Court Orders Dasuki’s Trial in Absentia

Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd)

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday held that it would go ahead with the trial of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), whether he was present in court or not.

Dasuki, who is standing trial over allegations of illegal possession of firearms and money laundering, had last week vowed not to submit himself for trial any longer, following the refusal of the prosecutor to obey court orders regarding his bail.

In a letter presented to the court last Tuesday through his counsel, he specifically requested that he be allowed to stop submitting himself for trial until the federal government obeys court orders regarding his bail.

He cited five court orders, including one by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that had ordered his release but continued to be violated by the federal government. The letter personally signed by Dasuki, was titled: ‘Unabated persecution of Col. Mohammed Sambo (rtd) by the Federal Government of Nigeria’.

However, delivering ruling on the matter yesterday, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed, held that there were constitutional provisions that allow a criminal case to go on even if the defendant refuses to make himself available for trial.

Following the court’s refusal last week Tuesday of the oral application of the prosecution that the trial of Dasuki should go ahead in his absence, the prosecution yesterday approached the court with an affidavit accusing the defendant of willfully refusing to attend trial and hence the trial should continue without him.
Prosecution counsel, Dipo Opeseyi SAN, at the resumed trial yesterday informed the court of an affidavit dated November 19, 2018, seeking the prosecution of Dasuki in absentia.

Added to the affidavit is a letter of November 12 written to the court by Dasuki that he would no longer attend trial in court in protest of the federal government disobedience to several court judgment which ordered his release from
unlawful detention since December 2015.

In the affidavit deposed by a lawyer Abimbola Akintola, the federal government pleaded for the trial of Dasuki in absentia, and in the alternative, for the court to compel his presence before the court.

Opeseyi, while adopting the affidavit, claimed that it was filed in compliance with the order of the court on April 10, 2018, to the effect that whenever the ex-NSA chooses not to be in court, the prosecution must depose to an affidavit to the effect.

He argued that with Dasuki’s letter already before the court, it is clear that the ex-NSA has made up his minds not to attend the trial in the charges of unlawful possession of fire-arms brought against him by federal government.

Opeseyi submitted that Dasuki’s grouse was borne out of facts that arose from matters in different courts, and as such, his grievances ought to have been addressed to the affected courts.

However, Dasuki’s counsel, Victor Okwudili, opposed to the affidavit of the federal government on the grounds that the affidavit evidence was not competent in the eyes of the law to be entertained by the court.

Okwudili drew the court’s attention to the fact that the lawyer who deposed to and filed the affidavit did not affix his seal to the court process as required by Section 10 (Sub 1, 2, 3) of the rule of professional conducts for legal practitioners in Nigeria.

With the failure to affix the seal of authority, the counsel argued that no probate value should be attached to the affidavit. He, therefore, prayed the court to reject the affidavit and in the alternative to adjourn the matter for him to show the affidavit to Dasuki for his reaction in the interest of fair hearing.

However, in his ruling, Justice Mohammed agreed that the affidavit has no seal of authority, but however, said it was deposed to by a lawyer in the chamber of Opeseyi and that it contained only facts drawn from the letter of Dasuki where he declared not to attend the court again for trial.

He further said the defendant did not attack any of the facts in the affidavit hence, the resolve of the court to uphold it and then ordered that Dasuki be tried in absentia in compliance with 352 of ACJA.

He subsequently adjourned till December 11 for continuation of the trial with or without the defendant in court.