• Aide relives dramatic murder, insists on assassination theory
By Joseph Erunke
When he was relieved of his position as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 13, 2015, little did Air Chief Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh know the life awaiting him in retirement! He had earlier served as Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) from Oct 2012 to January 2014.
He retired into a quiet lifestyle, shuttling mainly between Adamawa, his home state, and Abuja. You could only see him at his No 2, Nelson Mandela Street, Asokoro, Abuja or the farm as he chose to maintain a regimented life.
Badeh’s immediate family – wife and two children – have been abroad. Since leaving office, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) pilot, according to family sources, lived quietly in the Abuja building alone. The only people around him in the magnificent residence were security aides drawn from the three services of the armed forces, driver, cook and younger sister.
Friends, associates and some family members, however, visited occasionally.
“He was not a partying person. He loved farming and had gone into full farming after leaving office. If you didn’t see him here at home, he was in his farm. That was the life he lived until his murder on Tuesday, December 18, 2018,”a family member said when Sunday Vanguard visited the Abuja residence on Thursday.
Few months after leaving office, Badeh, who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan as CDS and CAS, was charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after his arrest and detention for three weeks by the commission for alleged criminal breach of trust, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N3.9billion.
As a result, all the bank accounts linked to him were allegedly frozen by the EFCC and had been standing trial since then.
He was expected to open his defence next month, specifically January 16, 2019, in the case.
The deceased must have been looking forward to the January16 date to open his defence at the Justice Abang-led Federal High Court Abuja when suspected assassins struck.
Apart from the accounts liked to him being frozen on the grounds of the corruption allegations, Badeh, it was alleged, also had his pilot license blacklisted and pension account blocked.
He was killed by suspected assassins along Keffi-Abuja Road while returning from his farm, said to be located at Gitata, Panda Development Area of Nasarawa State.
The gunmen reportedly ambushed his convoy, drove in-between the vehicles and successfully separated the escort vehicle carrying his military aides from the one he was being conveyed in.
The gunmen, it was learnt, immediately opened fire after separating the convoy and directly doing so at his vehicle radiator and the tyres, thus forcing the vehicle to stop.
Our source said that as soon as the vehicle stopped, the gunmen headed to the front seat where Badeh sat with the driver and shot him at close range.
Meanwhile, there are many unanswered questions.
Was it fate at work that he would not live beyond the day suspected assassins struck?
Or how can one explain the information as provided by a family source that, after asking his driver to start one of the armoured cars in his fleet when he was preparing to leave home on the fateful day, he later chose to go to the farm in another that was not bullet proof?
And is it possible to pursue a retired military general on the road, overtake his convoy and block the vehicle he is riding in without his aides, comprising of four armed military personnel, coming to the rescue?
Worst still, his farm manager, whose name is simply known as Engr. Joe, was allegedly abducted by the gunmen unchallenged.
All eyes are on the detectives investigating the murder to provide answers to the nagging questions.
One of the aides met at the slain CDS residence (names withheld), who claimed to be at the scene of the incident, stated: “An Okada (bike) operator was riding close to the convoy and, as soon as he got to where his accomplices were, overtook the convoy and fell down, pretending that he had been hit by the convoy’s pilot car.
“He must have signalled to his accomplices to strike. The rest is history. The assassination was well-planned and executed.
“It was well planned. See those cars in the compound, they are all armoured. Unfortunately, oga never went to the farm in any of them.
“The people must have planned to capture him alive, but the armed guards did their best.”
The family is said to be considering the burial of the military chief in his Vimtim, Adamawa State home rather than the National Military Cemetery in Abuja. The decision of the family, according to a family member who would not want his identity disclosed, is not unconnected with the travails suffered by Badeh in the hands of government since he retired.
Besides, the family source said that since he was retired, the family was at liberty to bury him anywhere they choose.
“He had already retired after serving his full time in the military and so could be buried anywhere the family chooses. It’s either we collaborate with the military to bury him at the military burial ground or take the body home to Adamawa for burial. The family, for now, is considering the second option because of the travails he suffered after retirement by the Nigeria Air Force and the Federal Government using the EFCC”, he said.
“In the history of this country, nobody of his calibre, dead or alive, has been humiliated the way he was. Apart from the arrest and detention for three weeks, all his bank accounts were frozen and his pension, the only source of money after the freezing of accounts, was blocked.
“The worst thing is that in November, he went to check his pension account, withdrew money for use, both at home and in his farm, only for the bank manager to later call him to return the money, saying the account had been blocked on the directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, based on Presidential Executive Order 6.
“The bank manager’s directive that the withdrawn money be returned came after he had deducted N400, 000 and sent to his farm manager through the driver for the procurement of some essential items in the farm. “Immediately he received the call from the bank manager, he quickly called and begged that the money be brought back by the farm manager for subsequent return to the bank.
“Although the bank later allowed him to use the money, the manager informed him that he was only allowed to access the November pension, saying he had been barred from subsequent months due to the CBN directive on the implementation of Executive Order 6.
“They blocked all his sources of income leaving him with nothing to take care of himself and the family.
“In fact, I can tell you without mincing words that, before his sudden and gruesome killing, he was living on the benevolence of friends, associates and family members. The pension was his last hope and since they came after him again by blocking it thus denying him access to the account, he resigned to fate”.
Another family member had, on Wednesday, while speaking with Vanguard, suspected that the defence chief was assassinated.
He based his suspicion on the fact that, apart from Badeh, it was only his personal driver that was also not lucky as he was reportedly shot in the hand. He farm manager, identified only as Engr. Joe, was said to have been taken away by the alleged assassins with all the military aides unhurt.
The assailants reportedly pumped bullets on Badeh, leaving him for dead before allegedly leaving with the farm manager who was with him at the time.
“From what we have seen so far, it’s a clear case of assassination”, the family member said.
He did not elaborate.
At the weekend, Sunday Vanguard understood that all the aides present at the time of the killing of Badeh were facing interrogation at a military facility in Abuja. They are to assist the team of investigators looking into the killing. A source also said that new military men had been deployed to the Abuja home of the former CDS to replace those under interrogation.
NAF had said late last week that substantial progress had been made in the investigation it launched into the murder of its retired chief.
Its spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, while disclosing this, appealed for calm from the general public, saying the findings in the investigation would soon be released to the public.
“The Nigerian Air Force is working closely with other relevant security agencies to determine the circumstances surrounding the death of the former Chief of the Defence Staff with a view to ensuring that the perpetrators of the heinous act are brought to justice. Substantial progress has already been made in the ongoing investigation and details would be communicated at the appropriate time,” Daramola said in a statement.