Alleged N13bn arms fraud: EFCC files charge against ex Army chief, Minimah, 2 Generals

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has filed criminal charge against the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, retd, over alleged diversion of N13 billion meant for procurement of arms.

Others listed as Defendants in the charge the anti-graft agency lodged before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, are a one-time Chief of Accounts and Budget of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. A. O. Adetayo, as well as the former Director, Finance and Accounts of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier Gen. R. I. Odi.

EFCC, in processes filed in court, said it had on August 15, 2016, received a report by the Committee on the Audit of Defence    Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces (CADEP) from 2007- 2015, chaired by AVM Jon Ode (rtd). 

It said the report, alleged that between 2010 and 2015, “several billions of Naira were received by the Nigerian Army from the Federal Government for procurement of Military hard-wares and were discovered to have been misappropriated by Senior Army Officers”.  The anti-graft agency told the court that in the course of investigation conducted, “it was revealed that the sum of Thirteen Billion, Seven Hundred and Ninety Eight Million, Six Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Three Hundred and Nine Naira (N13,798,619,309) was misappropriated by the following persons: Lt. Gen. KTJ Minimah (rtd), the former Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. A.O Adetayo, one-time Chief of Accounts and Budget, Nigerian Army and then Colonel R.I Odi, former Director, Finance and Accounts, Nigerian Army”. 

The sums were transferred from various accounts belonging to the Nigerian Army and moved to company accounts of entities that had no business relations with the Nigerian Army. “This caused huge loss to the Nigerian Army and the Federal Government of Nigeria through the unlawful gains made by the aforementioned Officers who converted the monies for their personal use.

The legal advice on the investigation opined that a prima facie case has been sustained against the officers,” EFCC added.It said the outcome of the investigation led to the filing of charges against the three officers fingered in the alleged fraud.

Consequently, EFCC, said it wrote the Nigerian Army, requesting the three officers to make themselves available for arraignment it said would have taken place since September 15, 2020.Meanwhile, the Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed December 9, to hear a suit the three Defendants filed to challenge the legal propriety of the charge against them.

The Defendants, through their team of lawyers led by Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, are praying the court to determine; “Whether in view of Sections 6(3), (5) (a), 240 and 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and Sections 113, 114 (1), (2) 8(3), 123, 124, 126(1), (2) 8. (4) and 270 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Plaintiffs are not subject to be charged arraigned and /or prosecuted only by a Court Martial as a Court of first instance, to the exclusion of any other trial Court, viz: the Federal High Court, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, and High Court of States, in respect of any offence committed by them.

Whether in view of Section 270 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (the 2nd Defendant) or any other prosecuting agency can Iawfully investigate, charge, arraign and/or prosecute the Plaintiffs. “Whether by virtue of Sections 123, 124(1) 8(3) and 126(1), (2) 8. (4) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Plaintiffs are not to be reported in the form of a charge to their commanding officer after the investigation of any allegation against them. “Whether in view of Sections 113, 114 (1), (2) 8(3), 124(3), and 126(1), (2) and (4) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Plaintiffs can validly be charged arraigned and/or prosecuted under any other law other than the Arm Forces Act, Cap.A20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“Whether by virtue of Sections 6(3) 8(5) (a) 240 and 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Section 129 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Plaintiffs are not subjected to Court Martial in respect of offences (if any) committed by them.“Whether in view of Sections 113, 114 (1), (2) 8. (3), 123, 124, 126(1), (2) 8(4) and 270 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, any Court other than Court Martial can entertain any charge against any of the Plaintiffs”.Upon determination of the legal questions, the Plaintiffs, are among other reliefs, seeking; “A declaration that in view of Sections 113, 114 (1), (2) 8(3), 123, 124, 126(1), (2) 8(4) and 270 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, no Court other than Court Martial can entertain any charge against any of the Plaintiffs. Similarly, “An order of this Honourable Court restraining the Defendants whether by themselves, agents, privies, servants, or howsoever called from investigating, charging, arraigning and or prosecuting the Plaintiffs for any allege offences or misconduct while subject to the Nigerian Armed Forces Service Law.

”Cited as Defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the EFCC.In an affidavit that was deposed to by one Benjamin Anchi, the Plaintiffs, said they were not allowed to explain their side of the story, before EFCC rushed the matter to the court.

They told the court that sometimes in 2016, they were notified that their respective homes were mentioned in the course of the sitting of a committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces (CADEP) on alleged misappropriation of procurement of military hardwares. “That subsequently, on 15th August, 2016, the committee on the Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces (CADEP) on alleged misappropriation of procurement of Military hard-wares referred the case to the 2nd Defendant (EFCC) for further investigation.

“That further to the above paragraph, the EFCC came to the conclusion that the Plaintiffs misappropriated the sum of Thirteen Billion, Seven Hundred and Ninety-Eight Million, Six Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Three Hundred and Nine (N13,798,619,309). “That the Plaintiffs were not allowed to explain their side of the story”.They bemoaned that EFCC, on its own, came to the conclusion that there is a prima facie case against them.“That the 2nd Defendant has filed a charge before the High Court Abuja and requested the Nigerian Army (NA) to release the Plaintiffs to collect their Charge sheets in other to charge and prosecute them in the regular Court”.

The embattled Generals argued that the Audit Committee on alleged misappropriation of procurement of Military hardwares, “only referred the case to the 2nd Defendant (EFCC) for further investigation and not to proceed to file criminal charges against the Plaintiffs”.Insisting that they are still subject to service law (the Armed Forces Act), the Plaintiffs, argued that, “if any military officer under the service law of the Nigerian Army commit an offence, it is reported in form of a charge to the commanding officer of the accused person for investigation and trial if necessary.

“That Nigeria Army has its rules and statutory mechanisms for the administration of Criminal Justice. “That military officer under the service law can only be prosecuted in the Court Martial. “That the Court Martial is a special court specifically made for prosecution of persons in the Nigerian Armed forces”.

The Plaintiffs contended that EFCC does not have powers to arraign them “with respect to offences allegedly committed in the course of their official duties”, insisting that the charge against them “is unknown to law”.“That the 2nd Defendant (EFCC) is bent on subjecting the Plaintiffs to criminal prosecution regardless of the extant statutory provisions that has stipulated the mode of prosecuting Military officers”, the Plaintiffs added.Meantime, the court gave all the parties 21 days to file their pleadings, even as it okayed the matter for hearing.

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