Witness Tells Court How He Acquired over N2.3bn Properties for Ex-Air Chief, Umar

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The trial of former Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Dikko Umar, resumed tuesday, with the prosecution witness, Air Commodore Salisu Yaushau (Rtd), revealing how he bought properties worth over N2.3bn for the former chief with funds belonging to the Nigeria Air Force.

The witness, who is the first to be called by the prosecution, was the Director of Finance and Accounts, Nigeria Air Force (NAF), from September 2010 to 2012, when Umar was Chief of Air Staff.

He confessed to acquiring the properties from the monthly upkeep of N558, 200m for the Office of the Chief of Air Staff, deducted from the accounts of the NAF.

Led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, Yaushau said the Nigerian Air Force was receiving a budget of about N4b monthly but, that the actual figure that was usually spent on payment of salaries and allowances was between N2.3 billion to N2.4 billion.

According to him, after the payment of salaries and allowances each month, there was always a balance of about N1.6bn out of which the sum of N558, 200m was usually set aside for the upkeep of the Chief of Air Force.

Given details on the various properties he bought on behalf of Umar, the witness said, a house at No 14 Pistola Close, off Panama street, Abuja was purchase at the sum of N700m; plot 1853, Denq xiano Ping Street, Asokoro, Abuja, at the sum of N860m; another house at No 14, Ahmadu Boko street, Government Reservation Area (GRA), Kano, at N250m; No 8, Kabala Road, Kaduna State at N80m and a property at Mabushi, Minister’s Hill, Abuja at the sum of N500m.

“sometimes between November to December 2010, my boss (AVM Umar) called me to get somebody who can buy him a house around Maitama, where he can settle down after retirement.

“I got one Barrister Hussein Umar from capital Law firm and told him look for a house for my boss. After a couple of days, he came back to me and told me he has found a house at Pistola close, off Panama Street in Maitama. I went and inspected the house and informed my boss that the lawyer has located a very fine house with a guest chalet, swimming pool and boy’s quarters.

“My boss asked me to arrange for inspection and I went and picked him and drove to the property in the night. We met the lawyer Umar and my boss saw the house. He was very happy and gave me the go-ahead to pay. We negotiate for the purchase of the house and the price was agreed at N700m,”he said.

“My boss authorised the purchase and asked me to take the money from the N558, 200m we usually give him monthly for his upkeep. I then directed the Finance Officer, Group Capt. Burka to pay the lawyer the US dollar equivalent of N700m,” he added.

He however, told the court that the defendant directed that the title documents of the house should be issued in the name of Mohammed Maijama.

On the N860 million property at Plot 1853, Asokoro, Abuja, the witness revealed that the house, a duplex of about six bedroom and underground hall for conferences, a boy’s quarter, a gym, swimming pool and two bedroom guest chalets was also acquired from the N558, 200m monthly upkeep.

Yaushau said, just like the Maitama house, the title papers and relevant deeds documents were also issued in the name of Mohammed Maijama.

He added that after the house was paid for, a Mosque was constructed in the compound, while the fence was re-designed by Architect Saka, who, according to him, reduced the depth of the swimming pool, all at the cost of N66m.

On the Kano property which was put at N250m, the witness disclosed that the house located No. 14, Ahmadu Bako, GRA, was a 7 bedroom duplex with an enclosed swimming pool, three sitting rooms, a study, a lawn tennis court and squash spot and a two-bedroom boy’s quarters.

According to him, the house originally belonged to a Sudanese by name Mustapha and was bought by the defendant who said he wanted to live there after his retirement from service.

He added that, the defendant after inspecting the house,gave him money in US dollars to pay for the house. He said the money was sent through one Shuaibu who facilitated the transaction, after the defendant returned to Abuja.

But, he claimed he could not remember the actual name the defendant gave in the preparation of the title papers.

Air Commodore Yaushau further revealed that the property located at No.8, Cabala Road, Kaduna State, which was a guest House, for Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, was also bought by the defendant in 2011, from the then Commandant of the College, AVM Sunday Ali Leks.

He revealed that AVM Leks acquired the property from the Presidential Committee for the Sale of Government Properties.

The witness told the court that the house was bought in the name of Alhaji Kabiru Ismaila because his boss did not want AVM Leks to know that he is the real buyer of the Guest House.

When the witness was done giving his evidence, counsel to the defendant, Hassan Liman (SAN), however sought for an adjournment to enable him crossexamine the witness.

Prosecution counsel however, did not oppose the request and trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, consequently adjourned to February 16, 2017 for cross examination of PW1.

Umar was re-arraigned before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 7- count charges on money laundering in violation of the Money Laundering Act, 2011, why being the Chief of Air Staff between September 2010 and 2012.