy ADAFA 3 Armoured Division, Jos; Ex-Captain A. Ajagbe – Divisional Bills Officer, Jos. While Ex-Captain E.S. AKPABIO- Cashier 3 Armoured Division, Jos, Ex-Captain A.A Oshuporu-Bills Officer, 82 Composite div, Enugu and Ex-Captain T.O.A. Afunke served as the Cash Requisition Officer 82 Composite Division, Enugu.
THE DMI REACTION
Immediately after their arrest, officers from the Directorate of Military intelligence (DMI) seized hundreds of documents from the Unit Cash Account (UCA) section of the Command Finance Office (CFO). The department saddled with the duty of verifying and compiling returns from all Nigerian Army formations. This section was then headed by one Major J.C Ayoade and directly responsible to the commander CFO.
ARREST AND DETENTION
DMI Office invited and detained 12 finance officers; including the officers listed above to investigate the alleged Corrupt Practices. Three officers were arrested and detained from the Command Finance Office;
5 officers from 82 composite division, Enugu and 4 Officers from 3 Armoured Division, Jos. Between August and December 1990 the listed officers and one Major J.C Ayoade (Head, UCA Unit) were detained and moved round various hideous detention centres (including those meant for hardened and dangerous criminals) from DMI reception rooms, Security group Headquarters; Soldiers guardroom of School of Intelligence, Apapa, Gambo detention centre, Ikoyi and from there to Ikoyi Prisons.
During this period, beating, starvation, humiliation were common routine in the afore-mentioned places. Their wives and relations who visited (to bring food and toiletries) were not spared the above
mentioned ordeals as some of their wives were harassed, deprived of personal belongings and even sexually assaulted.
On the 30th of November, 1990 the three Officers arrested from Command Finance Office were taken in open pick up vans to their offices and left in the scorching sun for several hours before been taken to Tamandu barracks for another round of detention.
The other detainees were also taken round their Offices in similar humiliating conditions and later detained. Such was their ordeal at the various detention centres for almost a year during which the DMI could not establish a SINGLE charge against them.
ANOTHER GRUELLING INVESTIGATION BY DMP
After their ordeal at the DMI, they were handed over to the DMP sometimes in April 1991. The DMP commenced another round of investigation by engaging the firms of; AKANMI DAWUDA & CO (To
investigate the accounts of 3 Armoured Division, Jos) and BOWO OLATERU OLAGBEGI & CO. (To investigate the accounts of 82 Composite Division, Enugu)
In July, 1991 these officers were served with two (2) Separate Court Martial Convening Orders and Charges. At the initial stage, the Colonel AQ: Colonel Ayilla and one Captain P. Lawal were included in the first court martial convening order, but both were struck off the list at the commencement of trial.
THE COURT MARTIAL
To set the record straight, the first court martial material convening order and charges – Annexure A1 – VI was never used. The said court martial convening order and charges: Annexure B1 – XIII was used for
the preliminary hearing only and fresh charges were brought against them at the commencement of proper trial.
The prosecution relied solely on the reports of the two (2) aforementioned accounting firms. The affected officers and their lawyers were allowed only one (1) night to go through the said
Accountant Report before trial commenced the next morning.
THE PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANTS’ REPORTS
For the purpose of this appeal, they claimed that the two (2) reports were riddled with inaccuracies, speculations and unprofessionalism. Specifically, some of the errors in their reports included:
• That, AKANNI DAWODU & CO. was clear in its report that the unexpended monies they were alleged to have squandered were still in the brigade’s accounts.
The report pointed out expenditures made but not covered by releases. There was nowhere in the report where it was pointed out that monies were fraudulently used or stolen. The report under reference did not indict these officers, but rather; exonerated all the charged Finance Officers, from three (3) Armoured Division, Jos. The report stated that; unspent funds remained in the bank accounts of Units under the Command of 3rd Armoured Division; the prosecutor did not make use of this aspect of the report.
• BOWO OLATERU OLAGBEGI & Co. was able to conjure figures of stolen funds but nothing concrete to use as evidence against them, concerning the accounts of the 82 composite Division; Enugu.
The officers stated that, the accounting firm among other things; did not at any time consult or discuss with any of the Public Sector Accountants/Auditors or their respective offices which had earlier certified the accounts being investigated as proper and accurate. They claimed that the accounting firm did not interview or interrogate any of the operators of the accounts being investigated, neither did they visit
any of the units headquarters/or their Finance Officers whose accounts were being investigated.
They also stressed that the banks being used by the Division (and units under it) were neither visited nor statements of account collected. They also alleged that, the accounting firm relied on cash requisition figure from the different units of all the Division. ”The accounting firm simply compared the sum of the requisitions of all the units under the Division and compared same with the figures sent to the CFO Headquarters by the Divisional Headquarters, any difference was deemed fraudulent” they submitted.
The officers claimed that requisitions made by the Divisional Headquarters for expenses such as bank charges, postage and other expenses that could only be made by the Divisional Headquarters were
collated and labeled fraudulent requests/expenditures.
They said the aforementioned requisitions were not added to those made by the formations/units under the Divisional Headquarters.
ERRORS OF INTERPRETATION
All deductions such as NAWIS, Benevolent Fund and PRI deductions, motorbike loans deductions, NYSC allowances and in some cases housing loans granted to some soldiers were summed up and labeled as
illegal and fraudulent deductions from soldiers pay.
ERROR OF PRINCIPLE
BOWO OLATERU OLAGBEGI & Co. was said to have also inferred that the sum of N3, 589.00 (Three Thousand Five Hundred and Eighty Nine Naira) was the average money stolen from the holding account of each unit under the 82 Composite Division
ERROR OF OMISSION
The officers claimed that the accounting firm of Bowo Olateru Olagbegi & Co. did not apply Standard Accounting Books existing in the 82 composite Division finance Office, CFO or the Ministry of Defence.
Therefore, most figures were obtained from preliminary accounting and operational documents like troop pay vouchers and entries in the Divisional and Brigade cash books. The firm never considered the
Vote Book Entries which is a major accounting document in public sector accounting throughout its auditing exercise, the officers complained.
Of special interest, is the sum of N5, 427,000.00 (Five Million, Four Hundred and Twenty Seven Thousand) Naira removed from the military account of 82 of Composite Division and put in Mil/09 CFO
by the authorities when the accused officers were already in detention, which also formed part of the excess release unaccounted. The accused officers said that, throughout their trial, no payment vouchers, cheques or physical cash were tendered or specified as the media through which the Nigerian Army suffered any pecuniary loss.
“Infact, the monies left as balance in the different unit/Brigade accounts were deemed money stolen” they posited.
VERDICTS ON ALL ACCUSED OFFICERS
The accused officers, some of who are now partially blind, said up-till this moment they were not obliged a copy of the judgment of the court martial or the rationale behind the Court Martials judgment known to them. On 13th December, 1991; the following is the summary of the verdicts of the court martial:
• COLONEL I.O ADEBUNMI (N/2514)
As Deputy Commander CFO, he was discharged on all counts but found guilty of negligence, a charge said to have been introduced by the court martial at the end of the trial.
SENTENCE – Reduction in rank from Colonel to Lt. Colonel after hanging same for over 11 years. He has also being retired and struck of strength three times.
• Colonel A.A GOODLUCK (N/867)
As the ADAFA of 3 Armoured Division, he was acquitted on 3 counts and found guilty on one (1) count.
SENTENCE: Jailed for one year and cashiered from the Nigerian Army.
• LT. Colonel O. Tella (N/2519)
As the ADAFA of 82 Composition Division, Enugu; he was found guilty on two counts.
SENTENCE: Jailed for one (1) year for each count and cashiered from the Army.
• LT. Colonel A.O. Akindiya (N/3108)
As Bills Officer at CFO; he was exonerated of the one count charge against him, but found guilty of negligence; introduced by the court.
SENTENCE: Reduction in rank from Lt. Colonel to Major (after hanging same for 6 years).
• LT. Colonel O.T. Okon (N / 3899)
As deputy ADAFA, 82 Composite Division, he was found guilty on one (1) charge
SENTENCE: Jailed for one (1) year and cashiered from the Army.
• Major I. Sele (N /5844)
As deputy ADAFA 3, Armoured Division Jos, he was found guilty on one count charge.
SENTENCE: Jailed one year and cashiered from the Army.
• Major A.O. Isola (N /6532)
As cashier to 82 Composite Division, Enugu he was found guilty
SENTENCE: Reduction of rank from Major to captain, Jailed one (1) year and cashiered from the Army.
• Captain Ajagbe (N / 4078)
As Divisional Bills officer, he was found guilty
SENTENCE: Jailed six (6) months and cashiered from the Army
• Captain E.S Akpabio (N / 6496)
As Cashier 3 Armoured Division, he was found guilty
SENTENCE: Jailed one (1) year and cashiered from the Army.
• Captain T.O. Afunku (N / 7463)
As Cash Requisition Officer, 82 composite Division, he was found guilty
SENTENCE: Jailed six (6) months and cashiered from the Army.
• Captain A.A. Oshuporu (N /6514)
Bills Officer of 82 composite Division, he was found guilty
SENTENCE: Jailed Six (6) months and cashiered from the Army.