In spite of the collective resolve to battle corruption, every accused person is innocent before the law until proven otherwise, so the case of the former Chief of Defense Staff, Alex Badeh should be treated with the same guiding principle, writes Shola Oyeyipo
There is no doubting the fact that Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, religion or party affiliations are hand in gloves with President Muhammadu Buhari in the fight against corruption at every level and anyone caught in the web easily becomes a subject of national discourse. The reason is simply. All of Nigeria’s woes are traceable to inequality in the sharing of the commonwealth as a result of widespread graft. So, as it is today, it is best to avoid the stigma of being tagged one of the people, who have shortchanged the country because either right or wrong, the process of explaining oneself is odious.
But as the anti-corruption fight gathers momentum, the former Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh has found himself entangled in the circle of corruption allegation and now faces the task of clarifying what actually happened in the face of the huge allegations brought against him.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought the former Chief of Defence Staff before an Abuja High Court on a 10-count charge, ranging from misappropriation of funds meant for the Nigerian Airforce. He was accused of conniving with one Iyalikam Nigeria Limited to spend the funds, part of which was purported said to have been invested in choice property in highbrow areas in Abuja.
In the charge bordering on money laundering, corruption and criminal breach of trust, marked FHC/ABJ/CR/46/2016, dated February 26 and signed by the Deputy Director of Legal and Prosecution Department at the EFCC, Mr. Aliyu Yusuf, it was alleged that between January and December, 2013, Badeh used dollar equivalent of the sum of N650 million to purchase a commercial plot of land situated at Plot 1386, Oda Crescent, Cadastral Zone, A07, Wuse II, Abuja.
He was said to have between March 28 and December 5, 2013, paid N878, 362,732.94 taken from the account of the Nigerian Air Force, into the account of Rytebuilders Technologies Limited with Zenith Bank Plc, for the construction of a shopping mall on the plot. He was also alleged to have diverted another dollar equivalent of N304 million to the firm, Rytebuilders Technologies Limited, for the completion of the shopping mall.
The EFCC further alleged, among others, that Badeh used dollar equivalent of N260 million from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force paid to one Ouwatoyin Oke through Platinum Universal Project and Construction, to purchase a duplex for his son, Alex Badeh Jnr and that the defendant further used N60 million to renovate the property situated at 19, Kumai Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja and another N90 million to furnish it.
But he has repeatedly denied the allegations by the EFCC that he misappropriated funds meant for the Nigerian Air Force and is particularly disenchanted about the unfair treatment meted out to him by the country he claimed to have fought hard for against the Boko Haram sect. Badeh is also very pained that despite his assurances to the EFCC that he would fully cooperate with any investigations, he was being treated unfairly and his rights violated.
In what looked like the anti-graft agency was just out to detain him in their custody for as long as they cared, the trial judge had berated the EFCC for not complying with the court’s directives as regards Badeh’s bail condition.
During one of the sessions, counsel to the defence, Mr. Akin Olujimi (SAN) brought to the judge’s attention, the fact that the defendant had earlier met the bail conditions, after he had initially asked for variation but that the EFCC failed to do its part with regards to independently ascertaining the value of such properties and getting back to the court within 24 hours as to whether they met the conditions.
Justice Okon Abang had to rule that he was compelled to vary the part of the condition that required EFCC to ascertain the value of those properties and get back to the court within 24 hours. He also ruled that the EFCC could not continue to hold the court to ransom while the defendant’s bail application was left to suffer while waiting for the commission to carry out a duty required of it by the law.
A close family source told THISDAY that a thriving angst among Badeh’s family and friends is particularly that he was not getting fair hearing. First, they feel particularly perturbed that he is a victim of media trial because of the way the allegations against him were being celebrated in the media whereas he has not been found guilty already.
Secondly, relying on the constitutional provision that states that an accused person should be presumed innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction states to the contrary, Badeh’s close associates are strongly of the views that the former Army boss would eventually get respite from the court and as such, he should not be subjected to unnecessary agony in the course of the trial.
Little reprieve eventually came the way of the embattled former Army boss when on Thursday, March 24, he was released having perfected his rigorous bail conditions. He had pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of N2 billion, with two sureties in the sum of N1 billion each. He however remained in Kuje prisons pending the bail perfection.
After spending about 14 days, Badeh eventually perfected his bail conditions and was released about two weeks ago. Altogether, he was in prison for more than a month. With his bail secured, a major hurdle has been scaled because during his detention, the ex-CDS, begged for bail. He felt that he was being held in custody when actually he could be granted bail while the investigation and litigation by the anti-graft body continue.
“I was detained by The EFCC for three weeks and was not charged to court but was given onerous bail conditions by the commission which I could not meet. A remand warrant was hastily obtained on February 25 in Lagos as soon as the EFCC was served with a notice for my bail hearing in court by my lawyers. Why detain me for so long and issue such onerous bail conditions when they aren’t ready to charge me to court?” he queried.
Put aside, Badeh does not seem disturbed about going for the trial proper. In some of his arguments, he has articulated his position on the allegations against him and his position has always been that they are untrue.
In a statement personally signed and exonerating himself of any wrongdoing while at the helm of affairs, Badeh stated that “It has been widely reported in the news that I am being investigated over the $2.1bn arms deal but that is not true. I was not part of Dasukigate”. He also said that “The claim that five properties were acquired for me from the $2.1billion funds is also false.”
According to him, “I was Chief of Air staff from October 2012 to January 2014 and then appointed CDS. During my time as the CDS, funds for weapons were directly released to the Chief of Air staff, Army Staff and Naval Staff and not to me. I had no control over the funds and yet I am being accused of embezzling weapons funds. The office of the CDS had no operational control of the services and had nothing to do with their spending.
“The EFCC’s claim that I received $800,000 from my Director of Finance and Accounts is untrue. I did not receive such money from the erstwhile DFA. If he claims to have given me money, where is the proof? Was it paid into my account? Did I sign for it? In the case of the properties, if they claim the properties are mine and were obtained illegally through proxies then they should go to the court and get an order of forfeiture rather than trying to insist I am the owner of the properties.
“It is unfortunate that the media has unwittingly allowed itself to be used by interested parties to become judge, jury and executioner in my case. Even when they claimed billions were found in accounts of wives of some past Air Force officers, none was found with my family yet EFCC keeps generalising and making it look like my family is involved too.”
After bemoaning the ill-treatment he was getting from a country he served so well, especially in the area of combating the Boko Haram insurgents, Badeh who is obviously prepared for the legal battle ahead said: “I reported to the EFCC when I was invited and would report anytime I am needed. All I ask for is to be given a fair hearing with the rule of law strictly adhered to.”
To Badeh, he is simply being persecuted rather than being prosecuted by the EFCC for no just cause, and as such, is confident that if he faces fair hearing, he would explicitly explain himself out of the allegations.
The case is already coming up with intrigues as the former Director of Finance and Accounts at the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi Yushau (retd), who earlier told the court how he normally handed over the dollar equivalent of N558.2million to the former CDS, said he could no longer remember the exact amount in dollars that he handed over to him during cross-examination and that neither did he have evidence showing he handed over such monies to the former CDS.
As things are right now, it is only just for both sides to state their story in court and in an atmosphere devoid of harassment or any form of threat, in as much as the accused person is prepared to stand in defence of himself.
He has repeatedly denied the allegations by the EFCC that he misappropriated funds meant for the Nigerian Air Force and is particularly disenchanted about the unfair treatment meted out to him by the country he claimed to have fought hard for against the Boko Haram sect…Badeh is also very pained that despite his assurances to the EFCC that he would fully cooperate with any investigations, he was being treated unfairly and his rights violated