Badeh: Drama as witness picks error in EFCC’s document
President Muhammadu Buhari-led government is determined to rid the country of corrupt practices following the prosecution of some key players in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan over graft.
Its desire to rid the nation of corrupt practice through its consistent anti-corruption war is not in doubt. But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the agency saddled with this responsibility must put its house in order if desired results must be achieved.
Already, a few of those accused of corrupt practices are facing prosecution. They include a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, ex- Chairman of Daar Communications, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi and National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh.
Other cases in court are alleged false assets declaration by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and a former Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe. Another one is that of a former Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd) who is being tried over alleged diversion of N3.97 billion belonging to the Nigeria Air Force.
All the trials had commenced and stakeholders are beginning to view their trials differently especially as witnesses being presented by the prosecution are given contradictory evidence in court. It is all drama in court last week as the court erupted in confusion when a witness put forward by the EFCC picked an error in his statement with the agency at the resumed trial of the erstwhile Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
At Badeh’s trial, the Prosecution Witness 1 admitted that there was an error in his witness statement before the EFCC. Like Badeh, the same scenario played out at Saraki’s trial when Prosecution Witness I(PWI) also admitted that he tendered documents he did not investigate.
According to him, those documents were tendered because he was asked to do so by the prosecution. With these scenarios, unless the EFCC put its house in order, watchers of events especially in the judiciary may see their trials as mere persecution.
Already opposition had accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of witch-hunting perceived political opponents, who had condemned actions and policies of government. EFCC had lost most of its cases against corrupt politicians on the altar of ‘shoddy’ investigations as being reflected in some court judgements and rulings.
For instance, Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on several occasions condemned such attitude he described as shoddy investigations by the EFCC operatives. He had also said this in a case between the Federal Government and Dokpesi when he said the charges against Dokpesi was defective and may not be sustained in law court. There are a number of former public officers being tried in court including those who may have served the country to the best of their abilities.
They are answering various charges before the courts. One of them is Badeh, the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, who is standing trial over alleged fraudulent removal of about N3.97bn from NAF’s account. The anti-graft agency accused Badeh of using the fund to buy and develop property and assets in Abuja for himself and two of his sons between January and December 2013.
During his trial, a witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Air Commodore Abdullahi Yushau, had about two weeks ago gave what many saw as a damning evidence against the senior retired military officer when he said Badeh collected N558 million monthly from him. Two weeks after.
Yushan suddenly made a detour. He however, stunned everyone in the court when he turned around at the last adjourned date during cross-examination that he had no personal record of the financial transactions between him and Badeh.
The question on the lips of many since the witness made a detour in his evidence has been, how did the witness come to the conclusion that the money he gave to Badeh runs into billions as alleged by the EFCC? How did he know the dollar equivalent since he had no records of their transactions?
The witness had told Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that he kept no personal records to prove all the cash transactions made between him and Badeh. As if that was not enough, the same witness had also last week under cross-examination admitted that there was an error in his statement to the EFCC during interrogation.
Yushau had while given evidence before the court testified that one of the buildings allegedly purchased by Badeh was paid for by instalments contrary to his earlier statement to the EFCC that the property was paid for at once. When asked on the disparity in his evidence by the defense counsel, Akin Olujinmi, SAN, the witness admitted that it was an error on his part.
The witness said that the shopping complex which he told the court in his testimony was bought for N650 million was not captured in the statement he made to the EFCC. Yushua further said that he could not remember everything he said in his statement to the EFCC because he was answering the questions based on how they were being put across to him by investigators.
He also admitted that it was not everything he told the court that was captured in his statement but said everything he told the EFCC was within his knowledge as the records were there. Badeh served as the Chief of Air Staff before he was elevated to the position of the Chief of Defence Staff until his retirement last year.
The witness had told the court that he could not remember the exact amount of money he gave to Badeh during the course of their transaction. “I cannot remember the exact amount of dollar equivalent that I gave to Badeh in November 2012 and other cash transactions we had because it was not my duty to keep records.
The witness had also previously told the court in his evidence that he personally handed over the amount of N558 million not just to Badeh but to his predecessor, Air Marshal M.D Umar. When also asked about the N90m used in furnishing a house in Abuja, Yushua said that he never at any point said so in all his statements to the EFCC that the huge sum was used to furnish a house.
In the course of the trial, Badeh’s counsel, Olujimi, SAN referred to page 86 of the proof of evidence where in his statement to the EFCC on February 4, in the last 6 lines he wrote that “the dollar so changed was used for payment of estacode and other sundry payments like servicing of jets etc.
He also said that ‘these funds were from left over of salaries i.e after payment of salaries” in his statement to EFCC he said “quite a number of welfare and operational projects had been executed through this “such projects include completion of NAF aeronautical Center, Construction of officer and air men accommodation, equipping of NAF hospitals in Abuja, Lagos, Jos, Makurdi and Kano.”
He confirmed that all these were done through the same left over salaries which he claimed he gave to Badeh. He said at the end of every month, they retires all monies to the Accountant-General and Auditor- Deneral of the Federation and that the task was usually carried out by the pay and accounting Unit, Ikeja.
When asked by the counsel to the defendant if the records consisted of the amount received and payments made, he replied that each command unit made its own retirement of funds released to them.
According to him, funds were not released the DFA but to the NAF headquarters. He also said that when allocations were made to all NAF formations, the money would be disbursed to all and his deputy was in charge of their own allocation.
He informed the court that if there was any need for funds, the deputy would write and an approval given by him, then they proceed to the Headquarters to collect from their own votes. Yushua however confirmed he was the accounting officer for the Directorate.
A human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, in his view said the charges will fall like a pack of card because they lacked substance and may be difficult to prove. “Most of the time, proving allegations against suspect has always been a herculean task for the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies.
“The star witness of the EFCC in this case has so far been given contradictory evidence in the case when he said in one breath that he gave N558m monthly to Badeh and turn around in another breath to say that he does not have personal records of monetary transactions with him.
“Most of the time when suspects are arrested, the EFCC engage in media war to destroy the reputations of these alleged corrupt persons but if they fail to prove the allegation, no one will be there to repair the already battered reputation.” Another lawyer, Kashim El-janiu, condemned the EFCC for engaging in media war against alleged corrupt persons.
El-janiu said: “By the time the allegations are not proved beyond reasonable doubt and the case is dismissed, what happens to the already tarnished reputation. I think suspects who have been given clean bill of health should not always keep quiet after cases against them are dismissed.
They should file actions and press for damages.” Similarly, a group, the New Nigeria Patriots, has called for the suspension of the trial of the former CDS, Alex Badeh saying the government should not be spending tax-payers money on a wildgoose chase.
The National Coordinator of the group, Samuel Ndubuisi, drew the attention of Nigerians to the contradictory statements from the Prosecution witness, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi Yushua (rtd), as evident that some people are desperate to nail the former CDS. Ndubuisi said:
“How can somebody in one breadth say he personally gave N558 million monthly to the former CDS which he in turn converted to personal use all for us to find out from his statement to EFCC, that he enumerated the projects for which the same funds were used for.”
In the man’s statement to EFCC dated February 4, he said the funds were used for projects like the completion of NAF aeronautical Center, Construction of officer and air men accommodation, equipping of NAF hospitals in Abuja, Lagos, Jos, Makurdi and Kano.
“The man has evidence that he received money to give to Badeh, but does not have evidence to show he gave same to the former CDS and today can no longer remember the amount he gave him. “How can the EFCC tell Nigerians that the former CDS was arrested and is standing trial for his involvement in diversion of money meant for the purchase of arms for all of us to discover that there is no mention of the arms deal in his charge sheet?
How can the EFCC claim in the press that they discovered $1million in somebody’s house and up till today has not made mention of it on the charge sheet? Does the law permit any agency to search somebody’s house in his absence?
Suggesting that the said house was searched in the presence of neighbours shows they are desperately creating an alibi for a non-existent discovery. The media trial has only succeeded in putting the Nigerian military to ridicule and must be stopped.”