The case between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh has been very intriguing. As the trial resumes today, many will be waiting to see if the witnesses for the prosecution will continue to refute their statements, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Today, as the case involving the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh continues before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja resumes, more Nigerians will follow it with keener interest because of the new dimension being introduced by the witnesses.
The case is no doubt one of the most interesting anti-corruption cases and the reason is simply because at trial, the witnesses being put forward by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are not standing firmly on their statements.
One of the key witnesses, former Director of Finance and Accounts at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Air Commodore Salisu Yushau (rtd) has simply altered his initial statement.
Yushau initially made sterling revelations before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja when the trial commenced. He told the court how Badeh diverted N558. 2 million from the NAF account monthly. He revealed that he regularly handed over the dollar equivalent of N558.2m to Badeh at his official residence in Abuja and also claimed that N90 million was used to renovate and furnish a property belonging to Badeh’s son. Yushau had said that he was the one that negotiated and paid N240 million for the house Badeh bought for his first son in Abuja.
But for interested Nigerians who have been following developments at the trial, as the legal drama continues in the court, Yushau has been making conflicting statements that are definitely not in the interest of the prosecution.
For instance, it was surprising on Tuesday, April 12, at the resumed hearing, when Yushau told the court that he had no personal records to establish the fact of the cash transactions made between him and Badeh.
The retired Air commodore admitted that the statements he made to EFCC were different from what he was giving in court based on the nature of questions asked. The witness, who was being cross-examined by counsel to Badeh, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), told the court that the conflicting statements to the EFCC and his testimony in court in the same case arose from the technicality of the questions asked.
He said that the shopping complex purportedly bought at N650, 000 million was not captured in the statement he made to the EFCC in details.
On the issue of records to prove the cash transactions made between him and Badeh, Yushau maintained that Badeh gave him verbal instructions to carry out all his transactions. He said he has no document showing he was directed to buy any property neither does he have any to show he either received or gave money to the former CDS.
Querying the rationale behind his declaration that he has no document to support his initial claims, Olujimi asked Yushau: “By virtue of your experience, when payment are authorised, it is necessary to have it in writing” and he responded by saying “When a request for expenditure is made through the Chief of Air Staff, it has to be in writing, but if the Chief of Air Staff is making a request for expenditure, he does not put it in writing. It has been so throughout the period I worked as Director of Finance and Accounts at NAF.”
He told the court further that though he was aware of the financial regulation for public service which stipulates that all expenses should be documented, but that he could not request for documentary authorisation because things operate differently in the military.
“If the CAS asked me to buy N50million car for his friend, he does not need to write, and I will not question his request because he is the Chief Accounting Officer. That is how we operate in the military,” Yushau stated.
On whether the Nigerian Air Force account goes through annual auditing by the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF) and that by being the DFA, he has a duty to justify every expenditure with appropriate document, the witness responded by stating that the CAS does not need to justify his request for any expenditure, adding that the fund was already earmarked for the office of the CAS.
When Olujimi asked him if he was aware of the Financial Regulations Document for Public Service, he said yes, but that he did not ask Badeh to put into writing, the instruction in respects of the alleged properties.
Interestingly, the witness had earlier testified not being a qualified accountant but he has worked with the accounts department for 25 years.
Apparently, observing the twist and the level of damage Yushau was doing to his earlier testimony and the case when the witness was asked a question pertaining to the statement he made to EFCC, the prosecution counsel requested that the witness be given his statement to go through in order to refresh his memory on the new line of questioning.
The prosecution counsel objected, saying the original copies of the document the defence counsel was quoting was not in court and if the witness must be questioned on that statement he made to EFCC his memory must be refreshed by presenting him with such a statement. The argument was sustained by the trial Judge. He thereafter adjourned the matter to May 10, at the instance of the prosecuting counsel, to make available the original of the statement.
At the resumption of hearing on 10th May 2016 ,Yushau maintained he had no single document in respect with his land transactions with the former CDS and further denied several statements he made earlier in his evidence in chief
He also confirmed he owns the property in which he lives in at the moment in Abuja, a car-park and 2 other uncompleted buildings in Kaduna. He also confirmed owning two other houses in Kano.
Yushau also confirmed he never received any written instructions to buy properties for the first defendant.
Counsel to Badeh therefore told the court that Yushau was a tainted witness whose evidence serves a purpose. He said that the witness owns several properties marked by the EFCC and is still under investigation himself. According to Olujimi “ï am showing the character of the witness to the court. I am showing that he equally needs to be charged. He is liable to be charged with all the offences he mentioned. Since the witness is still under investigation by the EFCC it confirms that his testimonies are serving a purpose.
When asked how long he had served the military, Yushau said 30 years. When asked what his monthly salary was, he answered slightly above N870, 000 monthly. He also told the court that he started receiving the said amount from 2011 when he became Air commodore.
Olujimi pointed out to the court that the witness received approximately N10m annually from 2011. According to Olujimi, “Let us assume you were earning N10million annually from assumption of service till now, the total sum should be N300 million for your 30 years of service. The properties you admit to own, when put together are worth over N2billion”
As if the discrepancies already created by Yushau were not enough, when the second prosecution witness, Emmanuel Abu, a cashier with the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Camp, Mogadishu Cantonment came to the court on May 11, he told the court during cross-examination by Olujimi that he just met A S Badeh for the first time on March 9, 2016 outside the courtroom. Like the first witness, he also told the court that his statement to the EFCC was made in error.
Abu, in his statement to the EFCC had claimed that he sourced the sum of $3.1million and gave it to Group Captain Mohammed Sinni after the sum of N76million was transferred to HAVCO Nigeria Limited from the N558million set aside monthly for the office of the CAS but in his evidence before the court, the witness said the sum of $2.9million was given to Group Captain Sinni, the Camp Finance Officer for the month of May, 2013.
Cross examining Abu, Olujim asked: “In the course of your evidence you gave a list of dollars you gave to the CFO every month and for the month of May 2013, you said you gave $2.9million to Sinni whereas in your statement at the EFCC, you said $3.1million was sourced by you.” And the witness responded saying, “The statement with the EFCC was in error. I confirm that it was an error while writing the statement.”
Also, when asked if there is any record showing that he gives money monthly to Sinni, the witness said no. “I have no records of what I gave to Sinni monthly because the CFO (Sinni) was a custodian of everything, I was only assisting him.
“All payments made either by mandate or cash was signed by the CFO and myself but I received the dollars from the Bureau de Change (BDC) because I was the one interfacing with them.”
When Olujinmi asked the witness if it would be correct to say that the only record that exists to show that the witness monthly disbursed dollar equivalents of N558m to Sinni were “only in his head”, the witness said yes.
Likewise, when the witness was asked to corroborate the claim of the Director of Finance and Accounts, Yushau, who said the usually converted N558million was given to him first in October 2012, the witness said he did not know, adding that the first time he gave the N558million dollar equivalent to Sinni was in November 2012. He also told the court that he is not aware that the usual practice of setting aside N558million for the office of CAS was there before November 2012.
“I wouldn’t know if someone gave Yushau the dollar equivalent of the N558million in October 2012,” he said.
The witness, who said he was given a verbal instruction by Sanni in 2012 shortly after Sinni assumed the position of Camp Finance Officer (CFO) to set aside the sum of N558m monthly for training and operations, admitted that he never received any instruction from Badeh. He also admitted that Badeh never asked him to give him any money either in naira or dollars and that the embattled former CAS never instructed him to make any withdrawal or transfer to any person or company.
At the end of the cross-examination by the defence counsel and the absence of further questions by the prosecution for re-examination, Justice Abang, adjourned hearing till next week, Wednesday, May 18, 2016.
It is the more reason my many more people are following the case with hope to ascertain the veracity of the claims and counter-claims, particularly as Badeh himself has maintained that he is simply a victim of persecution.