…court rejects request, halts trial till Feb. 26
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, rejected request from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for a copy of the Death Certificate of former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd), who was facing trial on money laundering charges, before he was killed on December 19, 2018.
Badeh, who was facing a 14-count criminal charge the EFCC preferred against him and his firm, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, was originally billed to open his defence to the allegation that he had within 2013, diverted over N3.9billion from account of the Nigerian Air Force, NAF.
EFCC alleged that the defendant used part of the fund to acquire choice properties within and outside the Federal Capital Territory.
The anti-graft agency had since closed its case after it produced a total of 22 witnesses that testified before the court, while Badeh who initially indicated his intention to file a no-case-submission in the matter, suddenly made a U-turn, informing the court of his decision to also call witnesses and adduce evidence to establish his innocence.
He was however murdered on December 19, 2018, along Keffi-Abuja express way, while returning from his farm.
At the resumed proceeding on the case on Wednesday, Badeh’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, notified the court of the death of his client.
He prayed for a short date to enable him to liaise with the prosecution on the next line of action to take in the matter.
Responding, the EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. Oluwalekan Atolagbe, while conceding to the adjournment request, however insisted that the defence lawyer ought to have furnished the court with a copy of his client’s Death Certificate.
Atolagbe maintained that such document was necessary in view of the fact that Badeh was charged before a court of record.
In a short ruling, trial Justice Okon Abang dismissed EFCC’s contention and held that the sought document was not required since the fact of Badeh’s death was already in the public domain.
Justice Okon further commiserated with family of the deceased defendant, discribing him as a cool-headed man.
“The court is already aware of his death. The Supreme Court made it clear that where a matter is already a public knowledge, the court, being a member of the public, does not require certificate of death”, Justice Abang held.
On demeanor of the defendant in the course of the trial, Justice Abang said: “Throughout his trial, he never created difficulties for the court. He was so peaceful throughout his trial. His conduct was a show of tremendous respect to the court. He was always in court before trial, he never asked for frivolous applications”.
Justice Abang subsequently adjourned the matter till February 26, to enable the prosecution and the defence team to reach a consensus on what should be the next line of action in the trial.
Badeh who hitherto faced a 10-count charge, had on July 4, 2018, pleaded not guilty to an amended charge the EFCC entered against him and his firm.
One of the amended charge against him read: “That you, Air Chief Marshal Alex S. Badeh (rtd) and Iyalikam Nigeria Limited on or about 24th February 2016 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did retain possession of the sum of $1,000,000.00 only which you kept at No. 6 Ogun River Street, Off Danube Street, Maitama, Abuja which funds you reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceed of your unlawful activity to wit: theft, criminal breach of trust or corruption and you thereby committed on offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act”.