The federal government on Tuesday failed to produce former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja for trial on corruption charges brought against him by the government.
Although the witnesses in the case were assembled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in court, the trial was scuttled by the failure of the Department of State Services (DSS) to release Dasuki to EFCC for the trial.
When the case came up yesterday, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Oluwaleke Atolagbe, informed Justice Baba Yusuf that he had made serious efforts through the EFCC to contact the DSS to produce the first defendant in court and regretted that as at the time the court was sitting his efforts did not yield fruitful result.
The counsel informed the court that there was no indication that the former NSA would be brought to court for the trial even though the witnesses are in court and that Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) who was supposed to be the lead prosecution counsel was at the Court of Appeal for a different matter.
Atolagbe appealed that the matter be stood down pending the arrival of Jacobs in court to come and shed more light on the absence of Dasuki.
However, counsel to Salisu Shuaib, a former Director of Finance ONSA, Chief Akin Olujimi, said the coming into court of Jacobs would be inconsequential in the absence of the first defendant (Dasuki).
Olujimi, a former Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, told the court that the prosecution had failed to produce the defendant in court and ought to admit that and asked for adjournment.
The SAN informed Justice Yusuf that it was settled in law that trial cannot go ahead in the absence of the defendant and prayed the judge to grant adjournment to the prosecution to enable them take steps to produce Dasuki in court on the adjourned date.
Olujimi also asked the court to issue a stern warning to the prosecution to be serious in the trial and to ensure that Dasuki is produced in court at all stages of the trial as demanded by law.
In his submission, counsel to Aminu Baba-Kusa, a former executive with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Solomon Umor, informed Justice Yusuf that “ordinarily the prosecution ought to apply for a bench warrant against Dasuki for a failure to appear in court for trial but noted that in the instance case, the prosecution would not do so because they are the one responsible for the absence of Dasuki because of his unwarranted detention.
“Let the truth be told here that it is the federal government that is frustrating this trial because it wants to eat its cake and have it at the same time. By this, I mean the government wanted the first defendant tried for criminal matter and yet it is not ready to allow the defendant have access to his lawyers or even to court to face that trial.
“I would have asked that the defendants in this case be discharged and allow to go home pending the time the prosecution would get serious for their trial. But I will reluctantly concede to one more adjournment be granted to the prosecution.
“Let me say that this adjournment should go with stern warning to the prosecution should not come before this court with another story because the defendants must not be held to ransom by the unwilling prosecution.”
In his ruling, Justice Baba Yusuf said it was the responsibility of the prosecution to produce the defendant in court as required by law but regretted that the prosecution has unfortunately abdicated this responsibility today as far as this case is concerned. However, the judge said because the conduct of the prosecution had been good in the past, he granted an adjournment of the trial till May 23, 2016.