Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (rtd), a former Chief of Army Staff on Wednesday told an Ikeja High Court that a former Chief Judge of Lagos, Mr Augustine Ade-Alabi (served from 2004-2009), had demanded a bribe of N10million to secure his bail from the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons.
Gen Bamaiyi was on trial with other military officers, including Major Hamza Al Mustapha, Col Yakubu, CSP Mohammed Rabo Lawal, former Lagos Police Commissioner, and Mr James Dambaba for the attempted murder of The Guardian Newspapers Publisher, the late Alex Ibru.
Their trial lasted more than 14 years as they used every legal and illegal means to thwart, or delay their trials. One of such tactics was the accusation of the then trial judge, Justice Ade-Alabi, of demanding a $10 million bribe from them.
Things got to a head sometimes in 2005 when Gen Bamaiyi in open court accused the judge of demanding the bribe. Justice Ade-Alabi had to adjourn sine die to allow the National Judicial Council to investigate the allegations. The NJC set up a panel led by Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin, a retired Supreme Court Justice. The legal counsel to Justice Ade-Alabi before the panel was Chief Afe Babaola SAN.
As this was going on, a daily newspaper, Daily Times reported a story credited to Bamaiyi’s lawyer, Mr Mike Okoye, claiming that Justice Ade-Alabi actually demanded for the $10 million bribe.
The claim of Okoye caused a lot of ripples in judicial circles and the then Attorney General of Lagos State, Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN(now Vice President of Nigeria) decided to prosecute him. The late Mr Bankole Aluko SAN, was expected to handle the prosecution but he died suddenly before the case could commence.
Okoye met with Osinbajo to repudiate the newspaper report. He claimed that he made the statement to journalists he invited into his home as friends and never new it would be reported. He further claimed to be under the influence of alcohol when he made the statement. He therefore pleaded with Osinbajo not to prosecute him.
Osinbajo, seeing the whole of bribery issue as diversionary, gave Okoye two conditions to avoid prosecution. Firstly, he must come before the court to make an open apology. Secondly he must publish the apology in five national newspapers. Okoye agreed to the conditions and came before the court to repudiate the statement and tendered an apology.
Despite all these, the matter still came up before Justice Bode Rhodes Vivour (now JSC), where Okoye tendered an open apology. But the late Chief FRA Williams SAN, serving as an amicus curae to the court insisted that Okoye must at least take a plea and be properly prosecuted for lying against a judge.
Osinbajo, represented by the then Solicitor General, Mr Fola Arthur -Worrey told the court that the Attorney General no longer wish to continue with the case. Justice Rhodes Vivour thereafter dismissed the case against Okoye, based on the nolle prosequi entered my the Attorney General.
Meanwhile the Babalakin panel after investigating the bribery allegation threw out the allegations and dismissed the case.
Justice Ade-Alabi thereafter handed off the case by returning the casefile to the office of the Chief Judge for reassignment. The Chief Judge, Justice Sotuminu thereafter handed over the case to Justice Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole (now Justice of the Court of Appeal).
Despite all these, Gen Bamaiyi came before an Ikeja High Court on Wednesday to say that Justice Ade-Alabi demanded bribe from him and his co defendants. Only that this time, the amount has shifted from $10 million to N10 million.
Bamaiyi made the allegation while being cross-examined by Mr 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 $8.4million 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 Mr Alex Ibru, the former 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 Mr Popoola Martins had been sent by Ade-Alabi to the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons where he had been incarcerated to solicit for the bribe.
“Justice Ade-Alabi sent one Mr Martins to not only me but all the defendants to tell us to pay N10million.
“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,” he said.
Bamaiyi said that 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.
“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,” Bamaiyi said.
He 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 to help secure his release from prison.
He alleged that the 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 Chief Afe Babalola’s services.
He said that though he never received a written acknowledgement of the receipt of the funds from the defendant, he always got an oral acknowledgement from Ajudua.
“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 won 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 that funds given by inmates to their lawyers were not recorded by prison officers due to the personal nature of the transaction.
“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.