A former Director of Finance in the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi Yushau (rtd) who is a prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, yesterday told the Federal High Court, Abuja how separate sums of N60 million and N90 million were paid to Platinum Universal Projects for the renovation and furnishing of Badeh’s son’s N330 million duplex in Wuse, Abuja.
Alex Badeh was said to have rejected an earlier property purchased for him at the cost of N240 million. Testifying before the Federal High Court, Abuja, Yushau, who was under cross examination by the defence counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), said he did not tell the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) about the N90 million disbursement because it was not part of the questions asked by the anti-graft agency.
He also informed the court that while he was in the custody of EFCC, finance officers from the Nigerian Air Force were summoned and they brought records of all the property purchased and renovated by Badeh.
The witness, however, told the court that the Deputy Director, Budgets, NAF, was in charge of budget preparations and that he only made input into the budget of other directorates and branches. According to him, the Air Force also has a procedure for retiring unspent funds and that he was not involved in that.
At the resumed hearing, the witness confirmed his earlier statement as requested by the defence counsel that N558 was million set aside monthly to meet the cost of general administration of the staff of Badeh’s office even as he affirmed that Badeh bought houses worth N50 million and N300 million respectively in Abuja; that he purchased another in Kaduna State for N80 million and that he had renovated them with N75 million. He also affirmed that his former boss acquired some other property in the country.
According to him, he was instructed by Badeh to purchase some of the houses. He added that although payments for all the houses were not carried out by him, he assisted in paying for the first four property.
Yushau also testified that he assumed the position of the Director, Finance, about two months after Badeh was appointed Chief of Air Staff and that since then, he had maintained the existing tradition of converting some amount into dollars and giving them to Badeh at the end of every month.
But when the defence counsel, Olujimi demanded to know how much he converted into dollars those early days, he told the court that he could not remember the exact amount. The witness said that he kept no personal records to prove all the cash transactions made between him and Badeh.
He, however, told the court that the Command’s Finance Officer, whose duty it was to keep record has all the records of the amount of the dollar equivalent he handed to Badeh at his official residence on monthly basis and other transactions.
“I cannot remember how much the Command’s Finance Officer gave to me in October 2012 to convert into dollars but I know that the records are there. It is not my duty to keep records but I know the Command’s Finance Officer has kept all the records of transactions in exchange of naira into dollars.”
When asked how monies were disbursed to the commands, he told the court that he did not know how the budget was processed.
“When allocation was made to all NAF formations, the money is disbursed to all the formations and my deputy finance officer was in charge of our allocation.
“If there was any need for finance in our directorate, he wrote to me and I approved. The approval is then taken to the NAF Headquarters camp in Abuja.
“And after the expenditure was carried out, he made his retirement to the office of the Command, Finance Officer at NAF headquarters, Abuja.“I was the accounting officer for the directorate that was why I gave approval for every expenditure for the directorate.”
The EFCC is prosecuting Badeh alongside a firm, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, on a 10-count charge of money laundering bordering on alleged fraudulent removal of about N3.97 billion from NAF’s account.
The anti-graft agency accused Badeh of using the funds to buy and develop landed assets in Abuja for himself and his two sons between January and December 2013.
Badeh and his company were also accused of removing from the accounts of the NAF, and using the dollar equivalent of N650 million to purchase a commercial plot at plot 1386, Oda crescent Cadastral zone AO7 Wuse ll, Abuja.
The offence, according to the EFCC, is contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
Badeh served as the Chief of Air Staff before he was elevated to the position of the Chief of Defence Staff till he retired from the military last year.
Justice Okon Abang has adjourned the case at the instance of the court till April 19 for further cross-examination and continuation of trial.