Alex Enumah in Abuja
A fourth prosecution witness (PW), Mr. Mustapha Yerima, in the ongoing trial of the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, on Tuesday told a Federal High Court that he received the sum of N650million from Air Commodore Abdullahi Yashau which he used to pay for the plot of land for a shopping complex purportedly belonging to Badeh.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had accused Badeh of illegal diversion of funds belonging to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
Badeh and his firm, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, are being prosecuted by the EFCC, on a 10-count charge of money laundering and alleged fraudulent removal of about N3.97billion from NAF’s account.
The anti-graft agency accused Badeh of using the funds to buy and develop landed assets in Abuja for himself and two of his sons between January and December 2013.
He however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed trial, Yerima stood by his statement to the EFCC that the former Director of Finance and Account of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Yushau, made the sum of N650 million cash available for the payment for plot 1386, Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja, where the shopping mall was constructed for the former defence chief.
The defence, led by Akin Olujmi (SAN), had started by pointing out the contradiction in the witness evidence-in-chief as well as his statement at the EFCC.
Prosecution counsel, Tayo Olukotun, however objected on the ground its that the documents were not tendered before the court as such, should not be entertained.
Olujimi urged the court to overrule the objection on the grounds that the witness did not deny that the statements were his, adding that occasion had not arisen for the statements to be tendered.
“We submit that contradiction of any statement made by any witness can only arise where that witness had denied making the statement. But where the witness has affirmed the statement there is no need for it to be tendered. That is the purpose of reading section 231 along with 232 of the Evidence Act,” Olujimi argued.
But Olukotun argued that section 231 and 232 did not say until denial is made before a statement is tendered. He pointed out that the aim of the prosecution is to contradict the witness as such, the statement ought to be tendered.
In a brief ruling, Justice Abang held that the purpose of cross examination is to contradict the witness, irrespective of the answer given.
“I agree with the prosecution that section 231 and 232 did not say that until a statement is contradictory before it can be tendered,” he ruled, adding that before the witness is questioned further on the extra judicial evidence the statement must be tendered.
The defence counsel then tendered the documents and were marked as Exhibit D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. They are statement the witness made before the EFCC on the January 6, 12, 18, February 5 and 10 2016.
Olujimi then put it to the witness that his statement before the court was contradictory to what he told the EFCC. But the witness replied that his five statements at the EFCC are all on the same process. He said whatever variation may be due to the passage of time and his lack of access to the transaction documents as at when he was question at the commission.
“What you said in exhibit D1, D2 and D5 in relation to the procurement of the land for the shopping complex are not the same,” he added.
Witness said: “This thing happened in 2013 and I was invited by EFCC in 2016 the bases of my explanation are all the same.”
Regarding his statement on the actual cost of the land, the witness admitted given the sum of N650million as the cost of the land.
He also admitted that he was given the money in cash by PW1 who claimed to be acting on behalf of his boss.
“In your statement of January 6, you said the cost of the land was N650million but in your statement of 12 January you said about N600million,” Olujimi asked the witness.
“When I said so I did not have the transaction documents with me, I only wrote what I remembered when the EFCC official interrogating me said I should write what I know,” the witness replied.