Dasuki: Court grants FG’s request for witnesses to testify behind screen
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, upheld the Federal Government’s application to allow witnesses billed to testify against former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), give their evidence behind screen.
The identity of the witnesses would however not be shielded from lawyers, who would be in court throughout the trial. Justice Rahmat Ahmed Mohammed, who granted the request, while ruling on a motion on notice argued by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), explained that the request was granted since part of the charges against Dasuki has to do with money-laundering.
The Judge held that although a similar request had been presented before the court in 2015 and rejected, the prosecution’s decision to make use of the screen in the instant case was granted because of the nature of the case.
According to Justice Mohammed, the fresh motion argued by Okpeseyi did also not constitute abuse of court process as argued by the defense counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), since the prayers in the old motion were not the same as those in the fresh one.
The Judge also cited Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) as permitting the use of screen, when charges have to do with the economic crimes as in the instant case.
The prosecution had insisted that Dasuki, being a former military officer, former Aide de Camp (ADC) to a former president, former NSA and a crown prince of Sokoto Caliphate, was a potential threat to witnesses lined up to giving evidence against him.
It therefore prayed Justice Mohammed to allow the screening of witnesses in order to guarantee their safety. Okpeseyi told the court that the witnesses, who are operatives of the Department of Security Service (DSS), carry out their works across the country and could be attacked by sympathizers and Dasuki’s well-wishers, if not protected.
The counsel added that Dasuki was once a boss to the witnesses and that they (witnesses) could be jeopardized unless their names are not placed at the public domain.
Okpeseyi however assured that the ex-NSA would not be prejudiced in any way if the request for the witnesses’ protection was granted.
But counsel to Dasuki, Raji (SAN), had described the prosecution’s request as a cheap blackmail against his client, and urged the court to dismiss it for being speculative, baseless and unmeritorious.
Raji had stated that the ex-NSA was not charged with terrorism offense to warrant protection of witnesses. According to him, several operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have testified against Dasuki in two other courts without any complaint of a threat to their lives. The matter has been adjourned until September 20 and 21 for continuation of trial.