Six officers of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) who were aides to a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, killed in December 2018, have been jailed by a General Court-Martial for failing to protect him.
Ibikunle Daramola, the NAF Director of Public Relations, in a press statement on Saturday, said the judgment was given on Thursday although the details of the jail terms for the convicts were not stated.
“Six Nigerian Air Force (NAF) personnel, who were aides to the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), late Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, were today, 29 May 2020, awarded various sentences by the General Court Martial (GCM) sitting at the NAF Base, Bill Clinton Drive, Abuja,” Daramola said.
The convicts are Squadron Leader Tom Gwani, Flight Sergeant Amu David, Flight Sergeant Philemon Degema, Flight Sergeant Sabo Simon, Sergeant Mukhtar Abdullahi, and Sergeant Alfred Alexander.
Four of them were assigned to provide armed escort to Badeh and two were detailed to protect his house on the day he was ambushed and shot by gunmen along Gitata-Keffi Highway, Nasarawa Stateas he returned from his farm.
The President of the Court-Martial, Air Commodore David Aluku, found the six guilty of failing to perform military duties, fleeing from the convoy as it came under attack, giving false statements, and conducting themselves in a way that was prejudicial to service discipline.
“The charges against the accused also included other Civil Offences of Criminal Conspiracy and Miscellaneous Offences Relating to Property, for illegally disposing of 79 rounds of 5.56mm live ammunition issued for the protection of the late CDS, among others,” the statement read.
It added: “On the count of Aiding and Abetting, two of the personnel were found not guilty, while the other four staff who were detailed to provide armed escort, handed various sentences.
“While pleading in mitigation, the Defence Counsel urged the Court to show leniency, describing the accused persons as first-time offenders. The sentences were announced as being subject to confirmation by the Appropriate Superior.”
A report had quoted one of those arrested for Badeh’s murder, Shuaibu Rabo, had said in December 2018 that they had planned to rob him of money meant for the purchase of land based on a tip-off.
“One day, Yaya went to Gitata market and met Ciroma who gave him a hint that the retired general (Badeh) had bought new farmland and he was bringing the money on a particular day,” the suspect said.
“We blocked the road. And some of us were trailing his car. When he reached us, he [Badeh] did not show any intention of turning back. He acted as if he was going to knock Ciroma down. When Ciroma realised that, he jumped off the road and opened fire on him.”
Rabo said a bag containing local currency was picked from the car during the attack. Badeh’s family, however, refuted this claim and described the alleged confession an attempt to deceive the public.
“We as a family, believe that some people responsible for his death want to deceive the public by hiding the facts of what happened, how it happened and those responsible,” a family member told the press.
“I want to emphatically tell you here that contrary to the claim that he went to his farm on the fateful day with a huge amount of money to buy additional farmland, there was nothing like that.
“In fact, he had no money on him that day, not even N500 in the vehicle. As I told you, no money, I repeat, no money was in that vehicle. Not even N500 was in that vehicle on that day he was killed.
“Before his death, a villager who knew he was on the farm that day went to meet him to get money to buy paracetamol tablet for his headache he could not afford the money for him. Instead, he asked the person if he could go to Panda Market.”
In July 2019, a joint investigative panel had paraded 15 suspects for the murder of the former military officer.