Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), has told a federal high court in Abuja that he is being punished by some persons at the highest level of power in the country for perceived grievances they had held against him while in active military service many years ago.
Dasuki, who did not name any particular person, said the punishment being meted out to him was unfortunate having being borne out of mere vendetta.
In an emotionally laden submission, while reacting to the government’s request for his secret trial, Dasuki, who spoke through his counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), told the court that he had rested his case in God for the ultimate judgment.
“It is crystal clear that the defendant (Dasuki) is being punished by the powers that be for the perceived offences committed long before… we leave them to the Almighty God for his ultimate judgment,” he said.
Dasuki had been arraigned before three different high courts for various allegations and was granted bail but was rearrested in December last year by the federal government and has since been held incommunicado.
At the resumed trial yesterday, the federal government approached the court seeking a secret trial for Dasuki who is facing charges of unlawful possession of firearms, money laundering and breach of trust.
In the fresh motion argued by the prosecuting counsel, Chief Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), government prayed the court to allow witnesses give evidence behind the screen to be provided by the court.
He held that the request hinged on the fact that Dasuki, as a former top security chief, has large loyalists across the country who might jeopardise the trial if done in the open.
He further submitted that Dasuki had in the recent past held the highest security office in the country and has loyalists in security circles whose loyalty has been transferred to personality and whose actions might be inimical to prosecution witnesses some of whom are still in the service.
Okpeseyi cited the case of the government witness who was involved in a serious accident, resulting in multiple fractures and injuries, but added that inasmuch as he was not inferring that Dasuki had a hand in the accident, it heightened the need for the court to protect the witnesses.
He further submitted that in the highest military office where Dasuki had last served, loyalty came first, second and was the last rule, and because of the peculiar nature of loyalty some persons have for him within the military and beyond, those to give evidence in the trial were at one time or the other, staff of the defendant.
He stressed that since the witnesses are those of the court, whose primary duty was to assist the court arrive at a just conclusion, the issue of security must be viewed with serious concern.
He urged Justice Adeniyi Ademola to screen the witnesses from the public in the interest of justice, and to protect them, their families and career.
But counsel to Dasuki vehemently opposed the request for the secret trial of the former NSA.
Daudu argued that it would breach the principle of fair trial, adding that contrary to the position of the government, Dasuki could not be a threat to the witnesses as he had been in the custody of the federal government since December last year.
Daudu held the view that an open trial was the minimum requirement in a criminal trial and as such, any attempt to opt for a secret trial in the instant case, which was not a capital offence, would run contrary to Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution on fail trials.
The defence counsel therefore asked the court to discountenance the claim made by the prosecution on the issue of loyalty in military circles, stressing that such claims were speculative and not backed up by fact.
On the accident of the witness, Daudu told the court that the accident could not have been caused by Dasuki, who had been in the government custody for almost a year.
He said that the alleged accident had no bearing with the request for a secret trial.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss the application for a secret trial, as such would trample on the rights of the defendant to a fair trial.
Justice Ademola after taking the argument of both parties, fixed ruling and continuation of the trial for September 13, 14 and 15.