A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday granted permission to the prosecution team to allow witnesses testify behind the screen in the trial of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
Justice Ahmed Mohammed granted an application by the Federal Government seeking the protection of prosecution witnesses.
By the ruling of the court, witnesses billed to testify in court in the seven count charge slammed against the former NSA, will do so behind screen.
The former NSA is facing trial on criminal charges bordering on illegal and unlawful possession of firearms, ammunition as well as for money laundering offences.
Justice Mohammed, in a ruling on the prosecution’s application for witness protection, ordered that the witnesses would be allowed to testify behind a screen, which will be provided by the court.
The trial Judge ordered that the screen would be used in such a way that it would not shield the witnesses from being seen by him (the Judge), the defendant, and members of the prosecution and the defence teams.
According to Justice Mohammed, in the ruling, other members of the public in the court will not be allowed to see the witnesses.
While dismissing the objection of the defence to the application yesterday, Justice Mohammed held that the application was in order since Section 232 (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 allows the use of such screen by prosecution witnesses in cases involving economic and financial crimes.
The Judge ruled that, “Section 232 (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act permits the use of screen in a charge of economic and financial crimes; and money laundering is part of the charges instituted against the defendant”, Justice Mohammed held and added that the prosecution’s request for witness protection was in order, as will not prejudice against the defendant.
Justice Mohammed dismissed the objection by Dasuki’s lead counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), who argued that the application constituted an abuse of court process because a similar one filed by the prosecution in the same case had earlier been dismissed by the former trial Judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
Recall that the application seeking witness protection, the second filed by the prosecution, prayed the court not to allow the names and addresses of the witnesses to be made public in the course of the trial.
But, the Ex-NSA in a counter affidavit filed by his lead counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), 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 Federal Government, in the charges against the former NSA, alleged that he (Dasuki), on or before July 17, 2015, was in possession of prohibited firearms without license, and by so doing had committed an offence contrary to Section 3 of the Firearm Act Cap F28, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Dasuki was accused of being in possession of 5 Tavor X95 Assault Rifles without requisite license, an offence that is punishable under Section 28 (1) (a) of Firearms Act.
The Federal Government also alleged that Dasuki, in his residence at No. 13 John Khalifa street Asokoro, Abuja, on or about July 17, 2015, was in possession of one (1) Macro Uzi Assault Rifle with serial number 60244 without request licence, an offence punishable under Section 28(1)(a) of the Firearms Act, Cap F28, LFN 2004.
He was also said to be in illegal possession of one (1) Luger Rifle with serial number 033373 without licence and also accused of stealing contrary to Section 383(1) of the Criminal Code Act and punishable under Section 390(5) of same Act.
Counts six and seven bordered on alleged money laundering offences to the tune of $190,000 and N42million found in his residence.
According to count six, Dasuki, on or about 17th July 2015 at his Abuja residence, was found to be in unlawful possession of the sum of 40,000USD; N5million, and 20,000pounds sterling, which the Federal Government claimed were part of proceeds of unlawful act, and therefore had committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended.
Count seven alleged that Dasuki, in his Sokoto residence, on or about 16th July 2015, was found to be possession of 150,000USD; N37m, “which forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.
The former NSA denied all the charges preferred against by the Federal Government.
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