Former Chief of Army Staff Lt-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (retd) yesterday told an Ikeja High Court how he was allegedly duped of $8.4 million by a Lagos lawyer and socialite, Fred Ajudua.
Gen. Bamaiyi and Ajudua were both incarcerated at Kirikiri in 2012, when the alleged fraud took place.
Bamaiyi was imprisoned for the attempted murder of Alex Ibru. Ajudua was in prison for fraud.
He was led in evidence before Justice Josephine Oyefeso by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecutor Mr. Seidu Atteh.
Bamaiyi told the court that he collected the money from his friends, wife and workers after Ajudua told him that he would help him engage the services of Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and also help in influencing Justice Joseph Oyewole, who was then handling his case.
In a testimony that began from 9.42 a.m. to 3.15 p.m., he said, “on November 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 a 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 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.
According to him, Ajudua, in 2004, collected money from him and his associates six times. In 2005, he said Ajudua collected money from the same categories of people 19 times.
“When on admission at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, my friends and personal staff delivered money to him while in prison. He also collected money from my wife twice – once inside the prison and the other one outside the prison.
“Anytime money was released by me or any of my staff, I recorded them in my diary and anytime money was released both in the hospital and out of the hospital, he would call me on phone to confirm,” he said.
Bamaiyi told the court that there was a time he was worried and demanded to meet Chief Afe Babalola.
“Instead, one Barrister Richard Oma came and met me in prison. He claimed to have come from Chambers of Chief Afe Babalola. But to my surprise, he did not come with any letter from Chief Afe Babalola’s Chambers.
“Later, he came with another letter, which did not carry any logo from the Chambers of Chief Afe Babalola to me in the prison custody. I collected the letter from him,” he said.
The former Chief of Army Staff said a man, named Kenneth, came to him in the prison custody and claimed to be from Department of State Security Services.
“He said he came from General Aliyu Gusau, the then National Security Adviser (NSA). 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 am released from the custody.
“I told him I had no problem with the President. He told me to write an undertaking that I will not cause trouble, if released. I told him I will not write any undertaking,” Bamaiyi said.
Following his refusal, he said Ajudua, one Jonathan, who was a personal assistant to Ajudua and another alleged fraudster, Alumile Adedeji, popularly called Ade Bendel, collected money from him with intentions of securing the services of Chief Afe Babalola.
“On November 22 , 2004, in the presence of ACP Garba, I gave the sum of $20,000 to one Jonathan, who was the personal assistant of the defendant. On November 30, my wife, Imuade, brought $400,000 and I counted the money and Jonathan, Ajudua’s boy, went away with the money.
“On December 4, 2004, the defendant’s boy came with somebody, who said he was the orderly of Justice Oyewole and the sum of $1.5 million was counted before it was handed over to Jonathan.
“On December 16, 2004, my ADC, Chechet, a Major, also brought in $1 million and gave the money to the defendant in visitors’ waiting room.
“At about 6pm, the defendant called me and told me that his wife was in the house of the then Lagos State Chief Judge Justice Ade Alabi, waiting for Chief Afe Babalola. He called his wife to confirm and at about 11.00 pm, 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 witness said.
He told the court that he raised the fund for which he was duped by the defendant by selling his properties in Victoria Island, Dolphins Estate, Yaba, Lekki in Lagos and Kaduna as well as proceeds from his farm.
Justice Oyefeso adjourned the matter till December 20 for cross-examination of the witness.