Lieutenant General Ishaya Bamaiyi (retd), a former Chief of Army Staff, on Wednesday told an Ikeja High Court that a former Chief Judge of Lagos, Augustine Ade-Alabi (2004-2009), demanded a bribe of N10 million to secure his bail from the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Bamaiyi made the allegation while being cross-examined by Olalekan Ojo (SAN), the defence counsel to Fred Ajudua.
Ajudua, a former Lagos socialite and alleged serial conman, is on trial for allegedly defrauding Bamaiyi in 2006 at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons of $8.4 million under the guise of providing the legal services of Chief Afe Babalola for the retired General’s defence.
Bamaiyi told the court that Ade-Alabi was the presiding judge during his trial for the alleged attempted murder of Alex Ibru, the late Publisher of the Guardian Newspaper.
He had purportedly demanded the bribe to grant Bamaiyi bail, which was consistently denied by the court.
He alleged that one Popoola Martins had been sent by Ade-Alabi to solicit for the bribe from him in Kirikiri Maximum Prisons, where he had been incarcerated.
He said: “Justice Ade-Alabi sent one Mr Martins to not only me but all the defendants to tell us to pay N10 million.
“Martins informed us that the court will adjourn for two weeks and it was so.
“That is why I believed what Martins said.
“Also Ade-Alabi was the judge handling my case.”
Bamaiyi said the National Judicial Council (NJC) had, based on the bribery allegations he had leveled against the former Lagos CJ, set up a panel to investigate the claims.
He, however, noted that Martins died under mysterious circumstances the evening before he could testify before the NJC.
He said: “The NJC report said my claims were baseless and false but that is not true because our witnesses were not allowed to testify and the main witness, Mr. Martins, was not allowed to make a statement.
“By the next adjourned date when Mr. Martins was to give evidence, we were told that he died in the night under circumstances we are not aware of.
“His (Martins) lawyer was with him in the night.
“By the time we were on our way to court, we were told that he had died.”
Bamiayi told the court that Ajudua, as part of a scheme to defraud him, had promised to approach Justices Ade-Alabi and Joseph Oyewole, who both presided over his court case, and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), the then Attorney-General of Lagos State, to help secure his release from prison.
He alleged that Ajudua had also enlisted the help of his wife to defraud him.
Bamaiyi said: “The defendant told me that he will take my case up to the CJ, Justice Ade-Alabi.
“He told me that he will send his wife, who is also a lawyer, to see Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the then Attorney-General of Lagos State now the Vice-President of Nigeria, to the benefit of all of us in the case.
“The defendant said his wife gave him feedback that both Justice Ade-Alabi and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo suggested that I look for a senior counsel who must not be a northerner.
“At that time, there was no way I could have rejected the suggestion that Chief Afe Babalola should defend me.
“The defendant was the one who made the suggestion and I could not refuse the offer that the best counsel in the country should defend me.
“I agreed and I was cornered into paying money unjustly.
“I even spoke to a fictitious Justice Oyewole on the phone.
“It was someone who claimed to be Justice Oyewole.”
Bamaiyi said that while he was imprisoned, he was part of five inmates regarded as “Special Inmates” by prison authorities and that their guests had to write applications to pay a visit.
He said that following an oral protest to the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons, the restrictions were lifted.
He also alleged some individuals visited the prison without registering in the Visitors Book.
The retired General told the court that he kept records of all the funds he gave Ajudua as legal fees for Babalola’s services.
He said though he never received a written acknowledgement of the receipt of the funds from the defendant, he always got an oral acknowledgement from Ajudua.
Bamaiyi said: “The defendant was always confirming receipt on the phone or when he visited the prison.
“There was never a transaction that he never confirmed receipt.
“I did not need any written confirmation because he always gave me oral acknowledgement.
“The defendant would not have given me anything in writing because of what he did.
“When someone wants to defraud you, he would not do so in writing.”
Bamaiyi also denied claims by the defence that the records of entries of the funds he allegedly gave Ajudua, which he wrote in a diary, are fabricated.
He noted that funds given by inmates to their lawyers were not recorded by prison officers due to the personal nature of the transaction.
He said: “I have not fabricated anything.
“All will be revealed as time goes on.
“I was recording events in the prison with the intention of writing a book.”
Justice Josephine Oyefeso adjourned the case until May 14 for continuation of cross-examination.
NAN reports that according to the prosecution, Ajudua was incarcerated in Kirikiri Maximum Prisons over alleged fraud.
He had, alongside some accomplices, allegedly approached Bamaiyi in 2004.
The defendant had allegedly convinced Bamaiyi that he could hire the legal services of Chief Babalola (SAN) to help secure his freedom from Kirikiri, with Ajudua allegedly fraudulently receiving $8.4 million as legal fees.
When the alleged fraud came to light, the law chambers of Afe Babalola and Co issued a disclaimer disassociating itself from the case.