Former Director of Finance and Accounts at the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi (retd), yesterday, exposed how ex-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Umar, within two years, siphoned about N13.3 billion from account of the Force.
Umar, who was head of NAF from September 9, 2010 to October 4, 2012, is facing seven-count money laundering charges before the Federal High Court in Abuja. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleged that he used looted funds and purchased six choice property in Abuja, Kano and Kaduna States.
Hearing commenced on the matter, yesterday, with the lead prosecution witness, Air Commodore Abdullahi (retd), revealing that the defendant diverted N558.2 million monthly from salary account of the Force. Abdullahi, who was NAF Chief Accountant till December 31, 2013, told the court that though the Force regularly received N4 billion monthly as its total salary allocation, he said only about N2.4 billion was eventually spent to pay the entire Air Force personnel.
He said the defendant directed that N558.2 million of the balance of N1.6 billion from the salary allocation should always be converted to US dollars and brought to his official residence at Niger Barracks for his “monthly upkeep.”
The witness told the court that being the one facilitating the deduction of funds and its conversion to dollars, Umar okayed the monthly transfer of N200 million to the Directorate of Account and Finance. He said: “My lord, I told the Chief of Air Staff that my office didn’t require that amount of money.
So, that N120 million was put under the Chief of Air Staff’s office which he was using for visits to NAF formations and other welfare issues. “The balance of about N1 billion was used for training, maintenance of NAF assets, fleets and other private projects which include barracks construction and renovations.” Abdullahi said he had, on several occasions, requested the Finance Officer at NAF headquarters in Abuja, one Group Captain Bukar, to accompany him to handover the dollars to Umar at his home.
He said: “This lasted up to his retirement in September 2012 on a monthly basis. I believe he was using the money for whatever he wanted. However, he bought some property with the money we gave him.” Abdullahi told the trial court that he helped the former NAF boss to acquire four choice property in Abuja with over N2.3 billion.
Some of defendant’s acquisitions Highlighting some of the defendant’s acquisitions, the PW-1 revealed that Umar used N700 million that was withdrawn from NAF account to purchase a property at No 14 Vistula Close, Off Panama Street, Maitama Abuja.
He purchased another mansion at 1853, Deng Xiao Ping Street, off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension Abuja with N860 million and renovated it with N66 million that was transferred from NAF operations account domiciled at UBA Plc, into Stanbic IBTC account No. 9202077424 belonging to Capital Law office. He used another N500 million removed from NAF account to purchase a four bedroom duplex with boys quarters at Road 3B Street 2, Mabushi Ministers Hill, Abuja.
Besides, the witness also revealed that Umar used the US dollar equivalent of N250 million to purchase a property situated at 14, Audu Bako Way, G.R.A. Kano State, in 2011, and equally paid N80 million for a property at 9, Cabala Road in Kaduna.
He said: “Sometime between November/ December 2010, my boss the then Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal M.D. Umar, called me and asked me to get somebody who can find a house for him in Maitama where he intends to settle down after retirement.
“I told one of my friends Mr Hussein Umar, about what the defendant wanted. After a couple of days, he came back and told me he has found a house, a duplex with swimming pool and two boys quarters. “My boss asked me to take him to inspect the property. He gave us time in the evening and we went to check it.
“My boss saw the house and he was very happy. He gave Mr Umar the go ahead to make agreement. The price was N700 million and the CAS authorised that I should pay from the money we usually give him monthly.”
“I then directed the Finance Officer, Bukar to give the lawyer the equivalent of N700m in Dollars. “The defendant gave me the name which should be used to prepare the Deed of Assignment. The name was Mohammed Mai Jammar. “I gave the name to the lawyer. Afterwards the documents were brought to me for onward transmission to the defendant. “Sometimes in early 2012, the defendant called me and requested that I should get that same person to get a house for him in Asokoro because he doesn’t want to stay in Maitama again.
“I called the lawyer, after two days he told me of two properties in Asokoro. “I went along with Barr. Hussein to inspect the properties, thereafter I told the defendant that the lawyer has located two very good houses. Inspection visit was arranged and I went with the defendant for the inspection. “After the inspection he settled for the one at Plot No 1853 at Deng Xiao Ping Street, Off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension Abuja.
“My lord this is a duplex of about six bedrooms and an underground Hall, boys Quarters, a Gym and Swimming Poll and two bedroom guest Charlet. “Just like the previous house at Maitama, he also gave me the same name, Mohammed Mai Jammar for the preparing of the Power of Attorney and Deed of Assignment. After which Barr. Hussein brought the documents for transmission to my boss.
“After that the defendant said he wanted a small mosque to be constructed and to reduce the depth of the swimming pool because of the Children. So one Architect Saka was brought. “The price was agreed at N66m and the defendant gave the go ahead with payment. That was the end of the transaction.
“Something in 2011, the defendant asked me to go to Kano and ask someone to look for a befitting house so that whenever he comes home he will have a place to stay. “I went to Kano and met a friend Jubril Shuaibu Ala who helped me to get an agent that helped us to get a house. That was how No 14 Audu Bako Way in Kano was purchased. “It was a seven bedroom duplex with an enclosed swimming pool, about three living rooms, a study, a long tennis court, and a squash court and a also a two bedroom boys Quarters.
“The house belonged to one Sudanese by name Mustapha. I inspected the house and told the defendant. During our next visit to Kano, we went to the house at night. He met the owner and had some discussions. Subsequently, the amount was agreed at N250m. “My boss the defendant, after returning to Abuja, gave the money equivalent of the money in US Dollars.
“I cannot remember the name he used for the Title Deeds, but all the documents were given to me and I handed it over to the defendant “The next property was on No 9 Cabala Road in Kaduna. It was also in 2011 that the defendant told me he needed a house in Kaduna because he was he has attraction for the state where he grew up. “The building was a Guest House for Armed Forces Command at Jiaji.
It was sold to the then Commandant of the College, Air Sunday Ali Meks by then Presidential Committee on sale of government properties. “Meks called me to say he had no intention of having any property in Kaduna. He called me because he was the last Commandant I worked with before I was posted to headquarters in Abuja. “I then told the defendant who was my boss about the property.
He told me he would want to get the property but didn’t want Air Vice Marshal Meks to know. So I brought one Alhaji Kabiru Ismaila who was into properties who agreed to buy it on behalf of the defendant. “The price was agreed at N80m. I told the defendant about the arrangement so he gave me the money to make the purchase. It was paid in Dollars.
“Thereafter, my boss asked me to get somebody to reconstruct the house. Alhaji Ismaila Kabiru was then given the job. “The last property was at Ministers’ Hill. This was a property that was built by my colleague Bukka. It was a land owned by a former Minister Yahaya Abdulkareem. “When I came back from Defence College in January 2012, Bukka told me that the house I was staying at No 8 Embu Street in Wuse 2, Abuja, is a house the defendant assisted him to buy. “He said it was not appropriate for me to be living there because it is an estate.
He wanted me to move to his own place so that he can take over my own. “I refused initially but when his friend put pressure on me I reluctantly agreed on condition that I would move on my own, that being after I leave headquarters.
He agreed and subsequently moved to the United Kingdom for a course. “In September 2012 when the defendant was retired. His House at Asokoro was not ready because of renovation going on.
He needed a house he can quickly move into after leaving the official residence of the Chief of Air Staff. “At that time, he could not get a property to let for one year. So, I remembered this House at Mabushi. I met my boss that if they could manage that place at Mabushi. I explained to him how I came about the place. “He told me to tell my wife to go and pick his wife and show her the place.
His wife was happy with the place when she saw it. That was how they moved into the house to enable the new Chief of Air Staff to move into his official residence. “He was living there up till December 31, 2013 when I was retiring.
Sometime early 2014, he told me it was time for them to give me my house. But I felt there is no way I will move into a house former Chief of Staff has lived in. It was so in the military. I felt there is no way that me, a Former Director of Finance, can takeover a house formerly occupied by the defendant who must have been visited by a lot of people.
“So I told his brother one Abdullahi Mahmud Giya, now a house member. He advised that I should sale it. He went and discussed with my boss, the defendant, and it was agreed that the defendant should pay me N500m.
“I told Bukar of the development and why I had to take the decision. The defendant later gave me the N500m in Dollars and I used it to re-purchase the house and No 8 Embu Street from Bukar who was then in UK.
“My stay as Director of Finance and Accounts extended beyond the tenure of the defendant. I believe it was based on his advice that Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh retained me in the position when he was appointed.
“This was because the defendant knew I wanted to leave the service but the defendant urged me to oblige if the new Chief wishes to retain me. I told him I was tired and wanted to leave the service”, Abdullahi added. Meantime, trial Justice Nnamdi Dimgba adjourned the case till February 16 to enable Umar’s lawyer, Mr. Hassan Liman, SAN, to cross-examine the witness.