A former Chief of Army Staff, General Ishaya Bamaiyi, has told a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja how an alleged fraudster, Fred Ajudua, collected millions of dollars from him totalling about $8.4m.
At the resumed trial on Monday, General Bamaiyi told Justice Josephine Oyefeso that Ajudua obtained the money from him in 25 tranches, while purporting to be acting on behalf of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Afe Babalola.
The money, according to Bamaiyi, was meant to be part payment for professional fees allegedly charged by the legal icon to handle his trial for the attempted murder of the late publisher of The Guardian, Mr Alex Ibru, and two others.
He explained that he met Ajudua and one Alumile Adedeji popularly known as Ade Bendel at Kirikiri Maximum Prison between November 2004 and June 2005.
Apart from collecting money from him personally, the former Army chief said Ajudua collected money from his wife, member of his staff and even his friends, all for the purpose of hiring Mr Babalola for his legal representation.
He said, “Anytime money was released by me or any of my staff, I recorded them in my diary. In 2004, he (Ajudua) collected money six times and in 2005, he collected money 19 times.
“Anytime money was released both in the hospital and out of the hospital, he would call me on phone to confirm.
“There was a time I was worried, and I demanded to meet Chief Afe Babalola. Ajudua was on bail then for fraud-related offences. Then, one Barrister Richard Oma came and met me in prison.
“He claimed to come from the Chambers of Chief Afe Babalola. But to my surprise, he did not come with any letter from Chief Afe Babalola’s chambers.”
“Also, one man named Kenneth came to me in prison and he claimed to be from the Department of State Security Services. He said he came from General Aliyu Gusau, the then National Security Adviser.
“He said Gusau and Obasanjo had met, and they discussed my issue and they want to be assured that I will not cause trouble if I’m released from the custody.
“I told him I had no problem with the president. He told me to write an undertaken that I will not cause trouble if released. I told him I’ll not write any undertaken,” Bamaiyi said.
The former Chief of Army Staff went on to narrate how the money was paid in about 25 tranches totalling $8.4m.
He said, “On November 22, 2004, in the presence of one ACP Garba, I gave the sum of $20,000 to one Jonathan who was the personal assistant of the Ajudua.
“On November 30, my wife Imuade, brought $400,000 and I counted the money and Jonathan, his boy, went away with the money. “
“On December 4, 2004, the defendant’s boy came with somebody who said he was an orderly of Justice Olubunmi Oyewole and the sum of $1.5 million was counted before it was handed to Jonathan.
“On December 16, 2004, my ADC Chechet, a Major, brought me $1million and gave the money to the defendant in my visitor waiting room.
“At about 6pm, the defendant called me and told me that his wife was in the house of then Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ade Alabi, waiting for Chief Afe Babalola.
“He called his wife to confirm and at about 11pm, the defendant called to tell me that Chief Afe Babalola had collected the money.
“Sometimes on December 27, 2004, one of my associates brought in $350,000 which was given to the defendant. His boy, Jonathan, also collected $600,000 on January 15, 2005,” the general testified.
He further told the court that he raised the various funds from the proceeds of the sale of his properties in Victoria Island, Dolphin Estate, Yaba, and Lekki, all in Lagos.
He added that he sold his landed properties in Kaduna as well as proceeds from his farm which he had been engaged in since 1994.
“I was posted to Lagos in 1996,” Bamaiyi said, adding, “During the period I was able to acquire properties in Sanusi Fafunwa in Victoria Island which was allocated to me by the Lagos State government.”
“I sold it as well as my property in Dolphin Estate. I also had a duplex at Tajudeen Olanrewaju Estate, Tabatha which I sold. This is part of how I raised the funds.”
The court thereafter adjourned till December 20 for the continuation of trial.