Gunrunning: How we buy arms from soldiers

  • Wednesday, May 21, 2008 - By MOLLY KILETE. Abuja
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Younger brother of detained MEND leader, Henry Okah, Sonnie Bowei Okah, has told the court martial set up, by Army authorities, to try some of its officers and soldiers, involved in the illegal sale of arms and ammunition, of how he started the business of buying military weapons from one Major Akuboh, who is also the prime suspect but had to stop after he discovered that buying from the officer was pretty expensive.

Sonnie Bowei Okah’s elder brother, Henry, who was arrested by the Angolan authorities for gunrunning last year and handed over to the Nigerian government is presently being tried in a court in Jos. the Plateau State capital.

The junior Okah, who appeared as a prosecuting witness before the court martial that sat in Abuja to try some of the chief culprits who are presently being detained at the State Security Service(SSS) headquarters in Abuja, revealed that he actually started the deal with Major Akubo, but had to stop to patronize soldiers, who he said sold at cheaper rates.

The younger Okah, who was arrested along some officers and soldiers, as well as some civilians by military authorities after the illegal sale of arms and ammunition stolen from its armouries across the country, took the court by storm when he openly described the security network in the Nigerian Army as “very loose” especially in the area of protecting its armoury.

But Army sources, told Daily Sun that Sonnie Okah, who incidentally is an ex-boy of the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria, may have used his position as an ex-boy to penetrate the Army and further cultivate his relationship with the military to perpetrate his evil act.
The accused who started by telling the court martial that he was actually forced to confess his involvement in the illegal deal after undergoing series of torture by security agents, was also said to have taken the court by another surprise when he suddenly burst into singing different gospel songs and proclaimed to be a born again Christain.

Daily Sun sources also hinted that the court martial is not taking the allegation of torture made by Bowei Okah, Amos Diamond Oghenekaro and the other suspects that appeared before it lightly as it has resolved to conduct a “trial within trial” to determine the circumstances in which they were tortured, as well as find out whether the statement was voluntarily made by them.

Sources also revealed that the Army has employed the services of Emmanuel Toro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to strengthen its prosecution team and ensure that it does not loose the case, which it described as highly controversial and has drawn the attention of some highly placed individuals in the society who are said to be putting pressure on the Army to soft pedal on the matter, which the Chief Of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant-General Luka Yusuf, has vowed to get to its root.
The court martial, set up sometimes in the first week of February, 2006, had gone for a two-week break and is expected to resume sitting today.

Gen. Yusuf, is equally said to have the backing of the presidency, which considers the conduct of the affected officers and soldiers as a threat to national security.
The court martial set up early February and sitting in Kaduna, according to Daily Sun investigation, was temporarily moved to Abuja in April, to try some of the suspects that are being detained in Abuja where it sat for three weeks before moving to Kaduna, where it is expected to resume sitting today, May 21.
Meanwhile, the court at its resumed hearing, is expected to take a tour to the units, where the arms and ammunition were stolen from, while those that were recovered had been deposited with the SSS. The armories expected to be visited by members of the court martial team, include that of Kaduna, Jaji and Calabar.

It would be recalled that Sunday Sun had in November, reported the story of an Army Major involved in gunrunning after a whooping N200 million was traced to his private account in one of the new generation bank after an investigation was carried out on him.
Major, Akubo, who belongs to the Ordinance Corps, was immediately fingered as the prime suspect, following his life style as he was said to be living lavishly in the barrack above his army salary and even drove the best of cars.

The officer, who was then on a peacekeeping mission, was immediately repatriated to face a board set up by the army authorities and headed by the former General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division, Ibadan, General Saleh, to tell the board all he knew about the missing arms and ammunition as well as the huge amount of money in his bank account.
Akubo’s confession according to military sources, led to the arrest of other suspects involved in the dirty deals, while others are said to be on the run.

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