Tobi Soniyi in Abuja, who has been covering the trial of former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, reports
Penultimate week, the trial of a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, made significant progress as the prosecution called its third witness, Useni Umar, an Estate Survey Manager, who in his testimony told the Federal High Court in Abuja that Badeh gave the sum $6.2million in two tranches for the purchase of a property located at No. 6 Ogun River Street, Maitama, Abuja.
The witness, said, that Badeh gave instruction that the sum of $6.2 million be released in two tranches within the period of two weeks for the purchase of the property after they had carried out a joint inspection on the property and Badeh was satisfied.
Umar told the court that after he got an instruction from the first prosecution witness, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi Yushau, to get a beautiful edifice as a retiring home for Badeh, he inspected four properties together with Yushau.
Umar who was led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacob (SAN), said, “When I got the instruction from Yushau, the first inspection was carried out between myself and Yushau.
“The second inspection was carried out between myself, Badeh and Yushau while the third and fourth inspection was a joint inspection between myself, Badeh, his wife, son by name Sam and Badeh’s daughter.
“It was after the joint inspection of the property that Badeh having been satisfied with the property at No. 6 Ogun River instructed that the sum of $6.2milion be paid in two tranches for the property”.
Under cross examination by the defence counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), the witness said that he did not state in his statement at the EFCC that they inspected four properties before Yushau picked the one at Ogun River Street because he was giving a summary of his statement to the EFCC.
On whether he was aware that Yushau had told the court in his testimony that they inspected only three properties, the witness said, he was telling the court what he knew about the transaction and not what Yushau told the court. “I do not know that Yushau told the court that we inspected 3 properties, what I know is that we inspected four.
“The 1st inspection that we carried out was between myself and Yushau.
“I told the court what happened, my own side of the story, it was after the 4th joint inspection and all of them were happy with the property that Yushau gave me the go ahead to negotiate with the property owners.
“It was Yushau that gave me the go ahead to negotiate with the owners of the property,” he stated.
Under cross-examination, the witness denied ever receiving the sum of N15 million from Badeh as compensation for the role he played in the alleged acquisition of properties for Badeh in Abuja.
He also said that neither did Badeh offer nor promise him N15m.
Olujimi had asked the witness whether the first defendant promised to give him N15m and he responded in the negative.
Also when asked if he would be surprised that the first prosecution witness, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi Yushau, had in his testimony told the court that he (Umar) was given the sum of N15m as compensation, the witness said” I do not know why he will tell the court that I was given N15m”.
The witness who told the court that he was not part of the negotiation of a property at No. 14 Adzoke Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja, however maintained that his participation was limited to the preparation of the deeds of transfer.
According to him PW1, Yushau told him that he had already negotiated for the payment of the house and he wanted him (Umar) to get details of the property from the owner of the house and prepare a deed of transfer.
Umar disclosed that part of the agreement was for the owner to vacate the property three months after payment had been made.
He however denied the claim by Yushau that he told Yushau that he had already concluded negotiation of the property and the cost was N330m.
Umar also denied Yushau’s claim that he told him that he would be travelling and upon conclusion of the transaction Umar should hand over the said N330m to the property owner.
The witness further said it was not true that Yushau was the one who handed over the document of the property at No. 14 Adzoke Crescent to one Timothy, the personal lawyer to Badeh.
“I handed over the document in respect of No. 14 Adzoke Crescent to Bar. Timothy while that of No. 6 Ogun River Street was handed over to Yushau who handed it over to the first defendant in my presence at Air House.
But during cross-examination by the second defendant, Umar admitted that there was no time the board of Iyalikam Nig Ltd asked him to deal or purchase any property on its behalf.
Umar also admitted that he never received any money either in cash or bank transfer from Iyalikam, admitting further that at the time he handed over the agreement he prepared in respect of the said properties they remained unsigned by the 2nd defendant.
However the prosecution counsel while re-examining the witness asked him to explain why he had earlier said in his evidence before the court that Badeh promised him N15m as appreciation, and during cross examination, said there was no such promise by the first defendant.
But, Olujimi objected to the line of questioning saying that the prosecution should not ask the witness such question during re-examination, as so doing would amount to cross-examination of the witness.
Justice Abang in a short ruling held that the law is settled that re- examination is limited to issues raised during cross examination, adding that there was nothing ambiguous in the statement of the witness to the question asked by Olujimi.
He added that the witness unequivocally said that Badeh did not promise him N15m.
“I have also listened dispassionately to all the argument and the answer by the witness is clear, there is no ambiguity here.
“To allow the witness answer the question of the prosecution will amount to making fresh evidence by the witness.
“The objection of the defence counsel to the question put or the witness by the prosecution is sustained,” the judge held.
The week before, the second witness, Emmanuel Abu, a cashier with the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Camp, Mogadishu Cantonment gave evidence.
The week also saw the conclusion of the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi Yushau, a former Director of Finance of the Nigerian Air Force.
The witness had denied the authorization of the transfer of N150 million to Engineer Joe’s company, Havco Nigeria limited, the company that constructed one of the houses alleged to have been bought by Badeh in Yola.
The witness also denied instructing Air Commodore Sinni to make the said financial transactions in two installments for the construction of Badeh’s house in Yola.
According to the witness, the passage of time has made it difficult for him to remember everything that happened when he served as the Director of Finance and Accounts, Nigeria Air Force (NAF).
During cross examination by the counsel to the second defendant (Iyalikam), Sam Ologun-Orisa, SAN, Yushau told the court that he never received any instruction from the Board of Iyalikam to acquire any property for it, saying also that he did not at any time, receive or transfer money on behalf of Iyalikam and that he had no power of attorney to act on behalf of the company.
Badeh’s counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN also cross-examined and was able to push the witness to amend some of his (Yushau) testimonies.
He referred him back to one of the houses he testified earlier that was bought by Badeh in Abuja at the rate of N240 million.
The witness, Yushau, had told the court earlier that payment for the house was made in cash in US dollars. Olujimi, tried to juxtapose the evidence in chief given in court with the statement Yushau earlier made before the EFCC.
He said: “You said in the evidence before the court that you paid N240 million, the price for the house. This was not stated in your earlier statement before the EFCC. You also did not tell EFCC that you were the one who told Badeh that the price was N240 million. Did you also tell EFCC that you paid the dollar equivalent for the house? Olujimi asked.
He however responded that it could be difficult to say everything but that he recounted how the property was purchased.
The prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was not comfortable with the cross examination, he objected saying that the defence counsel was trying to gag his witness.
Not deterred by Jacobs’ argument, Olujimi continued.
“Did you say in the statement that you paid the price in dollars to Ishiaku Rabiu?
Again, Jacobs objected but the Judge overruled him and ordered the witness to answer the question.
“I said clearly that I made the payment. I said yes because this statement is my statement”, Yushau responded.
“Did you in that statement say that you made payment for that house in dollar equivalent? The witness answered in affirmative. “Yes, my Lord”.
Olujimi asked him to read his earlier statement so as to confirm whether it was actually captured therein that he made the payment personally. He however insisted that he did make the statement even though he did not mention it during the evidence in chief.
Going through his statement however, it was not found where he said he made the payment for the house.
Continuing, Olujimi asked the witness what happened between him and one Rabiu.
“You approached him for the purpose of purchasing that house. That house is next to your own house. Rabiu explained to you that the property was rented out, that there was a tenant in it. He later told you that the price was N240 million and he sold it to you at N240 million.”
Again, Jacobs objected, insisting that his colleague was laying trap for his witness but the trial Judge, Justice Okon Abang, rather advised him to keep records.
At this point, Olujimi put it to the witness that the receipt for the purchase of the house was actually written in his name. This, the witness denied. He told him further that during the entire process of that transaction, Rabiu dealt with him alone and never with Badeh. To this, he accepted but with some reservations and quickly said,“I gave him the name of my boss, that he was the one buying the house.”
Olujimi however told the witness that in a statement made by Rabiu before the EFCC, he had noted that he dealt with the witness alone.
“You did not tell him when you were purchasing the house whether it was for you or somebody else”.
But the witness answered that he was yet to read Rabiu’s report but that he remembered telling him the house belonged to his boss.
“The documents that were prepared were accordingly handed over to Barrister Timothy as directed by Badeh”, he stated.
Olujimi therefore asked him if he would like to read Rabiu’s statement aloud but he declined.
On the issue of the documents given to Timothy at the instruction of Badeh, Olujimi asked the witness if he had any copy or photocopy of any of the documents. He said he had none.
Olujimi at this point took him to another property at No 14, Azdope Crescent, off Kumasi Crescent, where he said nothing about how the property was purchased in his statement with EFCC.
He said he was not asked about it.
Olujimi however reminded him that he was the one who looked for and found the house; that he negotiated with the house owner to buy the house.
“You then procured your friend, Hussein Umaru to prepare documents for the purchase of the house,” Olujimi said.
“The correct statement was that when my boss, Badeh asked me to get another house for his son, Kam, I told him about a house a friend wanted to sell and the house was adjacent to that of Alex Badeh Junior.
“He became interested but told me that he did not want to use Rabiu, that was when I suggested he could use Barrister Hussein Umar to deal directly with the landlord. He did the negotiations, when he told me of the price, I told my boss. Yushau maintained that he did not negotiate for the very house.
At the end of the cross examination, the prosecution counsel, Tayo Olukotun, who held brief for Jacobs as he left midway for the Code of Conduct Tribunal, prayed the court for a short adjournment to enable the prosecution prepare adequately for re-examination of the witness.
Olukotun told the court that the defence spent seven days on cross- examination and as such, it would be difficult to continue immediately without a short break.
Also during the week, Abu, was cross-examined by Badeh’s counsel, Olujimi. The witness admitted before the court that his statement to the EFCC was made in error.
The witness had, in his statement to the EFCC stated that he sourced the sum of $3.1m and gave it to Group Captain Sinni after the sum of N76m was transferred to HAVCO Nig. Ltd from the N558m set aside monthly for the office of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS).
But in his evidence in chief before the court, the witness said the sum of $2.9m was given to Group Captain Mohammed L. Sinni, the Camp Finance Officer for the month of May, 2013.
“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 $2.9m to Sinni whereas in your statement at the EFCC, you said $3.1m was sourced by you,” Olujimi asked the witness.
Responding, the witness said: “The statement with the EFCC was in error. I confirm that it was an error while writing the statement”.
Also when asked if there was any record showing that he gave 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”.
Also when Olujimi put it before the witness that it would be correct to say that the only record that existed to show that the witness monthly disbursed dollar equivalents of N558m to Sinni were “only in his head”, the witness said yes.
Also when the witness was asked to corroborate the claim of the Director of Finance and Accounts, Air Commodore Abdullahi Yushau rtd, who said that the usually converted N558m given was first given to him in October 2012, the witness said he did not know adding that the first time he gave the N558m dollar equivalent to Sinni was in Nov. 2012.
“I wouldn’t know if someone gave Yushau the Dollar equivalent of the N558m in October 2012,” he said.
The witness who said he was given a verbal instruction by Sinni 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 Badeh never asked him to give him any money either in Naira or Dollars. He further stated that Badeh did not at any time instruct him to make any withdrawal or transfer to any person or company.
According to the witness, the first time he met Badeh was on May 9, 2016 just outside the courtroom, just as he told the court that he did not know if the usual practice of setting aside N558m for the office of Chief of Air Satff was there before November 2012.
Earlier, the witness who said he joined the Air force in 2004 as a commissioned flying officer added that his schedule of duty was to assist the Camp Financial Officer in all financial transactions, book-keeping and interfacing with banks and BDCs.
He also gave a breakdown of how monies and transfers were made between Nov. 2012 and Dec. 2013.
Following the conclusion of the cross-examination by the defense counsel and the absence of further questions by the prosecution for re-examination, trial judge, Justice Okon Abang adjourned further hearing till May 18, 2016.
Badeh was arraigned in March on a 10-count charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Federal High Court in Abuja. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He was accused of alleged fraud relating to the diversion of N3.9 billion meant for the purchase of arms for the Nigerian military.
The 10-count charge bordered on criminal breach of trust and corruption.
The former defence chief was accused of unlawfully using funds meant for the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to purchase landed properties in highbrow areas in Abuja between January and December 2013, while serving as the Chief of Air Staff.
The EFCC alleged that Badeh as Chief of Air Staff, acting in conjunction with a company, Iyalikam Nig Ltd, between January and December 2013 used the dollar equivalent of N1.1 billion, removed from the accounts of the NAF, to purchase for themselves a mansion at Maitama, Abuja.
According to the anti-graft agency, the accused person “reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activity (to wit) criminal breach of trust and corruption”.
The offence, the EFCC said, was contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and is punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Badeh and the company were also accused of removing from the accounts of the NAF, and diverting the dollar equivalent of N650 million to purchase a commercial plot at Plot 1386 Oda Crescent, Cadastral zone A07, Wuse II, Abuja.
The offence, the EFCC said, was contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
The defendants were said to have, between March 28 and December 2013, in Abuja, used N878,362,732.94 removed from NAF accounts and paid into the account of Rytebuilders Technologies Ltd with Zenith Bank Plc for the construction of a shopping mall at Plot 1386 Cadastral Zone.
It was equally alleged that the defendants removed the sum of N304 million from the accounts of the NAF and paid it to Rytebuilders for the completion of the shopping mall.
EFCC stated that the accused used the dollar equivalent of N260 million, removed from the NAF accounts, and paid to one Oluwatoyin Oke through Platinum Universal Project and Construction to purchase for his son, Alex Badeh (Jr), a duplex at No 19 Kumasi Crescent, Wuse, Abuja.
Count six stated that Badeh used the dollar equivalent of N60 million, removed from the NAF accounts, to renovate his son’s house, while count seven alleged that the retired air force chief used the dollar equivalent of N90 million, removed from the NAF accounts, to furnish his son’s house at Kumasi Crescent.