Ex-Air Force chief, Umar, diverted N13.3bn in 2 yrs – Witness
A former Director of Finance and Accounts at the headquarters of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Salisu Yishau (retd.), narrated to the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, how he helped a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mohammed Umar (retd.), to divert N558.2m from NAF’s account for 24 months.
When added together, the monthly diversion of N558.2m which allegedly took place between October 2010 and September 2012, when Umar retired from service, amounted to N13,396,800,000.00.
Yishau was testifying as the first prosecution witness in Umar’s trial on charges of criminal breach of trust and corruption involving about N7.382bn allegedly used by the ex-Air Force Chief to buy properties in Abuja, Kaduna and Kano.
The witness, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, said as Umar was retiring, he advised his successor, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.), to retain him (Yishau) as the Director of Finance Accounts.
Yishau had earlier testified in Badeh’s trial on similar set of charges, narrating to Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja how he continued to help Badeh to divert the same amount of N558.2m for several months until Badeh left service.
On Thursday, the witness told Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who is sitting over Umar’s trial, that despite expressing his willingness to retire from service, Badeh gave him the offer to continue as the Director of Finance of NAF.
Narrating how the diversion was done, Yishau said NAF was receiving appropriation in three accounts named, Capital Vote, Overheads Vote and Personnel Emolument Vote.
He said NAF was receiving about N4bn allocation into the Personnel Emolument account monthly, when in actual fact, only about N2.2bn was being used for that purpose.
He said out of the balance of about N1.6bn, N558.2m was being set aside for the “upkeep” of the Chief of Air Force monthly.
According to the witness, N558.2m was being withdrawn from NAF’s Personnel and Emolument account and delivered to Umar monthly.
Yishau said the money was sometimes converted to dollar before it was delivered to Umar at the official residence of the Chief of Air Staff, Niger Barracks, Abuja.
The witness said, “NAF was receiving about N4bn monthly (a little above N4bn, about N4.1bn).
“However, the actual figure that we usually paid as salaries monthly was between N2.3 to N2.4bn. The balance of about N1.6bn, was made. From this N1.6bn the sum of N558,200,000 was usually set aside for the upkeep of the Chief of Air Staff.
“The sum of N120m was also earmarked for the office of the Director of Finance and Accounts.
“But on assumption, I told the Chief of Air Staff that my office did not require that amount of money.
“So, N120m was put under the Chief of Air Staff Office which he was using for visits to NAF formations and other welfare issues.
“The balance of about N1bn was used for training, maintenance of NAF assets, fleets, and other priority projects.
“These projects included barracks construction, renovation of barracks accommodation for officers and men, and any other projects that the Chief of Air Staff may wish to undertake.
“This sum of N558,200,000 was usually converted to United States dollar and taken to him at home.
“The money was usually brought to me by the Finance Officer, Headquarters, NAF Camp, by name Group Captain Bukar.”
On how the diverted money was expended, Yishau said he believed the money was used to buy properties in choice areas of Abuja, Kaduna and Kano, which was the ex-Air Force Chief’s home state.
The witness narrated how he helped the defendant to acquire the property at Plot No. 1853, Deng Xiano Ping Street, Off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension, Abuja and a residential property comprising four-bedroom duplex, with boys’ quarters at Road 3B, Street 2, Mabushi, Ministers Hill, Abuja.
After the examination-in-chief, lead defence lawyer, Mr. Hassan Liman, sought an adjournment for the cross-examination of the prosecution witness.
Justice Dimgba then adjourned until February 16, 2017 for continuation of trial.