A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted the Federal Government’s request to have its witnesses lined up against the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (retd) on charges of unlawful possession of firearms and money-laundering to give evidence behind a screen.
In dismissing Dasuki’s objections to the request, Justice Ahmed Mohammed said the screens are to be provided by the Federal High Court in Abuja, where the ex-NSA is to be prosecuted on the charges.
The judge, however, ruled that the witnesses would not be shielded from lawyers who would be in the court throughout the trial.
Justice Mohammed explained that the request for the witnesses to testify behind the screen was granted because part of the charges against Dasuki has to do with money-laundering.
Besides, the judge said section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 permitted the use of a screen when charges have to do with economic crimes as in the instant case.
The judge disagreed with Dasuki that the was similar application which was presented before the court in 2015 and rejected by the court.
He said that the fresh motion, argued by Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN) did not constitute abuse of court process because the prayers in the old and the fresh one were not the same.
The federal government, through Okpeseyi, had insisted that Dasuki, being a former military officer, former aide de camp to a former president, former NSA and a crown prince of Sokoto Caliphate was a potential threat to witnesses lined up to justify the charges against him.
The federal government had urged Justice Mohammed to allow use of a screen for the witnesses, in order to guarantee their safety, after their evidence in court.
Okpeseyi told the court that the witnesses, who are operatives of the Department of Security Service (DSS) work across the country and could be attacked by Dasuki’s sympathizers and well-wishers, unless their identifiers are protected.
The counsel submitted that Dasuki was once the boss of the witnesses and that they (witnesses) could be jeopardised unless their names are not placed in the public domain and added that the ex-NSA will not be prejudiced in any way if the request for the witness protection is granted.
“This application for witness protection will not in any way take away the right of the defendant (Dasuki) to see the witness and cross-examining them in their evidence as required by law” Okpeseyi argued adding that a witness who once testified in the matter was involved in a mysterious ghastly accident.
However, Dasuki’s counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN) described government’s bid as cheap blackmail against his client and urged the court to dismiss the request for being speculative, baseless and unmeritorious.
Raji had said the ex-NSA was not charged with terrorism offence to warrant protection for any witness, and added that several operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have testified against Dasuki in two other courts without any complaint of threats to their lives.
Meanwhile, the court has adjourned trial till September 20 and 21, 2017.