The Federal Government witness billed to testify against the former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, in the charge of unlawful possession of firearms and money-laundering brought against since 2015 are to give evidence behind the screen.
The screens are to be provided by the Federal High Court in Abuja where the ex-NSA is to be prosecuted on the charge.
The witnesses would however not be shielded from lawyers that would be in the court throughout the trial.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed granted the request of the Federal Government to allow government witnesses to testify behind the screen.
In his ruling, in a motion on notice argued by Dipo Okpeseyi, Mr Mohammed said 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.
The judge said that although a similar request had been presented before the court in 2015 and rejected by the court but however hinted that the decision to allow the use of screen was granted because of the nature of the case of the charge.
He said the fresh motion, argued by Mr Okpeseyi didn’t constitute abuse of court process because the prayers in the old and the fresh one were not the same.
Besides, the Judge said that Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 permitted the use of screen when charges have to do with the Economic Crimes as in the instant case.
The government through Mr Okpeseyi had insisted that Mr 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 its witnesses lined up to justify the charges against him.
The federal government had urged Justice Mohammed to allow the screening of the witnesses in order to guarantee their safety after their evidence in court.
Mr Okpeseyi told the court that the witnesses who are operatives of the State Security Service, SSS, carry out their works across the country and could be attacked by sympathisers and well-wishers of Mr Dasuki unless their identifiers are protected.
The counsel submitted that Mr Dasuki was once the boss of the witnesses and that they (witnesses) could be jeopardised unless their names are not placed at the public domain adding 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” Mr Okpeseyi argued, adding that a witness who once testified in the matter was involved in a mysterious ghastly accident.
However, counsel to Mr Dasuki, Ahmed Raji, had described the government bid as a cheap blackmail against his client and urged the court to dismiss the request for being speculative, baseless and unmeritorious.
Mr Raji said that the ex-NSA was not charged with terrorism offence to warrant protection for any witness adding that several operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have testified against Mr Dasuki in two other courts without any complaint of a threat to their lives.
Meanwhile, the court has adjourned trial until September 20 and 21.