Ex-Airforce, Alex Badeh, converted N558.2m to dollars monthly
A former Director of Finance and Account of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Air Commodore Aliyu Yishau (rtd), told a Federal High Court yesterday in Abuja that he personally handed dollars equivalent of N558.2million monthly to the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
When asked yesterday whether he knew if Badeh was always in receipt of the money, Yishau declared that he always handed the money to Badeh in person. He, however, said he did not have personal records of the transaction, but that all records in relation to the money handed to Badeh, while he (the witness) was in office, were with NAF’s Command’s Finance Officer, Group Captain Sini.
Yishau, who retired from service in December 2013, said Badeh benefited from the practice of setting aside N558.2million monthly from the remnant of NAF staff salary funds for the personal use of the Chief of Air Staff from October 2012 (when Badeh became Chief of Air Staff) to December 2013 (when the witness retired from service).
“I always collect the dollar equivalent of N558.2m from Group Captain Sini and hand them to the 1st defendant (Badeh),” Yishau said, in response to a question from Badeh’s lawyer Akin Olujinmi (SAN) at the resumption of proceedings in the trial of the former Chief of Defence Staff yesterday.
Badeh and a firm, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, are being tried before a Federal High Court in Abuja on a10-count charge of money laundering, in which the ex-Chief of Defence Staff is accused of diverting N3.97 billion belonging to NAF, which he deployed to acquiring property, using the firm.
Yishau, the first prosecution witness, had earlier testified to the effect that he routinely assisted Badeh to divert N558.2 million, which he always converted to dollar equivalent before handing same to Badeh at his official residence all through his time as COAS between September 2012 and December 2013.
Yishau said the N558.2 million formed part of the leftover after salaries and allowances of permanent and temporary staff have been defrayed from the N4 billion received monthly by NAF in its Personnel and Emolument Account.
He admitted assisting Badeh to acquire and develop landed property in Abuja with the N558.2 million taken monthly from the NAF Personnel Emolument Account.
The witness told the court that before becoming the Chief of Air Staff, Badeh once served as the Director of Policy and Plans of the NAF, whose responsibilities include preparing NAF’s annual budgets.
“In my statement to the EFCC, I said Air Marshal M.D. Umar (Badeh’s predecessor as Chief of Air Staff) purchased a house in Kano at N250 million. I also said M. B. Umar purchased another house in Mabushi worth between N350 million to N450 million. I equally stated that he (Umar) bought a house in Kaduna worth N80 million and reconstructed it with N75 million, making N155 million. He (Umar) equally acquired another house in Maitama worth over N500 million.”
On how he knew about these transactions, the witness said he was instructed by Air Marshal M.D. Umar to facilitate the purchase of those properties.
“The first house was not paid for by me. Payment for the second, third and fourth property were made by me,” he said.
On how he paid the N558.2 million, he said it was always exchange into dollars for onward transfer to Badeh.
Yishau said: “During the period of Umar, it was Group Captain Bukar, who was involved in exchanging the N550.2 million into dollars. Group Captain Bukar is still in service. He was removed from the office, where he was involved in exchanging the currency because he was posted on foreign assignment.”
He added that on his resumption as the Chief of Air Staff, “the 1st defendant (Badeh) directed me to post Group Captain Sini to take over the office of Group Captain Bukar and that responsibility. Group Captain Sini has a junior officer by name, Squadron Leader Abu, who normally assists him in running the Finance Office at the Air Force headquarters”.
On whether he knew how the money was exchanged, he said “mine was to give instructions to Command Finance Officer, who was reporting directly to me. Air Chief Marshal Badeh was not exchanging the money personally, but was given the dollar equivalent.”
“I remember that the 1st defendant (Badeh) was appointed Chief of Air Staff on October 4, 2012 and assumed office on October 8, 2012.”
On whether he remembered the exact amount in dollars, he claimed he always handed to Badeh, the witness said he could not remember.
He added: “My Command Finance Officer, Group Captain Simi has all the records of all the money I have given to Air Chief Marshal Badeh. I was the one collecting the money to give to the Chief of Air Staff. I was the one that gave the money to him (1st defendant).
“I do not have any record that he received these monies from me which I gave him between October 2012 and December 2013,” the witness said.
He said he could not remember when Group Captain Sini was brought to Command headquarters
He said he disclosed the issue of N90 million, used for the furnishing of the house Badeh bought for his son (Alex Badeh Jr.), for the first time in court because he was not asked by the EFCC how much was used to furnish it.
When asked whether he was compelled to make statements to the EFCC, Yishau said the statements he made to the EFCC were his and that he made them on his own free will.
At a point, Olujinmi gave the witness his statement dated February 4 and drew his (witness’) attention to pages 86 to 90 where he wrote that part of the dollars so exchanged were used to pay estacode of officers, for aircraft repairs and repairs of NAF health centres in some states.
Based on what he wrote on those pages, Olujinmi asked him where he got the N558.2 million he claimed to be giving Badeh monthly when he wrote that the money used for the expenses he referred to in his statement was from the left-over salaries.
Yishau explained that the he meant the entire left-over after payment of salaries, which the N558.2 million that was usually set aside for the Air Chief of Staff was also part of.
On whether he knew how the NAF budget was computed, Yishau said “the budget office of the Air Force was under the Director of Account and Finance, so I did not know what was going on at that time in respect of budgeting and budget collation.
“The responsibility of budgeting for the Nigerian Air Force was under the Director of Policy and Plans. And the 1st defendant, Air Chief Marshal Bade was in charge of that office from August 2010 to sometime in 2012, during the time of M.B. Umar.
Trial judge Justice Okon Abang adjourned to April 19 for further cross-examination of Yishau by the defence.
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