Screening of Witnesses: Dasuki to Know Fate June 15

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed June 15 to rule whether to allow prosecution witnesses billed to testify against former National Security Adviser (NSA) to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) be screened or not
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, prosecution counsel, Ladipo Okeseyi, moved the application for screening of witnesses.
Dasuki was re-arraigned before Justice Ahmed Mohammed on a seven-count amended charge.
Dasuki’s matter was before Justice Adeniyi Ademola and was about to rule on the screening of witnesses when it was transferred to Justice Mohammed.
In an amended charge, Dasuki was accused of being in possession of prohibited firearms without requisite licence in July 2015, contrary to Section 28 of the Firearms Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
He was specifically alleged to have been in possession of five tervor rifles at his residence in Asokoro, Abuja.
Besides the firearms, Dasuki was also accused of money laundering and was specifically said to have been in possession of $40,000, N5m and &20,000, allegedly found in his house in July.
According to the charge, the money was said to be proceeds of an unlawful act contrary to Section 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.
The amended charge also indicated that $150,000 and another N37m, being proceeds of an unlawful act was also found in his Sokoto residence in July 2015.
Dasuki pleaded not guilty to all the seven counts.
Okeseyi stated that the application of screening witnesses was pursuant to Section 232 of ACJA.
According to Okeseyi, the application is for leave of order to screen witnesses.
“They are security agents who carry out convert operations and against the background that the defendant was once their boss, high ranking officer and who was once ADC to a sitting military Governor. He is a Prince he has a large followers.
“They (security operatives) can be harmed. It can come in form of damage without the defendant (Dasuki) not knowing.”
Okeseyi also moved another application that sought the defendant to be tried in camera.
He said it was brought in pursuant to Section 232 (3b) which permits witness to be screened or masked in peculiar cases.
“The application is harmless and should be granted for interest of justice”, he said.
However, defence counsel, Ahmed Raji held that the offences which witness are to be screened or masked as contained under section 321, are not among charges against his client is standing trial for.
He said terrorism, trafficking in persons, and economic crime charges under which witnesses can be screened have been expunged from charges against Dasuki hence there was no need to screen or mask witnesses.
He said a similar application was filed by the prosecution earlier and there was ruling on it.
“A well-deserved ruling was given, so the current application is an abuse of court process. What my learned silk is asking the court to do is to sit on appeal on the decision of this court, when the court of appeal is just a few meters away,” Raji.
“The current application is an abuse of court process.
“What the prosecution is saying is that you sit on appeal by court of same jurisdiction.
“The application now is predicated on the old charge which was withdrawn.
“There is no life in the present charge, it died with old charge and buried with it.
Addressing the issue of likely harm to witness, Raji said that it was speculative.
He said it is based on assumption, that sometime will happen to somebody, which is speculative.
“All this time he has been in court has anything happened to anybody?
“The witnesses are already named one by one so what are you hiding again. It is a cheap blackmail, refuse the application my Lord, Raji summed.
Responding, Okeseyi said “the court is not a father Christmas and grant what has not been asked for.
“Our application is that they be screened to give evidence not masked. There is a big distinction between the present application and past.
“Screening and masking are two different things. If the court has defined screening and masking that means the court is not sitting as appeal court over its judgment.
“Despite the amendment the charges have not charged. The same charges have been filed since inception”, he said.
He said the screening will not bar defence counsel to see the witness or take away the rights of the defendant to fair hearing.
After listening to the argument from both sides, Justice Mohammed reserved ruling till June 15.

Author: News Editor

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