The federal government will on June 15 know its fate in the fresh bid for protection of 14 witnesses it assembled to testify against the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki in the charges of unlawful possession of firearms brought against that former military officer.
The government 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, is a potential threat to its witnesses lined up to justify the charges against him.
In a fresh application for witness’s protection argued by Oladipo Okpeseyi, the federal government urged Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of the federal high court Abuja 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 sympathizers 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 jeopardized unless their names are not placed at the public domain adding that the ex-NSA will not be jeopardized in anyway 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, described the government bid as a cheap blackmail against his client and urged the court to dismiss the request for being speculative, baseless and un-meritorious.
Mr Raji said 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 threat to their lives.
Besides, the senior counsel argued, a similar application had been filed by government but was dismissed by the same court for lacking in merit.
He added that the fresh bid was a ploy to cause the court to sit as an Appeal Court on the previous decisions.
He insisted that the fresh application which was the third in the services was a classical gross abuse of court process, adding that no cogent reason has been advanced other than to scandalize the ex NSA for no just cause.
“In two other courts, several operatives of EFCC have testified as witnesses for government and nothing, I repeat, nothing has happened to any of the witnesses. The point here is that this fresh application is a cheap blackmail against the defendant.
“I have perused the application. All the grounds advanced to justify the request for witness protection have no cogent evidence but mere speculations.
“The defendant has been detained in violation of court orders on bail for almost two years now, yet nothing negative has happened from his well-wishers and sympathizers across the country. I urge this court to resist this cheap blackmail by refusing to grant their prayers.
“Besides, the prosecution has in the charge, listed the names, addresses and positions of the 14 witnesses and made same available to the public and now, that same prosecution does not want their names mentioned in this open court after it had on its own volition made same public in the charge against Dasuki.
Justice Muhammed, after taking arguments for the two parties, fixed June 15 to give ruling in the application.
Mr Dasuki was arraigned on September 1, 2015 over charges that bordered on unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering.
But due to intermittent interlocutory applications from both the prosecution and defense counsels, commencement of trial of the former NSA has been delayed.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court had on April 19, 2016, dismissed similar application brought before the court by the Federal Government.
The Federal Government had applied to the court to stop the public except accredited journalists, legal team and few immediate family members of Mr Dasuki from attending the trial.
Also, the prosecution counsel had begged the court to order that its witnesses be allowed to use pseudo names, be hooded and have their identities hidden before mounting the dock box to testify.
Delivering ruling on the application on April 19, 2016 Justice Ademola observed that the prosecution counsel had earlier included in the charge sheet, names and addresses of 11 witnesses to be called to testify against Mr Dasuki and had made same available to the general public.
In the light of the aforementioned, the judge considered it baseless and of no point for the prospective prosecution witnesses in the trial to wear facial masks, hide their identity and addresses so as to protect them from alleged attack from those loyal to Mr Dasuki.
Justice Ademola said the government lawyer did not advance cogent reason to show how the life of its witnesses was being threatened, insisting that no court of law would accede to such requests without established reason.
Justice Ademola also noted that the charges filed against Mr Dasuki were not terrorism charges and that there was no information that the life of any of the witnesses to be called was under threat by a group or anybody.
However, at a resumed hearing yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Oladipo Opeseyi, again begged the court for protection of the identities of the witnesses and that records of proceedings shall not be made accessible to the public.