A prosecution witness and contractor, Mr. Mustapha Yerima, on Tuesday told a Federal High Court in Abuja, how he attempted to cover up a former Chief of Air Staff, Alex Badeh’s ownership of a shopping mall in Abuja valued at N1.8bn.
He told Justice Okon Abang that he spilled the beans and declared Badeh as the true owner of the property after the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission confronted him with “chilling” evidence.
The EFCC is prosecuting Badeh alongside a firm, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, on 10 counts of money laundering involving an alleged fraudulent removal of about N3.97bn from the Nigerian Air Force’s account.
The anti-graft agency accused Badeh of using the fund to buy and develop landed assets in Abuja for himself and his two sons between January and December 2013.
Yerima, a contractor who said he built the property for Badeh, is the fourth prosecution witness in the ex-Air Force chief’s ongoing trial. He had commenced his testimony on Monday, telling the court how Badeh purchased the land on which the mall was constructed.
Yerima also said Badeh made further payments to his company, Right Builders Limited, for the construction of the mall through third parties as well as from the account of the Nigerian Air Force, putting the total value of the property, inclusive of the worth of the land, at N1.8bn.
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the witness said on Tuesday that at the stage when he was putting finishing touches on the construction of the property, some operatives of the EFCC invaded the site of the project located along Aminu Kano Crescent, Abuja.
He said the EFCC operatives invaded the premises on the assumption that the property belonged to the ex-National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), who was then under investigation and now being prosecuted on charges of diversion of funds meant for procurement of arms.
He said at that time, a former Director of Finance and Account of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Aliyu Yishau (retd.), who was serving as the middle man between him and Badeh and overseeing the project, had retired and had handed over the coordination of the project to ex-Air Force chief’s son, Alex Badeh (Jnr.).
Yishau, who was the first prosecution witness (PW1), had testified about how he allegedly helped Badeh to divert N558.2m from the account of the NAF monthly for more than 13 months.
He had also testified earlier that Badeh bought a house at 19 Kumasi Crescent, Wuse II for Alex Badeh (Jnr.) for N260m, with N60m spent to renovate it, while N90m was expended in furnishing the property.
While testifying on April 27, 2016, Yishau had also said Badeh bought another N320m house in Abuja for his last son, 28-year-old Kam.
Yishau had also told the court how he helped Badeh to use the proceeds of the alleged monthly diversion of N558.2m to develop several other landed assets, including a shopping mall in Abuja worth N1.8bn.
Yerima, the fourth prosecution witness, added on Tuesday that at the time the EFCC operatives visited the site of the shopping mall, he handed over all documents, including the deed of assignment and power of attorney relating to the property, to one Mr. Timothy Muje, who was introduced to him by Yishau as Badeh’s lawyer.
The witness said when the EFCC operatives visited the site of the mall, Yishau, Muje and the younger Badeh asked him to tell the EFCC operatives that the mall belonged to his (Yerima’s) company, Right Builders Limited.
But he said he had to confess that the true owner of the property who was Badeh, when the EFCC operatives confronted him with “chilling documents.”
Justice Abang adjourned the trial till June 14, 15 and 16, for the cross-examination of the witness by the defence lawyers.