Ex-Army Chief, Gen Kenneth Minimah, faces N13b fraud charge at an Abuja High Court over alleged misappropriation of army funds.
The EFCC accused Minima and two others of pinching N13billion arms procurement funds from the Army till.
Minimah however argued that courts cannot prosecute officers who did not undergo a military trial for offences committed in service.
High Court trials must be preceded by a military trial as provided for in the Armed Forces Law, his defence said.
The court will hear the lawyers’ arguments on this question today, 9 December 2021.
EFCC charged the ex-Army Chief and two of his subordinates to court for diverting N13billion arms procurement funds to themselves.
Minimah’s alleged accomplices include AO Adetayo, former Army chief of accounts, and Col. RI Odi, former Army director of accounts.
EFCC said it investigated a report from a presidential panel that audited Army’s defence equipment procurements between 2007 and 2015.
The Panel, chaired by retired AVM Jon Ode, referred the report to EFCC on 15 August 2016 for further investigation, the Agency said.
The panel noted that “several billions of Naira” released for procurement of Military hard-wares were “misappropriated by Senior Army Officers.”
EFCC named Minimah, Adetayo and Odi in court as ringleaders of the alleged heist.
The Agency said it establish that the trio allegedly misappropriated a total of N13,798,619,309 of the arms procurement funds.
They diverted the funds to “company accounts of entities that had no business relations with the Nigerian Army,” EFCC said.
EFCC further alleged this was a huge loss to government as the Officers “converted the monies for their personal use.”
The court approved hearing on the matter and gave the parties 21 days to file their pleadings.
Accused challenge trial
The trio however filed a counter suit to challenge their trial which they said violates the Armed Foces Act.
The suit, filed by a team led by a senior advocate, Mahmud Magaji, was to be heard today.
They argued that both the Constitution and Armed Forces Act require that offending military officers first undergo a court martial.
This protocol restrains regulad courts at State and Federal levels from initiating trials of military offenders, the lawyers argued.
They further submitted that the Army law bars EFCC and other agencies from initiating investigations and prosecution of military officers.
The Minimah legal team argued that their clients ought to have been reported to their commanding officer after the audit investigation and not hustled to court.
They asked the court to rule on whether the officers can be prosecuted under any other law apart from the Armed Forces Act.
Their pleadings were embodied in a court-sworn affidavit by a Mr. Benjamin Anchi.
In the affidavit, the accused persons said they were not allowed to “explain their side of the story before EFCC rushed the matter to court.”
They said they overheard their names mentioned in the course of the work of the Presidential Panel.
Next they heard was that the panel had finished its work and “referred the case to … EFCC for further investigation.”
The EFCC, they said, concluded its investigation without reference to the accused and alleged that they misappropriated N13.79b.
The accused persons said nobody asked them “to explain their side of the story” before EFCC concluded that “there is a prima facie case against them.”
EFCC thereafter charged them and “requested the Nigerian Army to release them to collect their Charge sheets in other to prosecute them in the regular Court”.
The trio insisted that they are still under the military service law. Therefore, any matters concerning them ought to be referred to their commanding officer for investigation or trial.
“… Nigeria Army has its rules and statutory mechanisms for the administration of Criminal Justice.
“…Military officer under the service law can only be prosecuted in the Court Martial … a special court specifically made for prosecution of persons in the Nigerian Armed forces”.
The EFCC, they said, “does not have powers to arraign them on the alleged offences committed in the course of their official duties.
“The law is clear on the mode of prosecuting military officers,” they concluded in the affidavit.
Ex-Army chief faces N13b fraud charge