The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has refused an application by the former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh (retd), seeking to stop further hearing on the 10-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
At the resumed sitting on the matter on Wednesday, Badeh, through his lawyer, Mr. Samuel Zibiri, SAN, challenged the jurisdiction of the court to try him on the basis of the charge which he said was grossly defective.
In his application dated March 15, Badeh argued that the charge did not disclose any offence known to money laundering Act, insisting that the charge lacked legal validity.
Relying on section 220 of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the former military chief urged the court to hear and determine the application first before delving into full-blown hearing of the substantive charge against him.
“Where the court is informed of the pendency of an application challenging its jurisdiction, the court is enjoined by plethora of legal authorities to settle the issue of jurisdiction first”, Badeh’s lawyer argued.
However, EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, urged the court to disregard the application, saying it was a deliberate ploy by the defendant to stall the commencement of his trial. Jacobs argued that sections 221 and 396(2) of the ACJA, 2015, provided that any objection challenging jurisdiction of the court or validity of a criminal charge must be considered alongside the substantive case.
He contended that it was late in the day for Badeh to raise the objection since his trial has already commenced. In his ruling, Justice Abang, said there are laid down procedures for the prosecution of criminal cases under the ACJA.
“Having regards to section 396(2) of the ACJA, the application can only be considered alongside the substantive issue and ruling delivered along with judgment on the matter. “Section 221 of ACJA said objection shall not be entertained during proceeding or trial on the ground that a charge is defective.
The court can only entertain and make findings on the application at the end of the proceeding and ruling delivered when the matter is decided.
“Right of the defendant to be heard has been preserved till the end of the proceeding. It would have been a different matter if this is a civil matter or if it was raised before the enactment of the ACJA. As at today, the law has changed.
“The application is hereby refused. The prosecution is hereby directed to call its first witness for the trial to commence now”, the Judge held. He however gave the prosecution seven days to respond to Badeh’s objection to the trial.
The former CDS is facing trial over allegation that he fraudulently diverted about N3.9billion from account of the Nigerian Air Force within 2013.
The court earlier granted him bail to the tune o N2billion. He was in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/46/2016, alleged to have used the looted funds to purchase choice properties within the highbrow areas in Abuja. EFCC equally cited a firm, Iyalikam Nigerian Limited, as the 2nd defendant in the charge bordering on money laundering, corruption and criminal breach of trust.
The charge dated February 26, was signed by the Deputy Director of Legal & Prosecution Department at the EFCC, Mr. Aliyu M. Yusuf.
According to the anti-graft agency, Badeh had between January and December, 2013, used dollar equivalent of the sum of N650m, to purchase a commercial plot of land situate at plot 1386, Oda Crescent, Cadastral Zone, A07, Wuse II, Abuja. Badeh was said to have between March 28 and December 5, 2013, paid the sum of N878, 362, 732, 94 (Eight Hundred and Seventy-Eight Million, Three Hundred and Sixty Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty-Two Naira, Ninety-Four Kobo) which he removed from the account of the Nigerian Air Force, into the account of Rytebuilders Technologies Limited with Zenith Bank Plc, for the construction of a shopping mall on the plot.
He was also alleged to have diverted another dollar equivalent of N304m to the firm, Rytebuilders Technologies Limited, for the completion of the shopping mall.
Whereas EFCC, in count five of the charge, alleged that Badeh used dollar equivalent of the sum of N260m which he removed from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force and paid to one Ouwatoyin Oke through Platinum Universal Project and Construction to purchase a duplex for his son, Alex Badeh Jnr, it said the defendant further used N60m to renovate the property situate at No 19 Kumai Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja
The prosecution alleged in count-seven of the charge that Badeh used N90m to furnish the said duplex he bought for his son. The commission told the court that Badeh Jnr. was on the run. Besides, EFCC, in count-eight of the charge, alleged that the defendant used the sum of $2m, equivalent of the sum of N330m, which he removed from the coffers of the Nigerian Air Force, and paid one Hon Bature to purchase another duplex for him at No. 14 Adzope Crescent, Off Kumasi Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja, as well as gave one Rabiu Isyaku Rabiu the dollar equivalent of the sum of N240m to purchase a semi-detached duplex at No 8A Embu Street, for him.
In count nine, EFCC alleged that Badeh and his son (at large), sometime in April 2014, in Abuja, “did use dollar equivalent of the sum of N62, 000, 000.00 (Sixty Two Million Naira only) removed rom the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force and paid Kabiru Sallau/Platinum Universal Projects to renovate a private property situate at No. 2 Nelson Mandela Street, Asokoro, Abuja, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceed of unlawful activity (to wit: criminal breach of trust and corruption) Air Chief Marshal Alex S. Badeh and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act”.