Molly Kilete, Abuja
More revelations have emerged as to how some soldiers serving under operation Habin Kunama III, in Sokoto State, allegedly absconded with N400 million belonging to a top-level security official.
The top-level security official has since been withdrawn from his duty post, it was gathered.
The soldiers who commited the heist have been identified as personal escorts of the top-level security official, just as the Nigerian Army has formally commenced investigation of the theft.
Asides abandoning their service rifles and uniforms in the vehicle used to convey the money, the soldiers also abandoned their mobile telephone handsets at the scene.
Daily Sun gathered that prior to the crime, the soldiers moved their families from the barracks at Jaji, Kaduna State, to unknown locations.
This was just as the Directorate Of Military Intelligence (DMI) and the Nigerian Army Corps Of Military Police (NACMP) have commenced investigation, to unravel the source of the N400 million which sources told Daily Sun does not belong to the army.
A top military officer who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed investigation has begun and “investigators are spreading their tentacles to some illegal activities that may have fetched the said officer that kind of money.”
According to the source, “the investigators are looking at the area of illegal mining, which is thriving in a particular state in the North West, where the senior officer served before he was removed on Sunday night.
“The investigators are already going through his file, with a fine toothcomb, especially during his days as a Defence Attachee in one of the neighbouring African countries.”
Another security source revealed that the so-called VIP, who was reportedly on the trip with the escorts, is the younger brother of the top security officer.
He added: “We learnt that this is not the first time the soldiers, who are personal escorts, were transporting monies, in large quantities, for their boss.
“As a matter of fact, the soldiers have been working for the senior officer and he took them along, to Sokoto, from Jaji, where he last served before his new appointment.”
To unravel details surrounding the missing N400 million, the source revealed that the top security officer, who has just been redeployed, was not posted to any unit, “to allow investigators have free access to do a through job.”
It was also gathered that officers and soldiers living at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, “are now living in fear as personnel from the DMI and NACMP have been interrogating those perceived to have close relationships with the absconded soldiers.”
Another top officer told Daily Sun: “I can confirm to you that the army is not keeping quiet as far as I know because the Chief of Army Staff would not want his name and that of the Nigerian army to be dragged in the mud of what they know nothing about.
“With the information at our disposal, the investigators are looking at some illegal activities going on in that state and they are also looking at some allegations that that was not the first time the soldiers would transport huge sums of money for the senior officer.
“This is not the first time. So, something may have prompted the soldiers to have disappeared with the money.
“It is normal for soldiers who desert the army to abandon their riffles and uniform but it is unusual for them to also abandon their telephones and run away with their families.
“What this means is that it was a well planned job but we will surely get to the root of the matter,” he said.
Meanwhile the Nigerian Army, 8 Division, Sokoto has launched a manhunt for the five soldiers.
They include Corporal Gabriel Oluwaniyi, Corporal Mohammed Aminu, Lance Corporal Commander Haruna, Lance Corporal Oluji Joshua, and Lance Corporal Hayatudeen Abubakar.
Assistant Director of Public Relations in charge of 8 Division, Nigerian Army, Sokoto, Lieutenant Audu Arigu, confirmed the soldiers fled while on escort duty but insisted the money belonged to a Very Important Person (VIP).
He said: “The wanted soldiers were detailed for legitimate escort duty for a VIP.
“However, they chose to rob the VIP. Investigation has commenced; to unravel the circumstances and the whereabouts of the soldiers.
Last night, it was gathered that two, out of the four soldiers, have been arrested and are “giving useful information on what transpired.”