Prosecution witness in the trial of former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, gave details on Tuesday in court on how he failed in his attempt to conceal the ownership of a shopping mall worth N1.8billion he built for the ex-defence chief in Abuja.
The witness, Mustapha Yerima, a building contractor and MD of a property firm, Right Builders Tech Ltd., told a Federal High Court in Abuja that Badeh and some others asked him to claim ownership of the property to conceal its true ownership from investigators.
Yerima, who testified as the fourth prosecution witness in the trial of Badeh and a firm, Iyalikam Nig. Ltd., said he failed in his effort to conceal the ownership of the property when operatives of the EFCC confronted him with actual documents relating to the true ownership of the property.
Badeh is being tried on a 10-count charge with Iyalikam for money laundering and diversion of public funds estimated at about N3.97billion.
Led in evidence by prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, Mr Yerima who opened his testimony on Monday got to conclude his evidence-in-chief on Tuesday.
The witness had, on the . day, gave evidence on how he was recruited by Badeh, through the former Director of Finance and Account of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), retired Air Commodore Aliyu Yishau, to construct the shopping mall on Aminu Kanu Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja.
Yerima said: “We continued our work after the payment from the third parties until one fateful morning. One of my site supervisors called me that EFCC operatives were looking for me. So, immediately, I drove down to the site.
“He asked me, if the property belonged to Dasuki. I told them I had neither seen Dasuki nor met him. So, I was asked to report at their office by 3pm. Before I got to their office, I called Air Commodore Yishau, to tell him what has happened.
“So, he said since he had handed over the project to the original owner and that Alex (Jnr.) was the one coordinating, I should call him and explain to him. I then called him and told him that I wanted him to link me up with his father so that I could explain what was happening. But he told me his father was not around. But he said I should call Air Commodore Yishau back.
“After I spoke with Alex Badeh Jnr., it took some time for him to get back. When he eventually got back to me, he said they had discussed. But that I should call back Air Commodore Yishau, who would then tell me what to tell EFCC operatives.
“Yishau called me and told me that since my company was into property development, that I should claim it. He said so because I think he was scared.
“It was at that point, this same Timothy Muje, a lawyer, called me that we should meet somewhere around Wuse 2. We met there and he handed over those same documents I gave them earlier.
“He deliberately refused to give me the power of attorney, the deed of assignment, between Right Builders and this other company, whose name I cannot remember, because the whole idea was for me to claim the property as they agreed between them.
“I want to believe it was the agreement between Yishau, Alex Badeh Jnr, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh and the lawyer, Timothy Muje, that I should claim the property.
“What Barrister Timothy told me was that they had reached an agreement that I should please protect them. But when I got to EFCC, it was a different ball game because I was confronted with some chilling evidence.
“I was confronted with so many documents such as copies of drawings, statement of accounts and so many other documents relating to that project, including e-mail correspondents.
“At that point, I had no other choice than to tell EFCC exactly the way things were – just the way I narrated my testimony, everything that transpired.
“The approximate cost of the shopping mall was about N1.8bn inclusive of the cost of the land. Since the EFCC operatives visited the site, they told us to stay off, since it was under investigation,” Yerima said.
The witness confessed to the court that when Yishau, who was acting as the go-between in his relationship with Badeh has retired, Badeh’s son took over the role.
Yerima said Badeh’s son – Alex Badeh (Jnr) – later authorised a third party, a company identified as Viteva, to make payment of N108m into Right Builder’s account as part of the payment for the job.
“The payment that came through the third party was as a result of the meeting between myself, Air Commodore Yishau and Alex Badeh Jnr.
“Prior to this meeting, there was a meeting that held between me and Air Commodore Yishau where he introduced Barrister Timothy Muje to me as the lawyer to Air Chief Marshal Badeh and that since he (Yishau) was retiring, I should transfer all necessary documents to the lawyer in the person of Barrister Timothy Muje, who was representing Air Chief Marshal Badeh.
“He (Yishau) came with a prepared Deed of Assignment and Power of Attorney, with my company’s name and one other company for the transferring of the title from Right Builders, which is my company, to the other company. He gave me copies to sign and I signed.
“I remember in that meeting I also met one Barrister Umar, who also came for the transfer of similar documents. I signed those documents and handed over the remaining documents in my possession to Barrister Timothy Muje.
“I mentioned earlier in my . testimony, that the day the transaction was concluded, I only handed over the original Certificate of Occupancy to Air Commodore Yishau.
“This time around, I handed over the deed of assignment, the power of attorney between Ayodele Fayose and Tony to him. I also handed over to him, other documents, including the power of attorney between Cassagro and Right Builders.
“He gave me the power of attorney and the deed of assignment which he (Barrister Timothy Muje) came with which were already prepared in the name of the company, I cannot remember the name, but which was between that company and Right Builders. I signed it and gave it back to Barrister Timothy and then I left.
“The total money that I received from the third party was about N108 million. It was paid into my company’s account. Immediately I received an alert from Vetiva Nigeria Limited, I quickly called Alex Badeh (Jnr.) to confirm.
“He confirmed to me that they (he and his father) gave instruction to Vetiva to make the payment on their behalf. There are two other companies that also made deposits into my company’s account, which Alex Jnr confirmed to me that they made those deposits on behalf of them.
“Those two companies were Macden Communications Limited and Chimeize Puintes,” Yerima said as he ended his testimony.
When asked to cross-examine the witness, defence lawyers, Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and Samuel Ologunorisa (SAN) asked for time to enable them study his statements.
Trial judge Justice Okon Abang adjourned to June 14 for Yerima’s cross-examination. Revelations…!