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Sat Jun 25 14:19:16 SAST 2016

Nigeria's former defence chief charged with graft

AFP | 07 March, 2016 13:36
One of the charges states that he removed 1.4 billion naira from the air force accounts to purchase a mansion in the upmarket Maitama district of the capital. File photo
Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

A Nigerian court charged a former chief of defence staff with a string of corruption charges, in the latest case involving a high-ranking official.

Retired air chief marshal Alex Badeh was arrested last month and questioned about the alleged diversion of 3.97 billion naira ($19.7 million, 17.9 million euros) from the Nigeria Air Force in 2013.

The 59-year-old, who at the time was chief of air staff, was formally arraigned with 10 counts of fraud, criminal breach of trust and money laundering at a federal high court in Abuja on Monday.

One of the charges states that he removed 1.4 billion naira from the air force accounts to purchase a mansion in the upmarket Maitama district of the capital.

Judge Okon Abang remanded Badeh in custody until a bail application on Thursday.

Former president Goodluck Jonathan appointed Badeh chief of defence staff in January 2014 at a time of growing dissatisfaction at the military's handling of Boko Haram's insurgency.

Badeh vowed a swift end to the conflict, which began in 2009, but his time in office saw the Islamist militants run riot in three northeast states, seizing swathes of territory.

The military appeared in disarray, with troops complaining about a lack of weapons and even bullets to fight the better armed rebels, leading some soldiers to refuse to deploy.

Former national security advisor Sambo Dasuki is currently facing a separate trial over his alleged diversion of billions of dollars for weapons procurement using bogus defence contracts.

Badeh's time in charge also saw Boko Haram's abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in April 2014, which caused worldwide anger and criticism of the government response.

In May that year he disclosed the military knew where the 219 girls were but that a rescue mission was dangerous. Nearly two years on, none of the teenagers has been found.

Nigeria's current President Muhammadu Buhari, whose anti-corruption campaign has seen several prominent politicians and officials arrested, sacked Badeh and his entire military high command in July last year.

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