A major twist has crept into the prosecution of the alleged $2.1b arms fund diversion charges as former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, his son Sagir Attahiru and their family company, Dalhatu Investment Ltd applied for a separate trial from former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The criminal charge of diversion of $2.1bn arms fund was brought against them by the Federal government in 2015.
In the build-up to the 2015 general elections, Mr Bafarawa allegedly received N4.6bn from the Officer of the NSA to organize prayer sessions.
The ex-governor and his son who are 4th, 5th and 6th defendants in the criminal charge slammed on them by government in 2015 are claiming that the joint trial with others is oppressive to them.
To justify their anger against joint trial, the three defendants brought a motion before Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, complaining that the continuous unnecessary delay of their trial along with Mr Dasuki is negatively affecting their family business and detrimental to their advantage.
In their motion argued by their counsel, Kayode Olatoke, SAN, the former governor and his son claimed that they can be separately tried in order to ensure speedy and accelerated trial of the offences allegedly committed by them.
They further claimed that filing a joint charge against them and others for the alleged offences allegedly committed together was not a bar to their being prosecuted separately as none of the parties involved in the trial will be jeopardized.
Besides, Mr Bafarawa and his son insisted that their separate trial would guarantee their constitutional rights to a speedy trial within a reasonable time in line with section 36 of the 1999 constitution.
In a 15 paragraph affidavit in support of the motion, the applicants claimed that since the trial began in 2015 no reasonable progress had been made because other parties had brought different motion to the court to challenge jurisdiction and to have the charges quashed.
In the affidavit deposed to by one Bolatito Oguntoye, they asserted that they were ready and willing to assist the court with speedy trial if their charge was separated from others.
They claimed that although they were charged with others in the alleged offence, however the role of each accused person in the transaction that led to the joint charge are distinct and that the proof of evidence touched on each of the accused person personally and can be taken against them.
However, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission in opposition urged the court to dismiss the motion for lacking in merit and for being in contravention of the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
In the counter motion argued by Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, the commission claimed that Mr Bafarawa, his son and their family company, Dalhatu Investment Ltd were properly joined with Mr Dasuki, Bashir Yuguda and Shuaibu Salisu for their joint roles in the diversion of the public fund and conspiracy.
Mr Jacobs informed the court that Dalhatu Investment owned by Mr Bafarawa and his son was the receiver of the alleged stolen fund into its UBA bank account and that once their charge with Dasuki is separated, it would be practically and legally impossible to prove the case of conspiracy.
The prosecution counsel further argued that separation of the trial as canvassed by the applicants will further delay the speedy trial of the joint charge and that the prosecution is fully prepared to prove the case against the defendants within a reasonable time.
Also opposing the motion for separate trial former National Security Adviser. Col. Sambo Dasuki said that his joint trial with Bafarawa and others is not negotiable because of the nature and circumstances of the charges.
Mr Dasuki who was represented in court by Adeola Adedipe argued that Mr Bafarawa and his son cannot be tried outside him without fundamental amendment to the present charge against them, adding that the offence of conspiracy cannot be tried separately.
“May I inform this court that the motion of the applicants is incurably defective because of the failure to first seek the amendment of the joint charge.
“There has to be one step at a time in a uniform or joint charge. The applicants seek fundamental amendment of the current charge before they can talk of demand for separate trial”, he said.
Mr Dasuki claimed that he was ready and willing to stand for speedy trial but for the refusal of the complainant to allow him enjoy the bail granted him by court and the refusal to allow him unfettered access to his lawyers.
Justice Baba-Yusuf, after taking arguments from lawyers, fixed October 19 for ruling.