Alex Enumah in Abuja
As the defence continues its cross-examination of prosecution witness (PW4) Mustapha Yerima in the ongoing trial of former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd), the witness has admitted leaving out a vital information during his testimony at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Yerima told the court when asked by counsel to the first defendant, Akin Olujimi, why he left out the information he gave in his evidence-in-chief on May 23, that he was only responding to questions asked at the time.
Yerima had told the court in his evidence-in-chief that he bought the land on the instruction of PW1, Air Commodore Abdullahi Yushau, adding that PW1 also instructed him to do the documentation on his company’s name RyteBuilders Technologies Ltd, until he would give him the real name of the purchaser.
Yerima maintained that Yushau had told him that he was acting on behalf of his boss, then Chief of Air Staff, Badeh.
But when Olujimi confronted him with his statements in EFCC pointing out that nowhere did he mentioned that Yushau told him he was acting on the instruction of Badeh, the witness said what he wrote at the EFCC was a summary of what transpired.
“In all your five statements at the EFCC, nowhere did you mentioned that Yushau told you the plaza belongs to his boss,” Olujimi pointed out.
The witness responded: “No, I did not, what I gave is a summary. I don’t think I am able to write every single thing that happened within a space of three years”, adding, “EFCC reasoned with me when I told them I cannot remember things that happened within a space of three years.”
The witness further stated that while he was writing his first statement at EFCC, he had documents with him unlike when he was testifying in the court.
Yerima also told the court that the reason he did not state those things he gave in his evidence was because he was not asked those questions. He said the more the defence counsel asks him the more he remembers.
Also when asked why he did include in his five statements that prior to the commencement of the project he held a meeting with Yushau where he was told the plaza belong to Badeh, Yerima said, “Maybe it skipped”. Adding that, “Interrogation does not work like that, even if I know more than what I am asked I restrict answer to what concerns me and my company.
Also when confronted with the actual cost of the plaza, the witness who stated he cannot remember between N1.1billion and N1.2billion recalled that he had in his statement told his client that the project cannot be completed even at the N1.2billion submitted. “As the project continues I made him and his boss realised that the project cannot be completed even at the N1.2billionn submitted,” he said.
Yerima further denied negotiating with Yushau on the cost. Olujimi had confronted him with his statement of May 23, 2016 where he told the court that upon receipt of the bill of quantity, Yushau had complained that the amount was on the high side and went ahead to offer him N900million which he rejected.
The witness further admitted paying the sum of N10m to one architect Saka for the drawing of the building plan.
However there was a mild contradiction when the witness admitted that he received funds for the construction of the project before construction started, contrary to his earlier claim that funds for the project was received after parties had reached agreement.
“In your statement of January 6, 2016, you said when the agreements were reached to start the construction of the complex, you were paid a total of N864,582, 832.04 from the Nigerian Air Force accounts into your Zenith Bank account. In that list of payment, you said N9,220,100 was paid on 29 January 2013. Can you confirm that as at that date, construction had not started?
The witness said yes. He explained that the payment were part of the pre construction expenses, adding that this was from where the payment to Saka was made.
Olujimi then pointed that the witness in his evidence had said they were paid after agreement was reached.
Also, the witness admitted that he did not mention in his statement at the EFCC that Yushau gave him N300million dollar equivalent as mobilisation for the commencement of the plaza.