Court Rejects Application to Shield Witnesses in Dasuki’s Trial over Arms

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Toby Soniyi in Abuja

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has rejected the application by the Federal Government to partial-try the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Muhammad Sambo Dasuki (rtd) in secret.

However, the court also refused to discharge Dasuki over recent refusal of ‎government to allow him enjoy the bail granted him by the courts. The court said he should have initiated contempt against government.

Dasuki was charged with unlawful possession of firearm and money laundering in September 2015.

The court said that there was no point for the witnesses to be called to testify in the case against Dasuki to wear masks and bear pseudo names and addresses so as to facilitate their protection.

Delivering ruling in an application for secret trial of former NSA, Justice Adeniyi Ademola held that the federal government had in the charge against Dasuki listed the names and addresses of 11 witnesses to be called to testify against him and made same available to the general public and as such there was no basis for any hide and seek game in Dasuki’s trial.

Justice Ademola in the ruling that lasted over one hour, rejected the plea by government that Dasuki’s trial be held in privacy and that only lawyers and accredited journalists be allowed during the trial.

Justice Ademola said that there was no basis to grant the request of government to make the witnesses wear special mask, bear pseudo names and addresses because the charges against Dasuki were not terrorism charges and that there was no information that the life of any of the witnesses billed to be called was being threatened by anybody or group.

The court held that although, it has the discretion to look into such issues of protection of witnesses in a criminal matter but that such discretion must be judicially and judiciously used only in cases where threat to life had been established by the prosecution.

In the instance case, Justice Ademola said that government failed to establish any fact that life of its witnesses was being threatened and as such no court of law would accede to such requests without established reason.

The judge had earlier ordered the Federal Government and its agents the Department of States Security Service (DSS) to henceforth allow Dasuki have access to his lawyers and family members in the interest of justice and the rule of law.

Justice Ademola issued the order following complains by counsel to Dasuki, Mr. Ahmed Raji SAN that his client was being held incommunicado since December 2015.

The judge who was not comfortable with the complaints of Dasuki’s lawyer gave a ruling in which he ordered that Tuesdays and Thursdays be set aside for Dasuki to have free access to his lawyers and family members for at least two hours of the day.

The court ordered that the meeting of Dasuki with his lawyers and family members should take place at the Interview Room of DSS Headquarters and the Federal High Court premises in Abuja unhindered. In the order, the judge granted the defendant access to four lawyers and two members of the family on the dates and venue chosen by the court.

Raji had complained that his team could not prepare adequate defence for Dasuki in the charges of unlawful possession of firearms brought against him by the Federal Government because the DSS had rebuffed all efforts to see the client.

The counsel told the judge that the uncooperative attitudes of the DSS got to the peak recently when 95-year-old father of Dasuki and former Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki along with other family members were denied access to their son in custody.

The counsel also informed the court that the action of the security agents would hinder effective and adequate defence in the charges against the defendant unless the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution is allowed to prevail.

Justice Ademola after issuing the order, which he said must be complied with by the Federal Government adjourned the trial of the former NSA till May 18-19, 2016 at the instance of lawyers in the matters.

In another development, the judge also refused to discharge Dasuki and prohibit the federal government from prosecuting him on the ground of the refusal to allow him enjoy the bail granted him.

Justice Ademola said in his ruling that Dasuki ought to have filed contempt charge against the federal government for the disobedience to lawful court orders made last year admitting him to bail and permitting him to go abroad for his medical check-up.

The court said that since due process was not followed by a way of contempt charge, there was no way the court would have discharged the defendant and prohibit his trial by the federal government.