THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has launched a fresh investigation into the alleged diversion of N4.4bn from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency into the accounts of top officers of the Nigerian Air Force.
To this end, the EFCC transferred the immediate past Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.), and a former Director, Finance and Accounting at NAF, Air Cdre S.A. Yushau, from its Abuja headquarters to Lagos.
It will be recalled that as part of efforts to ensure improved security in the Nigerian maritime sector, NIMASA, on August 26, 2013, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NAF with a view to providing effective air surveillance and monitoring of the nation’s coastal waters.
As part of the MoU, the Air Force was supposed to carry out aerial surveillance, reconnaissance, search and rescue, tactical airlift, enforcement and provide intelligence reports to NIMASA, which would aid in the fight against piracy, illegal bunkering and pipeline vandalism.
Badeh, who was the Chief of Air Staff at the time, signed on behalf of the NAF, while Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was the Director-General of NIMASA, signed on behalf of the maritime agency.
In furtherance of the MoU, billions of naira was said to have been transferred from the bank account of NIMASA to the Air Force.
EFCC has, however, alleged that its investigations revealed that the money was diverted to private accounts. A detective at the EFCC, who did not want his name in print, said, “We brought Badeh and Yushau to Lagos to answer to fresh allegations. The MoU that was signed by Badeh was for NAF aircraft to patrol the creeks to prevent pipeline vandalism and illegal oil bunkering.
Giving further insight into how the fraud was perpetrated, the detective alleged that the NAF top chiefs set up some small oil companies under the pretext that the companies were supplying aviation fuel to military aircraft. Money was then paid into the bank accounts of these companies but the fuel was never delivered.
“The money that was transferred from NIMASA to the Air Force was for maintenance of the equipment and the fuelling of the aircraft but the money, which was mostly in dollars, went straight into the accounts of Bureau de Change operators.”
The EFCC had already arraigned Akpobolokemi on 13 counts of alleged N754.7m theft and had also been arraigned alongside nine others on 30 counts of alleged N3.4bn fraud before Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos.He was arraigned along with five others on 22 counts of alleged N2.6bn fraud before Justice Ibrahim Buba also of the same court.
Apart from Badeh and Yushau, some others, who are being investigated by the EFCC are the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (rtd.); the Chief of Accounts and Budgeting of the NAF, Air Vice Marshal J.B. Adigun; and Air Commodore O. O. Gbadebo, who was the Director of Finance and Budget at NAF and also Yushau’s successor.