A professional builder, Mr. Joseph Okpetu, appeared before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, narrating how he was engaged and paid for the construction of a Yola, Adamawa State mansion worth N150m for a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd).
Okpetu said he was also contracted to renovate Badeh’s house destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents in the ex-Air Chief Marshal’s Vimtim village in Mubi Local Government Area of Admawa State.
He said the Vimtim house was worth N15m when he completed the house for Badeh in 2012. But he said the house was estimated to have been renovated for N50m after it was destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents a few years later.
Okpetu is the 13th prosecution witness in the trial of Badeh on 10-count of money laundering involving alleged diversion of about N3.9bn belonging to the Nigeria Air Force within 12 months.
Okpetu narrated how his three companies — Hapco Nigeria Limited, Kunychun Drilling Service and Vim Plast Nigeria Limited — were, at different times, jointly or singly, engaged to execute house construction and renovation jobs 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-count charge 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 his two sons between January and December 2013.
A former Director of Finance and Accounts of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Aliyu Yishau (retd), was the first prosecution to appear in court, giving details of how he allegedly helped Badeh, as the Chief of Air Staff, to divert the sum of N558.2m from NAF’s account for several months running.
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 middle man between him and Badeh for the construction of the Yola house and the renovation of Badeh’s Vimtim house.
But the witness said Badeh personally visited the site on three occasions, first of which was when the ex-Air Chief Marshal was in Yola for the commissioning of Air Force Comprehensive School in Yola, and the second was when the former military chief was travelling to Vimitim following his mother’s death.
The witness 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.
He said, “I know the first defendant. I knew him in 2003 while I was doing renovation in Zone D of War College Quarters in Apo, Abuja. I was introduced to him by a junior officer of his to do a renovation and conversion of his balcony to study and putting interior fitting after the renovation work.
“We also met in 2008 while I was doing construction for Nigerian Air Force and by 2012, he was then appointed as the Chief of Air Staff. I wasn’t in the country. When I came back, I went to congratulate him. That was when I met him at the Air Force Guest House, Life Camp, Abuja.
“That was when I also met Air Commodore Yishau who was the Director of Finance. We exchanged numbers before I left the premises of the NAF at Life Camp, Abuja. Air Chief Alex Badeh was living there.”