A former Chief of Army Staff, General Ishaya Bamaiyi, has told a Lagos High Court, sitting in Ikeja, that Fred Ajudua, who is standing trial for duping the former Army boss of the sum of $8.4Million ( Eight Million, Four Hundred Thousand United States Dollars), actually used a Lagos court registrar, Rosulu Idowu Oluronke, to obtain the sum of $330,000 from him.
The money, according to Bamaiyi was meant as part payment of professional fees supposedly charged by Afe Babalola (SAN) to handle his trial for attempted murder of the late publisher of The Guardian, Alex Ibru and two others.
Led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Seidu Atteh, Mr. Bamaiyi told the court presided over by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, that he met Messrs Ajudua and Alumile Adedeji, a.k.a. Ade Bendel, at Kirikiri maximum prison, where he was remanded. According to him, Ms. Oluronke, who was then Justice Joseph Oyewole’s registrar, visited him three times at Kirikiri maximum prison in respect of the payment for Mr. Babalola’s professional fees.
He told the court: “On November 23, 1999, I was in cell 5 (first floor) at Kirikiri maximum prison. Later Ajudua and Ade Bendel were brought into the block. I and Ajudua (sic) were together in my cell, so we became friends. Ajudua told me that he is a lawyer and had studied my case, and found out it was purely political. Ajudua told me that he was interested in the case and had sent his wife to see the Lagos Chief Judge, Justice Ade Alabi (retired) and the state Attorney General, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, over the matter. I was told that the Chief Judge was the one in contact with Chief Babalola.”
According to the retired army general, Mr. Ajudua later told him that based on the advice of the Chief Judge and the Attorney General, there was need for the case to be handled by Mr. Babalola who would facilitate his release from prison custody.
He said, “I was told that Chief Babalola charged $18million as professional fees and that the money was to be paid through Justice Oyewole. Ajudua told me that Justice Oyewole was going to send his registrar (Oluronke)).
“On October 23, 2004 (1st visit), Oluronke, came with Ajudua and confirmed to me that she was sent by Justice Oyewole. She came with Ajudua to the visiting room, alongside a prison officer, Abdullahi Garuba, an Assistant Controller of Prison On November 6, 2004 at 10 a.m., Oluronke, came again with Ajudua, alongside ACP Garuba. This time she came with her daughter whom she said was from the University. The defendant assured me that any money released through Justice Oyewole would get to Chief Babalola.
“Before Oluronke’s third visit on November 20, 2004, a friend of mine had arranged $330,000 for me. The money was brought in a ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bag to the prison. I showed Ajudua the money and he said he will assign one Jonathan to assist us in counting the money. The money was counted in the presence of Oluronke, the prison officer (ACP Garuba).”
Mr. Bamaiyi maintained that after counting the money, Oluronke carried the bag and that Mr. Ajudua saw them off to the gate.
“That evening, Ajudua told me that the defendant (Oluronke) called and confirmed delivering the said money to Justice Oyewole and same had been taken to Chief Babalola. I never met her again until December 19, 2013 at the Lagos office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).When I did not hear from Chief Babalola after a while, by this time Ajudua had travelled to India, I suspected that something was wrong.”
He said he later reported the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC]. It was on the strength of the investigation by the EFCC that Messrs Ajudua and Oluronke were arrested and arraigned in court.