A builder, Mr. Joseph Okpetu, narrated to a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, how he was engaged for the construction of a mansion in Yola, Adamawa State, worth N150m, for a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.).
Okpetu said he was also contracted to renovate Badeh’s house, destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents in Vimtim village in the Mubi Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
He said the Vimtim house was worth N15m when he completed the building for Badeh in 2012, explaining that it was estimated that the house would be renovated for N50m after it was destroyed by the terrorists a few years later.
Okpetu is the 13th prosecution witness in the trial of Badeh on 10 counts of money laundering, involving alleged diversion of about N3.9bn belonging to the Nigerian Air Force within 12 months as the Chief of Air Staff.
He stated that his three companies – Hapco Nigeria Limited, Kunychun Drilling Service and Vim Plast Nigeria Limited – were at different times jointly or singly engaged to construct and renovate houses for Badeh since his relationship with the former defence chief started in 2003.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Badeh alongside a firm, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, on 10 counts of money laundering bordering on alleged fraudulent removal of about N3.97bn from the Nigerian Air Force’s account.
The anti-graft agency accused Badeh of using the funds to buy and develop landed assets in Abuja for himself and two sons between January and December, 2013.
A former Director of Finance and Account of NAF, Air Commodore Aliyu Yishau (retd.), was the first prosecution witness, who appeared in court giving details of how he allegedly helped Badeh while being the Chief of Air Staff to divert the sum of N558.2m from NAF’s account for 15 months.
Yishau had narrated how he was handing over the dollar equivalent of the N558.2m to Badeh at the Chief of Air Staff’s official residence on monthly basis and also how he helped Badeh to use the money to acquire landed assets mostly in Abuja.
Okpetu, the 13th prosecution witness, who was led in evidence on Tuesday by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, that Yishau served as the middleman between him and Badeh for the construction of the Yola house and the renovation of the Vimtim’s house.
But the witness said Badeh personally visited the site on three occasions.
He described the house, located at Dougire, Yola Local Government Area of Adamawa State, as a duplex of three bedrooms with a guest room downstairs and a boys’ quarters.
“There is a living room downstairs and another one for the family upstairs,” he said.
He began his testimony on Tuesday with how he met Badeh.
On how he was contracted to build the Yola house, the witness said, “After some months, the Director of Finance (Yishau) called me to his residence and showed me a drawing of building to be constructed in Yola for his boss, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
“Initially, I proposed N200m to build it. Then, he offered me N100m. I did a check and found out that it couldn’t do the job. I met him with an architect, Architect Saka; so, we decided to scale down the cost by removing some of the features of the house.
“So the price came to N150m. In that meeting, he gave me dollar equivalent of N50m as mobilisation. The other payments were done in two instalments, to make it three instalments, making a total of N150m.
“Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh visited the house about thrice and Air Commodore Yishau visited.
“I was not present during the three visits. As the Managing Director of the companies, I had engineers and supervisors on site and I go through their reports when I visited the site. That is how I got to know of his visit.
“He (Badeh) was in Yola for the inauguration of the Air Force Comprehensive School in Yola, when he first visited the site.
“The second time was when he was travelling to the village when his mother passed on. On his way to the village, he stopped by.”
Fielding questions from the prosecuting counsel, the witness said the name on the proposed drawing of the house bore Mohammed Foufore.
The drawing, admitted as Exhibit T88, without objection from the defence, said he never knew Mohammed Foufure.
He said, “I only knew the Director of Finance, Air Commodore Yishau.
“He introduced the project to me and I got the funding through him. “
The witness said he had been paid N50m for the renovation of the Vimtim’s house but he had to advise against the commencement of work because of the prevailing insurgency in the area.
Justice Abang adjourned till Thursday (tomorrow).
Though, he did not confirm the prosecutor’s suggestion that the N50m was paid to him from the Nigeria Air Force’s account, he said about N14m was used to build a house for Officer-in-Charge of Joint Task Force in Mubi.
He said N7m, out of the N50m, was spent on Badeh’s firm.
He added that he also disbursed part of the N50m for other expenditure but could not recall the details.
According to him, about N20m balance, after bank charges were deducted, was returned to the EFCC after the anti-graft agency arrested him.
He said, “I got a call asking if I was the one that built the house in the village for Air Chief Marshal Badeh and I said ‘yes’.
“So the person on the other side of the phone asked how much it would cost to renovate the house that was destroyed by Boko Haram.
“When it was built, it was around N15m to N19m. I told him it would cost N50m.
“The N50m was for the renovation of Air Chief Marshall Badeh’s house. I later advised Air Chief Marshal Badeh to give my company, which was supposed to do the renovation some time due to insurgency. I sent him a quantity surveyor and an architect to value the magnitude of the damage.
“The report that came back to me was that the village was still scanty. We needed more time to study the situation and I was told to build a house for the Officer-in-Charge of the Joint Task Force in Mubi from the N50m. But other expenses came up which I disbursed from the N50m and the balance of about N20m was what I refunded to the EFCC in GTB’s bank draft.
“We used to hire plants and equipment for over N4m. The O/C’s house also cost over N14m.”
Justice Abang adjourned till Thursday.