Former Chief of Army Staff, Ishaya Bamaiyi, yesterday stunned his audience when he told an Ikeja High Court in Lagos how an alleged serial conman, Fred Ajudua, defrauded him of $8.4 million.
Mr Bamaiyi said that the said fraud occurred while both of them were incarcerated at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons in Lagos.
Bamaiyi gave the narration while being led in evidence by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, counsel, Seidu Atteh, in a lengthy testimony which lasted from 9.42 a.m. to 3.15 p.m.
He said: “On November 3, 1999, I was arrested and sent to Kirikiri Maximum Prisons for the alleged murder of Kudirat Abiola. I was at Block 2 which was said to be for Very Important Personalities (VIPs).
“Fred Ajudua and Ade Bendel were brought to the same prison but on different days. We became friends as inmates and discussed my case from time to time. As a lawyer, he asked me to give him information on my case and I obliged, I brought the file and he studied it and said I really don’t have a case as it is strictly ethnic and political case.
“He promised to do something about it and said he will send his wife who is also a lawyer to see Hon. Justice Alabi, the then Chief Judge, CJ, of Lagos.
“He later informed me that his wife had met with the CJ and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the then Attorney-General of Lagos State. Ajudua advised that I look for a senior lawyer who must not be a northerner and he recommended Chief Afe Babalola (SAN).
“According to him, Babalola was close to Obasanjo, the president at that time. After some time, his wife visited and informed us that because of the nature of the case, it was going to be expensive.
“Ajudua’s wife said the then CJ said that Babalola said that he will charge $15 million and I told her I could not afford such an amount.”
The former Chief of Army Staff said the topic was not broached by Ajudua for a while and that Ajudua told him that he had friends who will help raise funds for Bamaiyi’s legal representation.
“I asked him how will refund the money? I told him I had some friends and colleagues who will assist me in raising the money but they did not want their names mentioned.
“When my friends were assured of their privacy, many of them brought the money to me in the prison and I handed it over to Ajudua’s representative,” Mr Bamaiyi said.
Mr Bamaiyi said that he was initially sceptical about the transaction but his initial doubts were erased by Ajudua who swore on the life of Bobo, his only son and Bendel who had purportedly become a devout Christian.
“The defendant said he had only one son called Bobo, he swore to me that if he cheated me, that God should take the life of his only son, Bobo.
“My Lord because of that I believed him because I cannot swear with any of my children, no matter what.
“Bendel told me that he had stopped doing 419 and I believed him because he had started building a church at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons and he was preaching there.
“This made me believe both of them,” he said.
Mr Bamaiyi told the court that Mr Ajudua informed him that Justice Ajayi, the then Lagos chief judge, had directed that Mr Babalola’s professional fees should be paid through Justice J. O. K Oyewole and that Mr Oyewole’s registrar will visit them in prison.
The retired general went on to give details of how he gave the first tranche of money alleged to be Mr Babalola’s professional fees to Ronke Rosulu, Mr Oyewole’s Registrar.
“Ronke visited us twice in October 2004. The first visit was on October 6, 2004. It was the defendant who brought her to the Visiting Room where we sat down and she confirmed she was sent by Justice Oyewole.
Mr Bamaiyi also informed the court that he kept meticulous records of all the transactions in his handwritten prison diaries of 2004 and 2005.
The dairies were presented to the court by Mr Atteh, the EFCC counsel and marked as exhibits.
Mr Baimayi reading from the entries in the diaries revealed that in 2004, Mr Ajudua allegedly fraudulently received money six times from him and received money from him 19 times in 2005.
The diary entries revealed that in December 2004, Mr Ajudua received $20,000, $400,000, $350,000, $1million and $600,000. In January 2005, the defendant received $200,000 on two occasions $700,000 and $175,000.
In February 2005, Mr Ajudua received $50,000, $500,000. In May 2005, $100,000, $20,000 and $29,200 were given to Mr Ajudua by Mr Bamaiyi’s representatives.
In June 2005, $450,000, $180,000, $450,000 was received by Mr Ajudua. In July 2005, $1million, $390,000, $42,000 and $177,000 was received on various occasions by Mr Ajudua from Mr Bamaiyi.
In September 2005, $15,000 was received by Mr Ajudua. In November 2005, the defendant received $80,000 from Mr Bamaiyi and on December Mr Ajudua received $15,000 from Bamaiyi.
Revealing the last time Mr Ajudua fraudulently received money from him, he said “The defendant came to Kirikiri Maximum Prisons and collected $20,000 from me.
“My Lord, these were the sources of the money,” Mr Bamaiyi said.
He told the court that following Mr Ajudua’s arrest by the EFCC, his family through Mr Ajudua’s wife called Princess, his sister Gina, their counsel Mr Alex Agbaka, had tried to settle the matter out of court to no avail.
He noted that in two instances he was offered $2 million and $2.5 million by the family but rejected the offer stating that he needed a full refund of his money.
Justice Josephine Oyefeso adjourned the case until December 20 for cross-examination of Mr Bamaiyi.