Alex Enumah in Abuja
For the second time, the federal government has applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja for the protection of witnesses that will testify against the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who is facing charges for the unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering.
The fresh application was made by Chief Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), who was recently engaged by the federal government to lead the prosecution.
The motion dated January 23 and filed on January 24 insisted that the witnesses must be given protection by the court by not allowing their names and addresses to be made public in the course of the trial.
But in a strong opposition to the fresh request, Dasuki’s counsel asked the court to dismiss the government’s application on the grounds that it lacked merit and constituted a gross abuse of court process.
The former NSA, in a counter affidavit filed by his lead counsel Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), argued that there was no justification for the federal government to have brought the motion for a secret trial for the second time, having lost in the first motion.
The defendant insisted that the government had of its own volition published the charges against him on the internet, where the names, addresses and designations of the witnesses were conspicuously put at the disposal of the general public.
Besides, Dasuki maintained that when the first application argued by the then Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF), Mr. Mohamed Diri, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the same court, in a landmark ruling, dismissed the request on the grounds that the witnesses were already known by the public, having published their names through the internet.
He further said that bringing the same motion to the same court constituted a gross abuse of court process and that what the prosecution ought to have done if it was not satisfied with the decision of Justice Ademola, was to have gone to the Court of Appeal to ventilate its anger.
Dasuki who attached a copy of the earlier court ruling on the application urged the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed, not to allow the fresh motion for a secret trial to be entertained because it would violate his right to fair trial and will run contrary to the principles of the rule of law and natural justice.
When the motion came up yesterday, Opeseyi could not move the motion on the grounds that the defence had just served him a voluminous counter affidavit objecting to the motion.
The prosecution counsel told Justice Mohammed that so many fundamental issues were raised in the counter affidavit and that a plethora of authorities were also cited in the counter affidavit.
He therefore applied for an adjournment to enable him study the counter affidavit and respond to it appropriately.
The defence did not object to the request for the adjournment, but clarified that the fresh motion for a secret trial was served on the defendant last Thursday, hence their counter affidavit prepared over the weekend was served yesterday, within the time allowed by law.
Justice Mohammed fixed hearing for the motion for March 1.
The federal government through the Department of the State Service (DSS) had in 2015 slammed a two-count charge of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering against Dasuki.
But the trial suffered a setback last year when Justice Ademola withdrew from the trial, following his arrest by the DSS on allegations of corruption.
The withdrawal of Justice Ademola from the trial prompted the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court Justice Ibrahim Auta to transfer the case to the present judge.
The former NSA, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was admitted to bail by Justice Ademola in 2015, but has not been released by the DSS to date.