By Adeola Samson
For the second time, the federal government applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja for protection of witnesses that will testify against the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki in the charges of unlawful possession of fire-arms and money laundering brought against him.
The fresh application to that effect was brought to court by Chief Oladipo Okpeseyi SAN, recently engaged by FG to lead the prosecution.
The motion dated January 23 and filed January 24 is insisting that the witnesses must be given protection by the court by not allowing their names and addresses to be made public in the course of the trial.
But in a strong opposition to the fresh request, Mr Dasuki asked the court to dismiss the government motion on the ground that it lacks merit and constituted a gross abuse of court process.
The Ex-NSA in a counter affidavit filed by his lead counsel, Ahmed Raji, argued that there was no justification for the Federal Government to have brought the motion for secret trial for the second time having lost in the first motion.
The defendant insisted that FG had on its own volition placed the charges against him on the internet where the names, addresses and positions of the witnesses were conspicuously put at the disposal of the general public.
Besides, Mr Dasuki maintained that when the first application argued by the then Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF), Mohamed Diri, Justice Adeniyi Adenola of the same court in a landmark ruling dismissed the request on the ground that the witnesses are already known by the public having given their names through the internet.
He further said that bringing the same motion to the same court constituted a gross abuse of court process and that what the prosecution ought to do if not satisfied with the decision of Justice Ademola, was to have gone to court of appeal to “ventilate its ange”.
Mr Dasuki, who attached a copy of the earlier court ruling on the application urged the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed not to allow the fresh motion for secret trial to be entertained because it would violate his right to fair trial and will run contrary to the principle of the rule of law and natural justice.
When the motion came up today, Mr Opeseyi could not move the motion on the ground that the defence had just served him a voluminous counter affidavit objecting to the motion.
The prosecution counsel told Justice Mohammed that so many fundamental issues were raised in the counter affidavit and that a number of authorities were also cited in the counter affidavit.
He therefore applied for an adjournment to enable him study the counter affidavit and respond to it appropriately.
The defence did not object to the request for the adjournment but clarified that the fresh motion for secret trial was served on the defendant last Thursday, hence their counter affidavit prepared over the weekend was served today within the time allowed by law.
Justice Mohammed has therefore fixed hearing of the motion for March 1.
It will be recalled that the Federal Government through the State Security Service, SSS, had in 2015 slammed a 2-count charge of unlawful possession of fire-arms and money laundering against Mr Dasuki.
But the trial suffered a setback last year when Justice Ademola withdrew from further conducting the trial following his arrest by the SSS on allegations of corruption related matters.
The withdrawal of Justice Ademola from the trial prompted the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court Justice Ibrahim Auta to transfer the case file to the present judge
The Ex-NSA who pleaded not guilty to the charges was in 2015 admitted to bail by Justice Ademola but was disallowed by the SSS from enjoying the bail by re-arresting him and keeping him in the custody since December 2015.
Other courts have also granted bails to Dasuki including an ECOWAS Court order for his release.