Bribery charge: Court adjourns trial of ex-Air Force chief, Mamu, till Dec 13
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—An Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama, yesterday, adjourned trial of former Chief of Administration of the Nigerian Air Force Headquarters, Air Vice Marshall Mohammed Mamu (retd), who is facing bribery charges, till December 13.
Trial Justice Salisu Garba adjourned further hearing of the case on a day the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, re-arraigned the defendant on an amended four-count charge.
EFCC had, among other things, alleged that Mamu received gratification from a firm, Societe D’ Equipments Internationaux Nigeria Limited, which was said to be executing contracts for the Nigerian Air Force.
According to the anti-graft agency, the defendant pocketed a cash gift of $300,000 and N5.9 million, as balance for the purchase of a Range Rover Evoque from the firm and its Managing Director, Hima Abubakar.
The defendant also allegedly received Ford Expedition SUV and Jaguar XF Saloon valued at N15 million and N12 million, respectively, from the firm as gratification.
Mamu allegedly purchased the two vehicles from Coscharis Motors Ltd in the name of his wife.
Meanwhile, shortly after he pleaded not guilty to the charge, Mamu who mounted the witness box and was led in evidence by his lawyer, Mr. J. B. Daudu, SAN, told the court that all the cash and cars he received were a form of payment for bills he incurred on behalf of Societe D’ Equipments Internationaux Nigeria Limited, in course of executing jobs the company was handling for the Air Force.
He told the court that he was forced by the EFCC to return $300,000 and two of the cars— Ford Expedition SUV and Jaguar XF Saloon — after the commission threatened to arrest and detain two of his daughters, Fatima Mamu and Hadiza Mamu, who are directors in Kalill Fertilizers Nigeria Limited, a company through which some of the payments were made.
He said: “In view of the threats, as a responsible father, I conceded to refund the money under interrogation, in the hope that I will be reimbursed by Hima Abubakar. I was compelled to pay back the $300,000.”
The defendant told the court that at the time he was invited for interrogation by the EFCC, he was still in uniform serving as Air Vice Marshal, saying he suppresed actual facts of the transactions relating to the charge against him for the sake of “national security.”
He said: “Regrettably, it is public knowledge that information released to the EFCC always find their way to the public.”
The defendant maintained that all the payments were made for military activicties and to offset bills incured by the Federal Government, which he said hired foreign marceneries to help in the war against Boko Haram.
He said he had earlier disclosed the nature of the transactions to operatives of STF1 and STF2 that grilled him over the alleged fraud.
He said: “During my interaction with STF2, I told the leader of the team, Ibrahim Musa Maida, that the transactions were covert to protect the state. It involves foreign nationals.
“When I told him all these, his reaction was that I should write to the chairman of the EFCC under top secret cover to protect the information.”
The letter was hand delivered to the Acting Chairman by the Squadron Leader, Mohammed Saleh, who is the liaison officer of the Air Force at the EFCC.
“I have my own original duplicate copy of the letter. All attempt to have the document certified proved abortive”.
“On my statement that part of the monies were paid for estacode and air ticket, it was my attempt as a patriotic soldier to cover actitivities involving national security.
“I even spent my personal fund settling Hima Abubakar, some of which have not been refunded up till today.
“That explains why I accepted payment from Abubakar from Coscharis Motors to defray the debt he owed me.
“On the issue of my admittance that payment were made to me, I wrote because EFCC instructed me to write. I was tutored and teleguided into writing that statement.
“Initially I did not accept to claim that money because there was no money given to me. EFCC threatened to call in my two daughters who are directors of the companies the monies were paid into.
“I requested and insisted that I needed my lawyers to be with me during interrogation and when my statment was obtained, but EFCC refused and said I do not require a lawyer. They told me they are not after human beings but after recovery of funds.
“I know wing commander Sanda Ijiga, he was as at that time the Deputy Director of Legal Services at the NAF and also doubles as the liaison officer of the NAF to the EFCC.
“He escorted me to the EFCC. My request to have him present during the interrogation and when my statement was obtained was rejected by the EFCC. They refused to allow him to enter to perform the functions for which he was sent.
“Sometimes on March 25, 2015, I was so frustrated and had to write a serious stinker email to Hima Abubakar for payment. I copied the email to AVM Andy Tsakar, who responded to the email.
“The first payment I recieved from Hima Abubakar was N5.9m, were he debited his account with Coscharis Ltd to the credit of my account with Coscharis Motors.
“The second tranche of the payment was $300, 000 which Hima paid to Kalid Fertilizer Ltd Act
“By February 2015, Hima again debited his acoount with Cosharis to the credit of my account in the sum of N27m.
After my stinker email of March 25, 2015, Hima paid another $400, 000.
“I sent my personal assistant Sunday Bassey who collected the money in cash and I told him to take it to AETSL which was on my neck at that time”.
“In view of the fact that the $400, 000 did not offset the entire debt owed to ATESL by Hima Abubakar, on the same date, I got another email by the new MD of ATESL, Air Vice Marshal, A. Gekenu.
“I suggested to him through my email, how he should apply the funds according to priority”.
The email correspondences were admitted in evidence by the court as exhibit Y1-Y3.
The defendant told the court that vehicle purchased in the name of his wife was worth N15.2m, saying “I also have the vehichle attestation, delivery and handover notes. All the name of my wife, Laminu Mamu.
“The vehicles were imounded by the EFCC which also obtained $300, 000 and N5.9m from me.
“I urge and pray this court to discharge and acquit me of the four count charge EFCC entered against me.
“My lord, I also pray this court to order EFCC to refund the $300, 000 and the N5.9m, as well as the two vehicles to me. If they are in bad shape, I pray the court to order them to replace the vehicles with a new one of the same category.
“In my effort to protect information of national security, I wrote a letter to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, and pleaded with him to intervene in other to protect the disclosure of infomation of national security importance.
“I cannot remember the exact date I wrote the letter, but it was in my own letter headed paper and I personally signed it”.
His lawyer, Daudu, SAN, told the court that he had requested the prosecution to produce a copy of the letter his client wrote to the AGF as well as the one that was handed to EFCC Acting chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
However, EFCC lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, while opposing admissibility of some uncertified documents Mamu sought to tender before the court, insisted that it was wrong for the agency to be asked to produce a document that was served on the AGF.
Besides, EFCC maintained that Mamu’s evidence before the court was in sharp contrast statements he made both before the commission and the presidential panel that investigated arms purchase deals.
Trial Justice Garba adjourned to rule on EFCC’s objection and for continuation of hearing.
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