Air Force of­fi­cer de­tained for 196 days, court-mar­tialed thrice cries for jus­tice

Sunday Trust - - NEWS FEATURE - By Nu­rud­deen M. Ab­dal­lah, Ruby Leo & John Chuks Azu

When Group Cap­tain John J. Ijudi­gal, then Deputy Direc­tor of Sports of the Nige­rian Air Force Head­quar­ters, sourced for funds to en­sure that the Nige­rian Air Force Foot­ball Club (NAF FC)’s par­tic­i­pa­tion at the Nige­rian na­tional league of 2014/25, he had no pre­mo­ni­tion that his pa­tri­otic act will lead to his end­less per­se­cu­tion.

In­stead of com­men­da­tions, Ijudi­gal was in­stead queried, re­moved from his po­si­tion, de­tained for 196 days, de­nied per­mit to at­tend his father’s fu­neral, and court mar­tial thrice, ac­cord­ing to Daily Trust on Sun­day’s anal­y­sis of of­fi­cial doc­u­ments.

Group Cap­tain Ijudi­gal was the Deputy Direc­tor (DD) Sports at the NAF Head­quar­ters, be­tween 2011 and 2016. His du­ties were to run the Nige­rian Air Force Foot­ball Club (NAF FC) which par­tic­i­pates in the Nige­ria Na­tional League.

The league which com­mences be­tween Jan­uary to March, also in­volves that the NAF FC would have to go into camp to screen both ser­vice and civil­ian play­ers dur­ing the pre-sea­son train­ing in Oc­to­ber.

Of­fi­cial doc­u­ments avail­able to Daily Trust on Sun­day re­vealed that be­fore the com­mence­ment of the 2014/2015 sea­son, the past Chief of Air Staff (CAS) ap­proved N23, 315,700 to NAF FC for the 2014/2015 league sea­son in De­cem­ber 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to NAF of­fi­cial records, the funds were re­leased in quar­ters, in 2015, N5,828,925 was re­leased for the first and sec­ond quar­ters, to­tal­ing N11,657,850:00.

But the DD Sports had to source for funds be­cause in spite of the ap­proval, no funds were re­leased be­fore the pre-sea­son train­ing kicked off in Oc­to­ber 2014. The funds were re­leased in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

“These funds were to buy balls, pro­vide first aid ma­te­ri­als, fu­elling and ser­vic­ing of the bus, med­i­cals for the team, re­fresh­ments, lo­gis­tics and pay civil­ian per­son­nel dur­ing this pe­riod,” Ijudi­gal stated in doc­u­ments made avail­able to Daily Trust on Sun­day.

Af­ter the two re­leases of N5,828,925 each, as the third re­lease was about to be made in July 2015, there was a change in ser­vice lead­er­ship and the in­cum­bent Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Mar­shal Sadique Abubakar took over.

The CAS stopped all pend­ing ap­provals by the past CAS and asked that they be rep­re­sented to him, which made the then Chief of Ad­min­is­tra­tion(COA) AVM Mamu to re­quest for the third quar­ter NAF FC funds, for which the new CAS ap­proved N5mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to Ijudi­gal in the state­ments, the CAS di­rected that the NAF FC funds be paid to AVM Mamu, in­stead of the 106 HQ NAF Camp, which was the rou­tine.

There­after, the Direc­tor of Air Po­lice sum­moned the DD Sports Ijudi­gal and asked why the re­quest for the NAF FC funds for the third quar­ter was made.

The air po­lice direc­tor in­formed Ijudi­gal that he would in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter since there was no need for the re­lease of funds since the time for the re­lease had passed.

When AVM Mamu heard of the devel­op­ment, he sent for the Direc­tor of Air Po­lice, Air Com­modore CD Dola, the Direc­tor of Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Air Com­modore Oladega, and the DD Sports Ijudi­gal and told them that the funds were with him and asked them not to raise any is­sues con­cern­ing the third quar­ter NAF FC funds.

In 2016, AVM Mamu was changed as the COA, the DD sports was asked to be in­ves­ti­gated by CAS.

Ijudi­gal ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, off the records, ac­counted for N11,450,000 with­out any sup­port­ing ma­te­ri­als, but de­spite that he was slated for a “Sum­mary of Ev­i­dence,” an ac­tion taken prepara­tory to a court mar­tial.

Dur­ing the pro­ceed­ing, Ijudi­gal said he was able to ac­count for more than what was re­leased for the two quar­ters. “I spent N11, 908,500 as against the N11, 656,000 that was re­leased,” the em­bat­tled of­fi­cer said in one of the of­fi­cial records. Of­fi­cial records showed that dur­ing the trial, the pros­e­cu­tion said that there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to go on trial, and if one must be con­vened all ma­te­ri­als must be as­sem­bled. But this wasn’t done

He was asked again by the CAS to or­ga­nize some in­ter unit sports com­pe­ti­tion.

The event was a tug of war pull be­tween air­women, and a foot­ball match for air­men, but no fund­ing was al­lo­cated for the event, so the of­fi­cer had to look for the funds.

But when Ijudi­gal re­quested for a re­fund for this event, he was in­stead queried by Air Com­modore Oladega on the or­ders of AVM Jekennu, re­lieved of his ap­point­ment and posted to the106 HQ Nige­rian Air Force Camp for ju­ris­dic­tion.

Ijudi­gal stated that a board of In­quiry, based on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Dola, was sup­posed to be con­ducted but in­stead a Sum­mary of Ev­i­dence took place.

The com­man­der of the 106 HQ Nige­rian Air Force Camp, Air Com­modore K. Aliyu passed the sum­mary of ev­i­dence re­port to HQ Nige­rian Air Force the next day as against the stan­dard pro­ce­dure of treat­ing it as pre­scribed by the Man­ual of Air Force Law, ac­cord­ing to Ijudi­gal.

Sub­se­quently, Group Cap­tain Ijudi­gal was posted to the Train­ing Com­mand in Kaduna for an­other ju­ris­dic­tion even though the term “post­ing for ju­ris­dic­tion” isn’t in any of the ser­vice books.

Of­fi­cial doc­u­ments re­vealed fur­ther that while in Kaduna, Ijudi­gal was placed on ar­rest for 75 days and wasn’t taken on the nom­i­nal roll, mean­ing he wasn’t posted to any unit de­spite his rank as a se­nior of­fi­cer.

Ijudi­gal wrote to Com­mand to be taken on the nom­i­nal roll but he re­ceived no re­ply, but rather the same unit which re­fused to take him on strength, went ahead to set up two court mar­tials to try the of­fi­cer.

Dur­ing this process, Ijudi­gal was first housed at the Of­fi­cers Mess and later had to pay for his stay at the mess be­cause there was no ac­com­mo­da­tion for him.

All of­fi­cers of train­ing com­mand are ac­com­mo­dated at Dala Road, but Ijudi­gal was placed at the Base at the Tran­sit Quar­ters, which isn’t where train­ing com­mand of­fi­cers were ac­com­mo­dated.

The of­fi­cer said in one of the doc­u­ments re­viewed that while he was in train­ing com­mand, all reg­u­la­tions as re­gards trial as re­flected in the Man­ual of Air Force law were dis­re­garded.

“One of such was that a court mar­tial ought to be as­sem­bled be­fore the 75 days but this wasn’t done,” he said.

The first court mar­tial as­sem­bled for Ijudi­gal’s trial was presided by Air Com­modore Etukudo, while the sec­ond one had Air Com­modore Jemi­tola as pres­i­dent.

Of­fi­cial records showed that dur­ing the trial, the pros­e­cu­tion said that there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to go on trial, and if one must be con­vened all ma­te­ri­als must be as­sem­bled. But this wasn’t done.

“In­stead a di­rec­tive came out that all tri­als should be com­pleted not later than 15 June, 2016 but noth­ing was done on my is­sue,” the of­fi­cer said.

Dur­ing this pe­riod, Ijudi­gal’s father, re­tired Jus­tice John Ji­lan­tikiri, died, and he ap­plied for com­pas­sion­ate pass to at­tend the burial. But the Air Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing, AVM NA Ba­lo­gun, in­stead di­rected that Ijudi­gal be placed on a six-hourly re­port­ing pe­riod which lasted for 123 days.

Find­ings re­vealed that Air Com­modore Dola who started the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, was to also later come in as a wit­ness, and in the course of in­ves­ti­ga­tion said that CAS had or­dered him to seize Ijudi­gal’s Mer­cedes Benz C300 which he said were part of re­cov­ery ef­forts.

Of­fi­cial doc­u­ments show that Group Cap­tain Ijudi­gal was on ar­rest for over 196 days un­der the lead­er­ship of AVM Ba­lo­gun.

The Direc­torate of Le­gal Ser­vices sent a sig­nal on the stop­page of post­ing for ju­ris­dic­tion but this was dis­re­garded for Ijudi­gal and he was on such a post­ing for nine months.

Later in July 2017, the Chief of Ad­min­is­tra­tion AVM Lawal Alao sent a let­ter to HQ TC in­form­ing them that Ijudi­gal’s post­ing was in er­ror and he should be re­turned to Abuja.

“Just be­fore I re­turned to Abuja, I wrote a Let­ter for Re­dress to CAS, but I never got any re­sponse or au­di­ence to that ef­fect,” he lamented.

Though Ijudi­gal’s re­turn to Abuja was through an RTU sig­nal, which meant a re­turn to unit, he was de­ployed to the Base Gym, to serve un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a Mas­ter War­rant Of­fi­cer, who ad­di­tion­ally re­ports to the CO BSW, who is a wing com­man­der.

Shortly af­ter his re­turn to Abuja, an­other sig­nal for his court mar­tial to be headed by Air Com­modore Salami, was again con­vened.

This brings the to­tal court mar­tial to three, from Oc­to­ber, 2015 to Fe­bru­ary, 2018. This is com­ing even though the two ear­lier court mar­tials in Kaduna have not been wound down.

“The NAF head­quar­ters never both­ered to find out what hap­pened to the third quar­ter re­lease, which is the source of the or­deal,” Ijudi­gal said in one of the records.

The charge at the Kaduna court mar­tial was on a eight counts, and Ijudi­gal was di­rected to re­fund N7,788,130 by Air Com­modore Dola.

The charges, how­ever, have now been changed to four counts, and for to­tal mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of N4, 100,000 for the Abuja court mar­tial.

Though a sum­mary of ev­i­dence ought to be done for the fresh four counts, it was not done.

The pros­e­cu­tion at HQ TC and an­other re­port by Wing Com­man­der Fo­lashade Gbadebo in Abuja pointed out the flaws and added that au­di­tors and sup­ply ex­perts for an­other in­ves­ti­ga­tion be used to ver­ify it, it was dis­re­garded.

When Daily Trust on Sun­day con­tacted the Direc­tor of Pub­lic Re­la­tions and In­for­ma­tion, Nige­rian Air Force, Air Vice Mar­shal Ola­tokunbo Ade­sanya, he said the he couldn’t com­ment on the mat­ter since the mat­ter is in court.

In a What­sApp mes­sage, AVM Ade­sanya said, “The said se­nior of­fi­cer has been charged and is un­der­go­ing trial. As you are aware, since the mat­ter is sub-ju­dice, one can­not make com­ments on it un­til the ju­di­cial process is over. Thanks for con­tact­ing me to clar­ify.”

When our reporter pressed him to pro­vide what new charges Group Cap­tain Ijudi­gal was be­ing tried for, the NAF spokesper­son re­fused to com­ment.

Re­act­ing, a law lec­turer, An­thony Ag­bon­la­hor said the Court Mar­tial must com­ply with the pro­vi­sions of the Armed Forces Act.

He said the of­fi­cer is not cur­rently in de­ten­tion over the al­le­ga­tion against him, he should as­sem­ble all the ev­i­dence which he had sought to be used in the case, in­clud­ing the in­voices, re­ceipts and let­ters from the deal­ers to be ten­dered in his de­fence.

“If he feels that his rights are by any means be­ing tram­pled upon, he has the right to go to any court. He is a cit­i­zen of Nige­ria,” he said.

In the same vein, hu­man rights lawyer, Hamid Aji­bola Ji­moh ad­viced the of­fi­cer to in­sti­tute a civil suit against the Nige­rian Air Force for ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion, hav­ing been court mar­tialed thrice with­out be­ing found want­ing.

Chief of Air Staff, Air Mar­shal Sadique Abubakar

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