By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Chief Judge of the Abuja High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello has directed that one of the two judges handling two separate trials of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki should hands off the case.
Before now, Justice Baba Yusuf of Court No 4 and Justice Peter Affen of Court No 24 of the high court were trying Dasuki on two separate but related charges. The two charges involved alleged $2.1 billion fraud, money laundering and breach of trust.
By the directive, Justice Affen will hands off the case leaving only Justice Yusuf to handle the two charges.
The decision to allow only one judge to handle the two trials was at the instance of the parties.
The Chief Judge directed that the charges handled by Justice Affen be immediately transferred to Justice Yusuf.
The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN, who confirmed this development, said it was the result of several hours of negotiation among the parties.
Jacobs told newsmen at the court that the lawyers in the matter were worried over the delay the trial had suffered since last year when it was initiated by the federal government through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The prosecution counsel explained that Justice Affen had already been directed to step aside from the trial so that only one judge would take full charge.
He however hinted that the issue of merging the two charges into one as demanded by the ex-NSA would no longer arise having been overtaken by the new step taken in the matter adding that the two charges would be tried separately.
However, the position of the defence is that the two charges be merged into one.
At the resumption of the trial later yesterday, Justice Baba Yusuf agreed to the streamlining of the trial in one court as directed by the Chief Judge.
The judge therefore fixed November 16 for the resumption of the case at the instance of the counsel involved in the trial.
In one of the two sets of charges, Dasuki was charged along with five others before Justice Peter Affen on 22-count charges.
Others who were charged before the judge along with the former NSA with respect to charges of diversion of funds include a former Director of Finance in the Office of the NSA, Shuaibu Salisu; a former minister of state (finance) Bashir Yuguda; a former Sokoto Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, the ex-governor’s son, Sagir Attahiru, and a firm, Dalhatu Investment.
But in a motion brought pursuant to Sections 6 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution and Sections 1, 208, 396, 491 and 492 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, Dasuki had claimed that the two charges against him and others revolved around the same set of transaction and facts on the alleged funds misappropriation and the breach of trust.
He claimed that the two charges with NO FCT/HC/CR/43/2015 and another one with FCT/HC/CR/42/2015 pending before Justice Baba Yusuf of the High Court No 4 and Justice Peter Affen of High Court No 24 are identical charges emanating from the Office of the National Security Adviser and as such must be consolidated.
The applicant further claimed that to stand trial before two different courts and two different judges on the same set of facts and purported transaction of the office of the NSA would be prejudicial and great hardship against him as he stands the risk of double jeopardy having being charged in two different courts on the issue.