By Moji Eniola/Lagos
Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (retd), on Monday alleged at an Ikeja High Court in Lagos how Fred Ajudua defrauded him of 8.4 million dollars.
The alleged fraud allegedly occurred while Ajudua, an alleged serial conman and Bamaiyi were incarcerated at Kirikiri Maximum Prisons in Lagos.
Bamaiyi, who was led in evidence by Mr Seidu Atteh, prosecuting counsel for Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in a lengthy testimony, narrated to the court how he got acquainted with Ajudua.
In a testimony that began at 9.42 a.m. until 3.15 p.m., he said, “on Nov. 3, 1999, I was arrested and sent to Kirikiri Maximum Prisons for the alleged murder of Kudirat Abiola.
“I was at Block 2 which was said to be for Very Important Personalities (VIPs).
“Fred Ajudua and Ade Bendel were brought to the same prison but on different days and they were brought to the same Block 2. Ajudua was brought upstairs while Bendel was downstairs.
“We became friends as inmates and discussed my case from time to time. As a lawyer, he asked me to give him information on my case and I obliged.
“I brought the file and he studied it and said I really don’t have a case as it was strictly ethnic and political case.
“He promised to do something about it and said he will send his wife who is also lawyer, to see Justice Alabi, the then Chief Judge of Lagos.
“He later informed me that his wife had met the CJ and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, then Attorney-General of Lagos State.
“Ajudua advised that I look for a senior lawyer who must not be northern and he recommended Chief Afe Babalola (SAN).’’
“According to him, Babalola was close to Obasanjo, the President at that time. After sometime, his wife visited and informed us that because of the nature of the case, it was going to be expensive.
“Ajudua’s wife said the then CJ said that Babalola said that he will charge 15 million dollars and I told her I could not afford such an amount.”
The former CAS said that the issue was not broached by Ajudua for a while and that the accused told him that he had friends who will help raise funds for his (Bamaiyi’s) legal representation.
“I asked him how I will refund the money and told him that I had some funds and colleagues who will assist me in raising the money but that they did not want their names mentioned.
“When my friends were assured of their privacy, many of them brought the money to me in the prison and I handed it over to Ajudua’s representative,” he said.
Bamaiyi said that he was initially sceptical about the transaction but that his initial doubts were erased by Ajudua who swore on the life of Bobo, his only son and Bendel, who had purportedly become a devout Christian.
“The defendant said that he had only one son called Bobo; he swore to me that if he cheated me that God should take the life of his only son, Bobo.
“My Lord, because of that I believed him because I cannot swear with any of my children, no matter what.
“Bendel told me that he had stopped doing 419 and I believed him because he had started building a church at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons and he was preaching there.
“This made me believe both of them,” he said.
Bamaiyi told the court that Ajudua informed him that the then Lagos CJ had directed that Babalola’s professional fees should be paid through Justice J. O. K. Oyewole and that Oyewole’s registrar would visit them in prison.
The retired General gave details of how he gave the first tranche of money alleged to be Babalola’s professional fees to Ronke Rosulu, Justice Oyewole’s registrar.
“Ronke visited us twice in October, 2004. The first visit was on Oct. 6, 2004, it was the defendant who brought her to the Visiting Room where we sat down and she confirmed she was sent by Justice Oyewole.
“On the second visit, Ronke came with her daughter whom she said was in the university; this visit was conducted by ACP Garba, the prison officer in charge of the visit.
“Her third visit was on Nov. 20, 2004; this time, she came with one Jonathan, the defendant’s boy that I knew in prison.
“This time, the defendant did not come to the Visiting Room and the visit was also conducted by ACP Garba.
“Ronke and Jonathan collected 300,000 dollars in the presence of ACP Garba, the prison officer; the money was in the form of 100 dollar notes and 10,000 dollars per bundle.
“Ronke, Jonathan and I counted the money in the presence of ACP Garba the prison officer.
“When I was seeing Ronke and Jonathan off, I met the defendant waiting for them by the corridor and the three of them went downstairs and I went down to the visiting room.
“My Lord, that was the first release date of the money I made, which was on the instruction of the defendant.”
Bamaiyi informed the court that he had made subsequent releases to Ajudua at various times while Ajudua was in prison, on admission at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for undisclosed ailment and while also on bail.
He said that the funds were handed over to Ajudua, Jonathan or Bendel via his wife, Imuade, his son, his ADC, Major Chechet, his orderly, Mr Mohammed Tatda, at the prison premises or at LUTH.
Bamaiyi also informed the court that he kept meticulous records of all the transactions in his handwritten prison diaries of 2004 and 2005.
The dairies were presented to the court by Atteh, the EFCC counsel and marked as exhibits.
Reading from the entries in the diaries, Bamaiyi revealed that in 2004, Ajudua allegedly fraudulently received money six times from him and received money from him 19 times in 2005.
The diary entries revealed that in December, 2004, Ajudua received 20,000 dollars, 400,000d dollars, 350,000 dollars, one million dollars and 600,000 dollars.
In January, 2005, according to the dairy record, the defendant received 200,000 dollars on two occasions, 700,000 dollars and 175,000 dollars.
He told the court that in February, 2005, Ajudua received 50,000 dollars, 500,000 dollars, and in May, collected 100,000 dollars, 20,000 dollars and 29, 200 dollars, saying that his (Bamaiyi) representatives disbursed the funds.
“In June, 2005, 450,000 dollars, 180,000 dollars, 450,000 dollars were received by Ajudua. In July, 2005, one million dollars, 390,000 dollars, 42,000 dollars and 177,000 dollars were received on various occasions by Ajudua.
“In September, 2005, $15,000 was received by Ajudua. In November, 2005, the defendant received $80,000 and in December, Ajudua received $15,000.’’
Revealing the last time Ajudua fraudulently received money from him, the former CAS said “the defender came to Kirikiri Maximum Prisons and collected 20,000 dollars from me.
“He said it was the balance of the payment for Afe Babalola’s professional fees; this was the last time he collected money from me.”
Bamaiyi said the money were received by Ajudua after visiting hours in the prison, and revealed to the court the various antics deployed by Ajudua to fuel the alleged scam.
“My Lord, there was a time I got worried because I was not hearing from Afe Babalola. Ajudua was on bail and he came to see me with one Barrister Richard Oma. Richard said he came from Chief Afe Babalola’s Chambers.
“Unfortunately, he did not come with any official letter from Chief Afe Babalola.
“The DCP in charge of Maximum Prison, DCP Ukobi said the defendant was coming to see me after visiting hours; the defendant came with one Kenneth who claimed he was a Secret Service officer.
“Kenneth said he was sent to see me by the National Security Adviser, Lt.-Gen. Aliyu Gwarso, and said that Chief Babalola and the then President Obasanjo discussed my matter.
“He said that he was sent to advise me not to cause any trouble for the government.
“I told him I did not have any problem in that respect as I did not commit any offence; he told me to write an undertaking and I told him I won’t.
“When he insisted I told him he should draft it for me and if I’m satisfied I will sign.
“He said he would draft the undertaking and bring it back to me but I never saw him again, My Lord,” he said.
Bamaiyi said that following his enquiries about his promised legal representation from Afe Babalola, Ajudua told him that he was waiting for a counsel from him so that his counsel and Ajudua’s would have a meeting with Babalola.
“My counsel, the then Barr Y. C Mikyau, who is now a SAN, came from Abuja and for two days he did not see the defendant and had to return to Abuja.
“After that incident I could not get in touch with the defendant again because I was told he went to Israel for a medical check-up.
“My Lord, I fell sick in the Maximum Prison and I was also treated in LUTH in March 2006.
“When I was in the hospital, one Gabriel who was assisting the defendant while he was in prison came to me and managed to give me Ajudua’s number in India.
“I called the defendant and I confronted him saying that Justice J. O. K Oyewole did not receive any money from Ronke, Jonathan or any other person.
“He responded that the Honourable Judge could not have said that and that he will call me later.
“After that My Lord, I never got across to him again, maybe he changed his number because the number never went through. I never heard from him until about six years later when he was arrested,” Bamaiyi said.
The former army boss revealed to the court the source of the funds he allegedly lost to the scam, saying “my Lord, as mentioned earlier, most of the money I got were from friends, colleagues, relations and well-wishers.
“The other sources were my farm products; I’ve been a farmer since 1984 when I was in service. I do different things on my farm, I grow cotton, soya beans and I’m also involved in animal husbandry.
“My Lord, I was posted to Lagos since 1986 and I remained in Lagos until my retirement in 1999. I was able to acquire some property, two duplexes on Sanusi Fafunwa in Victoria Island which were allocated to me by the Lagos State Government.
“I went into an agreement with HFP, a construction company which developed the two duplexes and rented them for six years and returned them to me. I sold these duplexes.
“My Lord, I bought a duplex and flat in Dolphin Estate which I also sold. I had a duplex in Tajudeen Olanrewaju Estate, Yaba, which I also sold.
“I have a plot of land at Dolphin Estate and I also had two bungalows in Kaduna which I also sold. My Lord, these were the sources of the money.”
Bamaiyi told the court that following Ajudua’s arrest by the EFCC, his family, through his wife called Princess, his sister, Gina; their counsel, Mr Alex Agbaka had tried to settle the matter out of court but to no avail.
He said that in two instances, he was offered two million dollars and 2.5 million dollars by the family but that he rejected the offer because he needed a full refund of his money.
After the evidence by Bamaiyi, the Presiding Judge, Justice Josephine Oyefeso, adjourned the case until Dec. 20 for cross-examination.