The federal high court in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed the federal government application that sought a secret trial of former National Security Adviser, Colonel Muhammad Sambo Dasuki (rtd) for unlawful possession of firearm and money laundering charges filed against him in September 2015. Trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola said the plaintiff prayers requiring the prosecution witnesses to wear masks and bear pseudo names and addresses were not necessary as the court has devised a means to shield witnesses from public view. Ruling on the application, Justice Ademola held that the federal government had in the charge against Dasuki listed the names and addresses of 11 witnesses to be called to testify against him and made same available to the general public and as such there was no basis for any hide and seek game in Dasuki’s trial.
The judge rejected the plea by government that Dasuki’s trial be held in secret and out of the public view except for the lawyers involved in the trial and accredited Journalists. Justice Ademola said that there was no basis to grant the request of government to make the witnesses wear special mask, bear pseudo names and addresses because the charges against him was not terrorism charges and that there was no information that the life of any of the witnesses billed to be called was being threatened by anybody or group. The Judge said although, he has discretion to look into such issues of protection of witnesses in a criminal matter but that such discretions must be judicially and judiciously used only in cases where threat to life has been established by the prosecution.
In the instance case, Justice Ademola said that government failed to establish any fact that life of its witnesses was being threatened and as such no court of law would accede to such requests without established reason. The Judge had earlier ordered the Federal Government and its agents, the Department of States Security Service (DSS), to henceforth allow the detained former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki have access to his lawyers and family members in the interest of justice and the rule of law. Justice Adeniyi Ademola issued the order following complains by counsel to Dasuki, Mr. Ahmed Raji SAN that his client was being held incommunicado since December 2015.
The judge, who was not comfortable with the complaints of Dasuki’s lawyer, gave a ruling in which he set aside Tuesdays and Thursdays as days Dasuki should be given free access to his lawyers and family members for at least two hours. The court ordered that the meeting of Dasuki with his lawyers and family members should take place at the Interview Room of DSS Headquarters and the Federal High Court premises in Abuja unhindered. In the order, the judge granted the defendant access to four lawyers and two members of the family on the dates and venue chosen by the court. Raji had complained that his team could not prepare adequate defence for Dasuki in the charges of unlawful possession of firearms brought against him by the Federal Government because the DSS has rebuffed all efforts to see the client.
The counsel told the judge that the uncooperative attitudes of the DSS got to the peak recently when 95-year-old father of Dasuki and former Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki along with other family members were denied access to their son in custody. The counsel also informed the court that the action of the security agent would hinder effective and adequate defence in the charges against the defendant unless the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution is allowed to prevail. Justice Ademola after issuing the order, which he said must be complied with by the Federal Government adjourned the trial of the former NSA till May 18, 2016 at the instance of lawyers in the matters.
In another development, the judge also refused to discharge Dasuki and prohibit the federal government from prosecuting him on the ground of the refusal to allow him enjoy the bail granted him. Justice Ademola said in his ruling that Dasuki ought to have filed contempt charge against the federal government for the disobedience to lawful court orders made last year admitting him to bail and permitting him to go abroad for his medical check-up. The court said that since due process was not followed by a way of contempt charge, there was no way the court would have discharged the defendant and prohibit his trial by the federal government.