How I bought houses for Badeh, by witness
• Ex-CoAS on trial for alleged N3.9b fraud
• Court dismisses adjournment motion
A prosecution witness, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi yesterday, told the Federal High Court, Abuja how he assisted former Chief of Air Staff (CoAS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh in purchasing landed property in various locations across the country, including Ogun River Street, Maitama, Abuja.
Badeh is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a criminal breach of trust, and corruption to the tune of N3.9 billion.
Abdullahi who told the Federal High Court that the monies were usually transferred from the Nigerian Air Force account at the headquarters, said: “Sometime in January 2013, the Chief of Air Staff, Badeh asked me to get someone who can get him a good house he would retire to in Maitama.”
Abdulahi said he then called one of his friends, Useni Umar, a lawyer who helped in search for the property with specifications from Badeh.
“Umar, a real estate expert called me one evening to come and inspect some property. We went to a site to inspect one of his property. The following day, I called the Chief of Air Staff and he said I should come to his house in the evening.
“We inspected three property that evening and he, Badeh, selected one of the houses and directed Umar to find out the prices of the house so that I can pass the information to him.
“After two days, Umar came back to tell me that the house was N1.1 billion. The following day, I called the chief and he agreed to pay the amount, and asked me to tell Umar to carry out the necessary search and make the property ready for purchase.”
He continued: “He directed that we should pay for the house. He brought a balance in dollars and made up the equivalent of N1.1 billion. I gave Umar the money and directed him to pay for the house. However, after the payment, it took sometime for the necessary papers to be worked out.
“When Umar asked for the name, I asked my chief for a name for the house owner, he gave me one name, Iyalikam, the second defendant and a company owned by Badeh.”
Badeh also ordered Abdulahi to find out the cost of building the plaza, which construction was to be supervised and monitored by one Yerima.
The witness said that few days later, Yerima brought a fee a little above N1 billion but Badeh said it was too high.“I cannot remember exactly how much was later agreed but it was between N900 million and N1 billion and my chief agreed to pay the amount.
“The sum of about N300 million was given to him, Yerima, in dollars as initial payment for the plaza.
Thereafter, I told my Finance Officer at NAF camp, Group Captain M. L. Sini, to pay the balance of the money for the construction of the plaza from the money we normally pay to the chief,” Abdulahi said.
Aside from the first two property, Abdullahi helped Badeh to buy another property in Wuse 2 for N650 million. Another house was also bought for Badeh’s second son at N260 million in Abuja which was later renovated at N60 million and furniture worth N90 million was procured for it. Later, a property was bought by Abdullahi for his boss in Adamawa, Yola State capital at N150 million ,another his first son at N330 million in Abuja while two uncompleted buildings were bought for the former CoAS in Kaduna through the witness and all using third parties.
At the resumed hearing, counsel to Badeh, Samuel O. Zibiri (SAN), intimated the court of a fresh application dated March 15, challenging the validity of the case.
He also urged the court to give him another date for the commencement of trial so that hearing on the application could be heard.
But prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs objected, stating that it was another ploy to frustrate hearing. He reminded his colleague that hearing could not begin last Monday at the instance of the defendant, who brought in a new counsel that needed some time to study the brief.
Jacobs asked: “What will I call a situation where a matter was adjourned till Monday because the trial could not go on for the fact that they want to study more facts? And they never took steps since then but waited till Tuesday afternoon to slot in a motion so that the trial will not go on today.”
Justice Okon Abang however dismissed the plea by the defendant for the trial to be suspended to another day to enable him to argue the fresh motion.
He rather urged the counsel to the EFCC to file a response to the motion within seven days from yesterday and that the application would be heard at the end of sitting. He therefore urged the prosecuting counsel to call his witness.
Few minutes later, the first prosecution witness, Abdulahi, a retired Air Force Officer, was ushered in. He told the court that he was enlisted into the force on January 3, 1981 and that until his retirement from the service in December 2013, he was the Director, Finance and Account, the position he assumed in October 2010.
His schedule of duty had included advising the Chief of Air Staff on financial matters and also, liaising with the Ministry of Finance and the Office of Accountant General of the Federation for the collection of funds allocated to the Nigerian Air Force.
He also told the Court that Nigerian Air Force was funded through the annual appropriation under three main votes – the capital, mainly for capital projects, the account of which was domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Overhead, meant for general administration of Nigerian Air Force and domiciled at Zenith Bank, Lagos as well as personnel emolument vote domiciled in UBA.
When asked if he knew the salary of his former boss, he claimed ignorance of the exact figure but said it was above N2 million monthly.
He added that the Nigerian Air Force gets about N4 billion salary monthly out of which salaries accounted for between N2.3 and N2.4 billion. Out of the balance of about N1.7 to N1.6, depending on the month, about N520 million was meant for the maintenance of the Office of Chief of Air Staff while the sum of N520 million was converted to dollars and given the boss from where he funds his travels.
Called upon to cross-examine, the defence counsel told the court he was not ready. According to him, from the evidence given so far, there was the need to confront the witness with some documents which were not in the proof of evidence. He also complained of poor health, stressing that the case had spanned several hours.
“In the spirit of fair hearing which this court has demonstrated so far, we would be asking for ample time to put our points together and to gather documents for effective cross examination. Even the first defendant has not had the opportunity of rubbing minds with us since he is still in custody. We need time to cross ideas with the defendant to effectively understand the problem”.
But the court dismissed the reasons given, stressing that defendant counsel ought to have gone ahead to cross-examine the witness.
“It is not as if they were not aware that trial would begin today. So, if they did not come with documents to cross- examine witness, they should have themselves to blame.
Also, that the defendant is still in custody was not enough reason for adjournment.The judge, however, considered the application for adjournment on health grounds and consequently adjourned the continuation of trial to March 23 at the instance of the defendant.